Parenting is a complex topic that can be discussed, disputed and hypothesized about, and still, there are yet to be any conclusive results on the exact scientific, or psychological understanding about the actual effects of different parenting styles. What we do know, is that hovering as a parenting technique can have unintended consequences.

Surely if something is good, then more of it must be better? This is not necessarily wrong, but not right. This is where the concept of the “Helicopter Parent” comes into play, as we all discover at some point or another, that more is in fact not necessarily always better.

“Parenting appears to be generationally influenced,” says Laura Traver-de Sousa, Clamber Club expert, registered counsellor and play therapist. “Today’s generation of parents have  discovered that being present as a parent is vital to truly nurture a child, however, they too have taken active parenting to new competitive heights,” adds Laura.

In education, the pursuit of top grades is increasingly seen as not only the main goal of education, but a task to be undertaken by parents themselves and this is a problem! “Parents are pressed to protect their children from an ever expanding world and society of physical harms, emotional tribulations, and perceived personal slights,” explains Laura.

Extreme anxiety about your child can lead to helicopter parenting which takes a negative toll on your child. When parents are incessantly told that their principle concern should be the safety and success of their children, it is hardly surprising that children are highly anxious and afraid to venture out alone and resulting in parents doing nearly everything for them.

Helicopter parenting can lead to quite a few consequences:

  • It creates resentment
  • Makes children fearful and distrustful of strangers
  • Children lack social and problem-solving skills
  • Children have more health problems
  • Low self-esteem and confidence
  • Failure to manage with crisis and emergencies
  • Enhanced anxiety and panic state
  • A deep sense of entitlement and rebel tendencies
  • Lack of life skills
  • They lack self-regulation skills

If the hovering trends are not corrected and followed into your child’s teenage years, be prepared for a backlash. “At a young age your child may not have minded the helicopter parenting, however, most teenagers yearn for freedom, privacy and independence,” says Laura.

“Paranoid parenting” is unappealing and unattainable. The harsh reality, is that intense and irrational fear, brought upon by societal expectations of the “what if” and “what might happen” to your child, should you as the parent not “conform” and “immerse” yourself, that you fall into this trap and are pushed into the notion of Helicopter Parenting.

“There are a number of ways that helicopter parents can break the cycle,” advises Laura. Here are her tips:

  • Make a list (from easiest to most challenging) of everything you do for your child which he could essentially do for himself.
  • Review that list and stop doing those tasks, one-by-one.
  • As your child completes these tasks with no help, your confidence in their abilities will grow, as will his. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.
  • Provide your child with the coping tools to understand that you will not fix everything for him; if he received a bad grade, he need to take responsibility. Your child will have to learn to be his own person and to fix his own problems.
  • Should you have an extremely dependent child that lacks confidence, remove yourself from the scenario. Initially it will be tough, however, keep on persevering, he will eventually do what he has to by himself and will be more confident.

There are positive elements to helicopter parenting. Parents who practice the information seeking aspect of helicopter parenting without intervening in their children’s lives or limiting their children’s autonomy, their children can excel in terms of decision-making and academic performance. It is safe to say that it is not inherently bad for parents to be highly engaged in their children’s lives, as long as being engaged and present does not turn into trying to control and overpower your child’s life.

Contributed by Laura Traver-de Sousa, registered counsellor and play therapist
Cell: 073 683 0895