Helicopter parents are defined as those who pay very close attention to their child’s experiences and problems, especially at school. On the surface, that sounds like just about any parent who wants their offspring to live the best and happiest life possible. But as evidence continues to mount, we are learning that such hovering over a child can quickly lead to over parenting. And that can be a recipe for disaster.
According to a LiveScience survey of 300 college freshmen, helicopter parents run the risk of producing children who are neurotic, dependent, and ultimately unprepared to face the world on their own.
Preliminary findings in this new study reveal that children of helicopter parents tend to experience an extended childhood in which their growth into independent adults is stunted. And this lack of maturity and readiness to leave the nest is most obvious during the first year of college, which researchers describe as a “crisis point” in the lives of both parent and child.
The survey revealed that the parents of about 10% of college freshmen could be described as helicopter parents. Interestingly, the rate for girls with such parents was higher than boys, with 13% of females having helicopter parents as compared to just 5% of boys.
Those who had been hovered over throughout their childhoods were found to be less open to new ideas, more vulnerable, anxious and self-conscious as compared to those who were allowed more independence and responsibility as children.
Researcher Neil Montgomery, a psychologist at Keene State College in New Hampshire, believes that the helicopter parent phenomenon is the result of good intentions. If paying attention to your child is good parenting, then paying even more attention to your child must be great parenting, right?
Obviously, this is wrong. If a child is unable to make independent, confident decisions and is caught up in the throes of insecurity and anxiety, he or she will likely have more struggles in college. Which, of course, will lead to issues in the adult world where employers tend to frown on interference from mom and dad.
Are you a helicopter parent? I suspect that many of us are and don’t even realize it because hovering has come to be seen as just good parenting. In fact, I know from personal experience that parents who don’t hover, those who allow their children to fall down, make mistakes and then deal with the consequences, are often derided as too hands off.
Perhaps it is time we all took a step back and reassessed what good parenting really is. To me, the ultimate goal in raising a child is to prepare her to some day go it alone. As parents, we naturally want our children to need us, but our job is to make sure they don’t.
More from this author: