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Helicopter Parent vs. Involved Parent

By Emily |

I’m trying to figure this one out, where is the line between being a helicopter parent, and being a concerned and involved parent with our kids? I know that I am naturally going to be more overprotective with my oldest child, and then more lenient with each subsequent child, I’ve already seen that play out with my daughter and my son.

I’m not one to hover around my kids at the playground and make sure they don’t trip or fall at all, of course I do watch out if they are doing something that might be dangerous.  And it kind of annoys me when I see other parents that can’t let their kids more than a foot away from them.  In fact a new study shows that kids with helicopter parents don’t play or explore as much at the park as other kids do.  But, everyone is certainly entitled to parent in the way they believe is best for their child.

So, I’m trying to figure out when I should get involved with things in my kids’ lives and when I should just stand back.  There haven’t been too many situations in their young lives, but one I’ve been thinking about recently is the snack that they offer at my daughter’s school.  Every day she tells me she eats animal crackers for snack.  Now, not that there is anything really wrong with animal crackers (don’t even get me started on them serving fruit loops for breakfast at school! But we figured that one out.), it’s just that I know some of other classes serve more nutritious snacks like carrots and raisins.  So am I being over-involved if I were to ask the teacher about providing a healthier snack option?

And then there’s the problem of other helicopter parents.  One of my main issues is when my kids might be affected by other kids with helicopter parents. If you’re not out there advocating for your child, and protecting them, then there is a real possibility that they could get overlooked, or even burned, because of kids whose parents are hovering over them, making sure they get the best of the best, and none of the worst, in any situation.

For example, let’s say that in high school my daughter is an average soccer player (like I was), but she really wants to play soccer and she works hard.  What if there is only one spot left on the team, and she is up against a player whose mother is constantly in the coach’s ear telling him that her daughter (who is also an average soccer player, and maybe less hard working because her mom does all the hard work for her) needs to be the one that gets that spot.  Does my daughter get cut just because the coach doesn’t want to have to answer to that mom? Or because I’m not pushing the coach to put her on the team?

I’m pretty sure I don’t, and probably won’t, fall into the helicopter category.  I am purposely trying to avoid being an over-involved parent, but I do wonder if in trying not to be over-involved, I am not even being involved enough? And will my kids have to deal with the consequences if I am not out there advocating (pushing) for every thing for them?

I know as a parents of toddlers we need to be more involved with our kids lives at this stage, but I think the habits that we form now and the ways that we interact with our kids will shape our relationship with them as we move into the future.  I’m trying to figure out how to walk that thin line between involved parent and helicopter parent.

What do you think about helicopter parents?  Where is the line between being a good, involved parent, and an over-bearing, over-involved helicopter parent?

Photo source: George M. Groutas/flickr

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About Emily



Emily McClements is passionate about caring for creation while saving money at the same time. She is a blessed wife and mama to three young children, and blogs about her family's journey toward natural and green living on a budget at Live Renewed. Read bio and latest posts → Read Emily's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Helicopter Parent vs. Involved Parent

  1. Christine says:

    I think a good guideline is using your kids as a cue. If the kid is embarrassed or other negative reaction to you by your actions, you’re too involved.

    If there is an outright injustice happening, it needs to be mentioned and brought up. But if the kid is able to deal with it himself, then let it go. If he is going to get hurt, step in. If he is going to hurt someone, step in. Otherwise let him learn the lessons.

    Regarding school snacks: Yes, you can talk to the school about what they are serving. But ultimately, that school isn’t your only choice in school. There are private school, charter schools, homeschools, co-op preschools, etc. So if you don’t like it, change it. Period. By enrolling your kid into a school, you are allowing the school to make choices in your place. If it’s that big of a deal and can’t be remedied (without your kid being singled out), then you need to make a change.

  2. Heather says:

    I think it depends on the age. If a child is a teenager yea that’s weird to be a “helicopter” parent when they’re that old but the example you’re giving of the soccer mom isn’t a helicopter parent, or the definition of what I heard it being. What you describe in that situation is a pushy over-involved mom who is obviously living through her daughter.
    In my case I have a son who just turned 2 and a half and when we’re at the park I (or whoever else may be with him that day like daddy or my sister) will be with him most of the time for a few reasons. First, we are his playmates most of the time. He doesn’t have any siblings, we don’t know any people personally that have young children, and his only cousins are a lot older than him and live an hour away. So because we are his playmates at home he doesn’t see why it’s any different at the park and always wants one of us playing with him. He is also kind of shy right now especially around other children his age and doesn’t always want to play with them however he is still at the age where he’s only starting to actually play with other kid’s anyway. Also we do watch him to make sure he doesn’t get hurt, run off, any weird people kidnapping, the things most parents should be worried about. Again he is only 2. I’m sure in a year or even sooner he’ll be wanting to play with othes more or by himself and be able to do more big boy things but right now what we do is approprate for his age and how he is. So it definitely depends on what ages you are talking. I hope you don’t mean parents of children under 3 shouldn’t be with their children at all times because that’s not right. I think focus shouldn’t be put on helicopter parents but rather on the opposite: parents who aren’t involved enough with what their children are doing, because that’s more detrimental. I see it firsthand all the time. Kids who are really young (like 1yr old or younger) allowed to climb all over everything (like the big kid equipment) while their parent is off chatting on a bench somewhere. I had my husband and sister tell me about 2 seperate instances in the last 2 months alone where they prevented a child under the age of 2 about to fall off a high edge of some equipment. Why should another adult have to help or save your kid when you should be there helping them? It’s not our job. Or the kids who are being mean or bullying others and the parent sits by and does nothing. I am not responsible for disciplining or teaching your child manners, you are. Or the child who asks other parents to play with them because they see them playing with their own child and having fun and their parent is somewhere else. No one else is going to entertain your child, that’s your responsibility as a parent and they obviously want your attention. That’s what I find the most annoying. Parents that don’t care enough to be involved enough in their child’s life. I don’t consider myself a “helicopter” parent, but I don’t believe in labels anyway. I do consider myself to be a caring involved-enough parent of a sweet, friendly, polite, happy little boy. I find the worst behaved children are the ones whose parents are off not paying attention to them. So I think the focus should be turned around to the opposite spectrum and how to encourage parents to be involved more.

    BTW, I don’t think you voicing your concerns about the animal crackers is wrong. Having that everyday at school isn’t right and quite frankly seems like a cop-out by the school. I don’t agree with the above poster that said you should remove your child from the school if you don’t like the snacks. I don’t know how old your daughter is but she may have friends there or generally like going there and why should she go to a different school because they don’t know not to give them cookies everyday. I think saying something in a situation like that is appropriate if that’s how you feel. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to say something to make a change or least encourage others to speak up as well.

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