Helicopter parenting: Are we doing too much for our children?

Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead, overseeing their child’s life.

Femidist post picture. Helicopter with text Helicopter Parenting


Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead, overseeing their child’s life.

Female helicopter parent wrapping young boy in bubble wrapWe want our children to be safe, happy and healthy but that does not mean wrapping them up in bubble wrap and protecting them from every unpleasant experience.


I believe children need to learn accountability, responsibility and suffer the consequences of their decisions and actions.

I am not a perfect parent. I have no qualification to teach or give advice on parenting.

What I am is a parent with 29 years and 10 months experience.

(Yes, Stacey is turning 30  in 2 months!!!! We have an amazing family adventure booked on a houseboat to celebrate)

I am also a health care professional who has observed thousands of family interactions.

I feel concerned for children that are over parented. Yes, you read right… OVER parented. Those that are over protected, from bumps, scrapes, eating dirt, disappointment, confrontation, failure and thinking for themselves.

So What is a Helicopter parent?

Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead, overseeing their child’s life.

 10 signs you may be a Helicopter parent 

  1. You are afraid your child will hurt themselves. You will not let your child play on anything unless it surrounded in the approved grade mulch, your back hurts from following your toddler around sharp furniture and there is no way any child of yours will help in the kitchen with the dangers of hot stoves and sharp knives.
  1. You are a professional toy researcher, checking online for 10 hours before you make a decision in case the toy is not educational, safe or fun.
  1. You are chronically over prepared. Did you pack the sunscreen, extra snacks, and water bottles spare clothes. How about that flare gun and life raft? Children of the helicopter parents have a four course meal for ever outing….just in case.
  1. You are reluctant to let your child make decisions. You schedule your child’s extracurricular activities; choose their friends, their daily outfits and their diet.
  1. You have interfered in a selection process for your child to be selected for a particular sports team or school. If there is an interview you will answer for your child.
  1. You can’t stand it when they cry. You give treats on a regular basis, give in to every whim, and are unable to say “No”.
  1. You protect them from conflict and act like a security guard, stepping in to help your child resolve arguments. If there is an argument with a friend when you are not there, you will contact the other child’s parent to sort it out.
  1. You shield them from failure. You are up at midnight gluing together the science project, rather than let them fail.
  1. More on homework. When they ask for help, you give the right answers rather than teach them how to look it up or answer for themselves.
  2. You over obsess about anti-bacterial sprays and hand wash. Overdoing the germ thing is tiring. Kids do get sick but they do get better.

 Why Do Parents Hover?

Disgruntled university student flanked by her helicopter parents in classThe helicopter style of parenting may be out of sheer love and concern for your child. Subconsciously however, you might have deeper reasons for doing so.

Fear of poor outcomes:

You worry about your child’s possible failures and you believe that your involvement can help your child avoid a low-grade in school or disappointment in life.


Parents who were neglected, ignored and unloved during their childhood try to be over-careful with their children. They pay excess attention and monitoring to make sure that their children do not feel the way they did in their childhood.


Worry can drive parents to take control of their children to keep them from being disappointed or hurt. Your anxiety about the child’s career, economy and the world in general can make you take over control of the child in an attempt to overprotect them.  

Peer pressure:

Parents might sometimes get influenced by other micromanaging parents. Observing others may pressurize us to be like them. Comparing (oh the good old emotion of guilt) ourselves may make us feel that we are bad parents.

What Are The Effects Of Overprotective Parenting?

Helicopter parents start being overprotective with a genuine intention but in the process of engaging with kids and their lives, they lose the actual perspective of what they want.

Underdeveloped life skills:

Children refuse to learn basic life skills such as packing lunches, tying shoe lace, cleaning the mess, laundering clothes and cooking a meal.

Immature coping skills:

When the parent is always there to prevent the problem at first sight or clean up the mess, the child can never learn through failure, disappointment or loss. Studies also reveal that hover parents can make their kids less competent in dealing with tensions and pressures of life. How can children learn to problem solve if we always rush in with a ready answer or solution.

Sense of entitlement:

When parents get over involved in their child’s academic, social and athletic lives, children may get accustomed to always having their parents to fulfil their needs. This makes them demanding as they feel that it is their right to have what they want.

Low self-esteem and confidence:

Helicopter parenting backfires! The over involvement of the parent makes the child believe that their parents will not trust them if they do something independently and it, therefore, leads to lack of self-esteem and confidence.


Helicopter parenting increases a child’s depression and anxiety levels. They are always in look out for guidance, and when left alone, they become too nervous to take a decision.

I believe our role as parents is to raise healthy independent people who can function within and contribute to society as capable adults. This thing is stepping in when your child is a toddler is sometimes easiest and can save the day but problems start to arise the older a child gets.

As our darling toddlers grow into older children then tweens and teens they refine their need for independence and privacy. A helicopter parent who is used to calling the shots, making the decisions and providing accountability for and on behalf of their children had better be ready for some conflict as the child grows up.

 How to hover less.

As I said in my post last month Parenting with Consistency, there are no mistakes, only lessons. I take great pride in allowing my children to learn from results of their decisions. While I am proud I must admit it is also the hardest part of parenting. This is what I did to promote independence in my children

I let my children take risks

Sometimes I would feel sick watching my children undertake activities or decision I knew could end in pain and tears. Teaching 2 year old Stacey to cut with scissors, “letting” 8 year Chris climb trees way beyond any safety net, knowing 19 year old Gemma was driving alone across the country.

 Side Note: I never won the tree climbing battle. Chris is now a qualified arborist and the snap chats he sends me from work scare the flop out of me and yes he has had some major accidents.

But this young man had made a career out of doing something he loves: climbing trees.


 I accepted tasks would not be done perfectly (or to my standards)

A grade will be low on an exam if a child does not study, however that’s their problem, not yours. The beds might not be made nicely, or even made at all. Just shut the door.

I let them fight their own battles

If one of your children had a fight with their best friend, remember that is their problem NOT yours. Offer advice or suggesting if they ask you, otherwise let them learnt how to negotiate conflict and relationships.

 I let consequences be felt

My approach to parenting was based on the teachings of a positive parenting class I took very early in which taught me about natural and logical consequences. I will be writing about that in later blogs.

In short children need to learn about and experience the consequences of decisions they make. If a child forgets to take a hat to school, don’t run it up there for them. Let them sit under the veranda and watch the other kids play without them.

If your toddler won’t put his shoes on to play outside when you have explained the concrete is too hot to go barefoot, let him feel how darn hot that concrete is himself.

 I let them do things.

Stop doing so much. No wonder you are so darn exhausted.

Let them do their chores and don’t pick up their slack, let them do their homework, let them unpack their own school bags… you get my drift. Don’t do something for another that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. (Umm this applies to other adults too)

Stay tuned for my posts on natural and logical consequences.

Below is a snap from my past…

My own parents were NOT helicopter parents. The opposite is known as free range parenting although I would say they were more hammock parents……. That’s another blog.

Wendy Buckland as a toddler sitting on the grass with her parents in Wangartta
My parents and I in our backyard in Wangaratta


Related posts

Dr Phil on spoiling your children

Parenting with consistency

Toys and Gender roles: Why it matters

Trust your instincts:Why you should ignore parenting advice, including mine

References and Links

Helping or hovering: The effect of helicopter parenting on college students wellbeing

Middle childhood feeling towards mothers

Positive Parenting link in Books I Love page

Psychology Today

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