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How To Be Involved With Your Kids Without Being a Helicopter Parent

It's difficult to know what the right parenting approach is; here's help from a therapist and mom of three
How to not be a helicopter parent

Being a parent is tough and there is no perfect guidebook (unfortunately)! The days can be long, our houses are messy and those little (or big) humans we created sometimes drive us a little crazy. This is real parenting, not the kind shown in a glossy magazine.

We are told how to be a good parent in many books and on television, and we are also made highly aware of the consequences of harmful parenting styles, like that over-parenting causes more harm than good. It's difficult to know where to begin in your parenting approach.

Just by reading this article today, it shows you want to be the best version of yourself as a parent that you possibly can, bravo to you!

You may have heard the term, "helicopter parent." It was first coined in the book by Dr. Haim Ginott called Parents & Teenagers after teenagers began to explain that their parents hovered over them like a helicopter (, n.d.).

Characteristics of a helicopter parent:

  • Tries to choose everything that their child wears even though they are 12 and perfectly capable of getting dressed themselves

  • Finishes their child's homework when they are struggling so they receive a good grade

  • Does not teach them consequences and instead tries to fix problems for them

  • Does not allow them to adequately explore their environments and may impose controlling, strict rules

  • Lives through the lives of their child and finds little in the way of living independently as an adult (, 2018.)

Characteristics of a healthier parenting style:

  • Allows their child to grow psychologically by allowing them to explore their inner and outer world. Freedom of expression whether it is by choosing their clothes or verbally expressing themselves

  • Lets children make mistakes! They teach their children the consequences of actions and allow them to learn from their own mistakes.

  • Assists and supports the child but does not smother them with parental involvement

  • Allows them to be a child and teaches them coping skills when needed.

It's suggested that helicopter parenting leads to children being unable to process and cope with their own emotions and behavior. They may be less likely to cope with growing up especially in the sometimes stressful school environment. It's also suggested that they need parents who can identify when their child can manage independently and also when to encourage and assist the child more when needed. It is recommended that parents can help their children by using positive coping skills when upset so to mirror a positive role-model (American Psychological Society, 2018).

How can I stop being a helicopter parent but still be involved?

1. You only have to tell them once. When you keep on telling them the same thing chances are they stop listening and it becomes ineffective very quickly!

2. No fixing! Just because you can fix something does not mean that you should. Why not? Because it means your children do not learn to solve their own problems. Instead of rushing to drop off a form your child forgot for school, let them learn the consequences of forgetting as it shows them to be accountable and take responsibility for their actions.

3. When your child fell off his bicycle for the first time did you tell them to stop cycling completely? No! Chances are that you told your child to get right back up after you soothed their sore knee and told them to try again! It's important to let your child fail without picking up the pieces so when they fail they learn to problem solve and get back up again independently! As an adult, you will be unable to fix all of your grown-up child's issues so they need to learn how to cope without you saving the day!

4. Let your child learn from their own experiences. We often learn a powerful lesson from problems and struggles that create internal changes and growth. That doesn't mean you leave your kids to work through their own experiences completely alone, but you allow them to feel it without guarding them against experiencing it.

5. Teach them coping skills. You will not be there with them on the school bus or if someone teases them at school, but you can be there for them with coping skills. You could teach them how to self-soothe or how to positively respond in a conflict situation.

Above all, remember that no parent is perfect and you are doing your absolute best each day. Try to find self-compassion in the moments where you doubt yourself. Believe in assisting your child and not hovering over them to prepare them for adulthood.

For more parenting support, join our empathetic community, chat with a free, trained listener, or start affordable online therapy today.

Posted: 03 June 2019
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Lisa De Regt, MBPsS

Lisa is a licensed mental health counselor with an eclectic style of therapy to fit every client's needs.

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