Helicopter Parenting can be understood as hovering over our children. This hovering takes a wide range of forms, from watching our children whenever they are with friends, to sitting by them the entire time they are doing homework, to intervening whenever they start to face problems in their lives.
All of these and the other forms of Helicopter Parenting can be very soothing to parents. we get to feel like we are making a difference for our children. We might feel like or even get to be the hero, the one they lean on, the one that is their champion. It also provides a feeling of safety for us as parents. We always know what our child is doing or where they are. In a world full of risks that often feel undefinable to us as parents, this can be very soothing. It gives us a feeling of control. We are involved and can influence the outcome. We can make sure our children aren't being mistreated by the other kids, that they are completing their work, that they are not getting into risky or harmful behavior. All of these things are reinforcing for us as parents and provide some tangible benefits in protecting and often improving performance, at least for a little while.
For our children, it's a different story. When we hover, our children develop either resentment or dependence, and sometimes both. This creates additional conflict between us and our children and it implies a lack of trust or confidence in them. As they feel that we don't trust them, they naturally either accept the view of themselves as less capable, the world as more dangerous, or us as an untrustworthy source of information. None of this is usually communicated directly, rather it is a more harmful way of communicating it, it is implied. That often means it is not directly acknowledged or even recognized.
Imagine that you had a boss that walked around following you every day. You send an email, they read it before anyone else is allowed to. They ask you to conduct a meeting, but then they step in and run it instead. They ask you for a report but then complete it themselves or sit by you and tell you every button to push. They ask you to work with a client, but contact the client every day to get feedback about how you are doing. How are you going to feel? How might it start to shape your behavior and your efforts?
The painful truth is our children need to fail. They need to fall down. They need to experience rejection and loneliness. Now some of you are already having strong emotional reactions and resistance to these ideas, but it doesn't change the facts. We learn from these experiences. We can't learn the rules of relationships without being there and seeing what doesn't work. We can't handle disappointment if we are never told no, or work things out with a teacher if our parent does it for us, even if that means that we just pave the way by deciding things before our child can talk to the teacher. Pain and struggles are some of the best teachers we can have. Without them we grow weak and vulnerable. None of this like them and many of us get into lots of trouble trying to avoid them, but they are required for our wellbeing and even our happiness.
Don't get me wrong, parents play a crucial role in moderating the level of exposure and challenge our children face. We don't want to send our children out to fail at something that is beyond their capacity. On the other hand, if you step back and let your child stand on their on two feet, let them ask you for help you may just be wonderfully surprised. Start today by just taking a step backwards. Let them figure something out that you might normally intervene with, teach them how to approach an adult or a peer and then let them do it, express your confidence that they can figure it out and then cheer from the sidelines. It might just save your child. To learn more about child counseling and how our counselors can help you click here!
Written by: Brent Crane
Welcome to Thrive Family Counseling Sugar Land & League City