“Helicopter parents” are those who hover over their children’s lives like traffic helicopters on patrol, always ready to defend, console, or otherwise “fix everything” according to their own ideas of what’s best for their kids. Typically, they accomplish little more than to get others avoiding them, or laughing at them behind their backs (just Google “jokes about helicopter parents” to see what the worst examples have inspired).
Could your “concerned” parenting be making worse trouble for your child down the road? Are you encouraging your kids to believe they’ll never have to assume any real responsibility because Mom will always be there to “fix everything”? Or are they actually becoming annoyed with your “help,” secretly counting the days until they’re free to leave home without a forwarding address?
How to supervise and care for your children without hampering their growth—or their relationships with others?
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a child is to quietly let him cry it out on your shoulder. If you’re too quick to offer a solution, or a treat to make him feel better, you may actually be increasing future pains by denying him the right to experience deeper feelings. The same principle applies when your child is struggling to tie his shoes or has a teenage lover’s spat: first, wait for him to ask for help; then, let him describe the problem in his own words (which may itself make the solution evident); then, ask him what he thinks should be done (offering ideas of your own only after the child has had his full turn, and only in the form of questions); and, finally, give him your blessing to choose and implement a solution on his own.
Shocking as it may sound, kids thrive best when they’re allowed to take a few chances, even sustain a few bruises. Plus, it’s not just in sitcoms that a parent’s reflexively screaming, “You’ll get hurt!” is itself responsible for startling a child into falling off the wall. Overprotection is just as dangerous in the figurative sense: harping on fear of failure and on the supposed horrible consequences of that failure creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Save your “nos” and any direct intervention for those times when serious consequences (which do not include embarrassment or temporary dead ends) really are imminent.
And remember, quitting the habit of “Mom fixes everything” will present challenges for your child as well as for you. If she’s already been straining to break free, your worst problem may be curbing your panic impulses as noted above; but if she loved having everything taken care of for her, be prepared for some painful scenes as she wails, “But I can’t do it myself!!!” and your heart quietly breaks under the struggle to not take her word for it. Hold firm. Your gentle encouragement and the example you set will soon do more to make your child a happy, confident person than your being the family helicopter ever could have accomplished.