You said you wouldn’t go there — you wouldn’t be that parent who worried over your child’s every move, involved yourself in his or her friends, and told the schools that they were the ones in the wrong. You would defy the odds and be the cool parent, watching from the sidelines, encouraging your child on, but never stepping onto the field. Yet, here you are, five years later, getting in the coach’s face because YOUR child should be forward, and not Little Annie, who doesn’t even know how to dribble a ball. Are you a helicopter parent? Read on for the warning signs, and for some advice on how to cool your jets and let your kid be a kid.
1. You Fight Your Child’s Battles
Picture this: Your daughter comes home from school crying because her supposedly “BFF,” Karen, decided she wanted to play with someone else today. Not only that, but Karen said she didn’t like your daughter’s shoes. *GASP* What do you do?
- Call Karen’s mom and tell her she needs to tell Karen to apologize.
- Go to school the next day to discuss the problem with the teacher.
- Sit your daughter down and ask her to talk through her emotions and help her explore ways she can resolve the issue with Karen on her own.
If you chose A or B, you’re a helicopter parent. Next time your child comes home upset, try C instead.
2. You Don’t Let Your Partner Parent
You don’t like anyone being “mean” to your child, as evident in issue one, so it makes sense that you don’t let your partner lay down the law with your child, much less exercise it. If you constantly intervene when your child’s other parent tries to parent, you are a helicopter, plain and simple. Children need boundaries, discipline, and guidance, and your interference when your partner tries to provide those things will do much more harm than good. You and your partner are a team, so next time your partner orders timeout, support the decision.
3. You Do Your Child’s Schoolwork
You solve math equations when you see your teen struggling. You stay up until 11 pm completing a science fair project your fifth grader conveniently forgot about. You redo your middle-schooler’s English essay because you know you can do it better.
Not only is doing your child’s schoolwork completely unacceptable, says Harry Stylli, but it also hinders his or her problem-solving capabilities. Frustration and stress are healthy in small doses, so instead of stepping in whenever you see your child struggle, step back and let your child figure things out on his or her own.
4. You Stick Around for Birthday Parties
For some reason, it’s become the norm for parents to stick around for birthday parties, but in this case, normal is not always healthy. If you’re one of those parents who stays for games, cake and presents – if you drive your teen to his or her friend’s house even though it’s a block away – or if you drive to your teen’s dorm with groceries once a month, it’s time to cut the strings. Independence builds confidence, and by letting your child do age-appropriate tasks on his or her own, you’re contributing to his or her overall wellbeing.
5. You Don’t Let Your Child Help Out
Let your child do the dishes? Absolutely not, as he or she may get cut by a wayward knife. Have your teen mow the lawn? What happens if the motor goes berserk and your child loses a limb? Dusting should be safe, right? Not if it involves dangerous cleaning chemicals!
There’s so much wrong with not letting your child help out. Not only is it unhealthy to worry about worst-case (and likely impossible) scenarios but also, you risk raising a child who is lazy at best and entitled at worst. Fortunately, preventing such a fate is easy. Before your next family meal, ask your child to set the table. Instead of picking up Johnnie’s toys, ask him to do it himself. Chores are healthy for children AND for the parent who does it all (you).
6. You Coach From the Sidelines
It’s healthy to encourage your child from the sidelines, or even to throw in a few, “Kick the ball!”s every now and again, but when you find yourself shouting over the coach, contradicting the coach’s advice, or cornering the coach after practice, it may be time for a little self-reflection. Sports teach children how to work toward a goal, deal with conflict, cope with defeat, and work as a team. Your interference is not only unwelcome, but it’s harmful.
At your child’s next match, plop yourself in a chair and cheer your child on. If your child is upset because he or she doesn’t like a position, missed a goal, or any other sport-related reason, direct him or her to the coach.
Helicopter parenting is a pervasive issue that can be detrimental to a child’s emotional and physical wellbeing, and that can cripple his or her abilities. If you can relate to any of the above situations, it may be time to consider your motivation for helicoptering and take steps to become a healthier parent.