Opinion

Helicopter parenting has some pros, but more cons

By RACHEL BRODERICK
Staff Writer

When I push my children into their studies, or after school activities, I think I am doing it to make them into the best people they can be.

When I watch over everything they do, and not allow others to help or add input, I think I am doing it because I am their mother and I know best.

But is this really the case?

Well, after doing a lot of research, I have found that I am a “helicopter parent.”

But why do I fall into the category and what can I do to not “hover” over my children?

A helicopter parent is said to be a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.

It’s a style of child rearing in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life. In typical helicopter parenting, a mother or father swoops in at any sign of challenge or discomfort.

When I put my daughter into dance class at the age of two, I thought it was because it was “cute.” But really it was because I wanted her to have an early start at being great at something. By the time she was seven, she was doing four different dances and had practice four times a week. Oh, did I mention she also plays baseball, because she needs to do more sports and when she went into Grade 1 I decided she needed to be in the French program because she needed to speak more than one language.

I put a lot of pressure for greatness on my seven year old. I help her every step of the way. She needs to have good grades and practice dance and baseball at home. And that is just me “helicoptering” one of my four children.

You wouldn’t think I had time to do more after everything I have my oldest child in but that would be untrue. I have time to push all my children into every sport or activity I can. My youngest daughter is three and she does ballet and tap. Both my sons also play T-Ball and do taekwondo. That’s right, I want them all to be good at everything they do.

All this doesn’t even compare to the length I go to make sure they are never hurt or bullied. One of the things I have taught my children is to never be a victim. Now, you may thinking what kind of mother would tell her children to hit back if someone hits them. As much as I would never tell me children to outright hurt someone, I will never tell them to stand there and take it. It’s probably not my best parenting advice, but honestly I would do anything to protect my children.

Anyone who is a parent will say they want the best for their children, or never wants to see them hurt. So “swooping” in and helping them isn’t hurting them, is it? However, there is the downside of helicopter parenting that needs to be considered:

  • Children grow up to be less independent and overly sheltered adults, not being able to make their own decisions independently, always needing approval from their parents.
  • It can severely affect self-confidence in children to the point where they are scared of having to face situations alone.
  • Children aren’t given the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes and so they can lack the vital problem-solving skills needed for life.
  • Children may grow up with a sense of entitlement to things like taking for granted that they will always be surrounded by people who love and care about them.
  • Children can end up living their parents’ dreams and ambitions – not their own.
  • At some point, the child may feel angst towards his parents for controlling him or her and rebel, especially as he or she sees peers growing up with normal parenting.
  • Children are limited by what their parents feel are their maximum abilities and capabilities, not letting the children try things for themselves.

So why do I do it then?

Maybe it has to do with how I was raised. Not everyone comes from a good family, with two loving parents who work hard for their family. I came from a family where I never had a father (even though he lives a block away from where I grew up). I had a mother who liked herself more than anything else, and had a bunch of kids but never wanted to take care of them. I was raised by my amazing grandmother. She was single, hardworking and strict (when she could be). But because she was alone doing this, and had to work to support me and my younger sister, we didn’t have a lot of supervision. We got to make a lot of bad choices and she wasn’t there to fix them for us, only be there for the fall out. When my sister and I skipped school, there wasn’t anyone home to notice because my grandmother was already at work. When we decided to get into fights, she wasn’t home until the police showed up.

I swore when I had children of my own, I wouldn’t let them go through even one per cent of the things I went through as a kid.

I am sure there are other reasons why parents hover over their children. Maybe they actually had good parents and think they want to follow in their footsteps, but do it even better.

There are some pros to helicopter parenting, including:

  • Children and parents bond better and become better friends.
  • Parents always know what is going on in their children’s lives without the child feeling that the parent is interfering or being pushy.
  • Children can learn from parents and their mistakes more effectively, since the parents are constantly hovering over them, giving them advice at every step.
  • You can count on the children of helicopter parents to arrive on time, to have their homework done and to be prepared for their activities.
  • Children cannot be safer in today’s dangerous society, since a parent will always know where the child is and with whom.
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