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Understanding Helicopter parenting

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understanding helicopter parenting

The term parenting evolved sometime towards the end of the 20th century. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the term appeared around 1958. Over the years the meaning of the term has oscillated between ‘what parents actually do vs what parents should do.’

Based on the work of developmental psychologist and Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin, four styles of parenting have evolved: Permissive, Authoritative, Neglectful and Authoritarian.

In 1969 in a book titled ‘’Between Parent & Teenager”, the term ‘helicopter parent’ was featured for the first time. The book features a teen, who said that his mother watches over him like a helicopter.

Since then, the term ‘helicopter parenting’ is referred to as a style of parenting where the parent pays extremely close attention to the child’s activities, schoolwork and is overly involved in their lives. The use of the term now in media specifically refers to overprotective parents. Dr Daitch says, ‘‘overprotective parents typically take too much responsibility for their children’s experiences and, specifically, their successes or failures.’’

Renowned author and psychologist Ann Dunnewold says helicopter parenting is basically ‘’over-parenting’’,’’ It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting and over perfecting, in a way this is more than responsible parenting.’’

What are Helicopter parents guilty of?

Helicopter parents often do tasks that children can do themselves. Example: Helping high school or college-aged students to complete a project or arranging a class schedule. This type of parenting can occur for kids at all ages. In toddlerhood, the parent may shadow the child constantly. Allowing the child zero alone time. In middle school, they may provide too much help for schoolwork or select friends.

Why do parents hover?

Helicopter parenting began to be more visible during the 1990s. The primary motivation for this kind of parents seems to originate from a feeling of fear or anxiety about dangers the child may face. Literature indicates certain causes, such as parental regret, anxiety, gender and culture are strong contributing factors.

Parental anxiety can occur due to social factors such as bullying, addiction and child abuse. A study showed that parents who exhibited a greater degree of control in parenting were more preoccupied with environmental dangers. A child’s vulnerability to the external world, causes anxiety and this manifests in over-involvement in the child’s life to lull that anxiety.

Parental regret

The occurrence of parental regret is compounded by the principle of lost opportunity. As the child grows older the opportunities of shadowing or controlling the child reduces. The psychological stress from separation as the child moves out, results in parents feeling the need to be increasingly involved. They lament over perceived failure in fostering the child’s development or over time lost. This leads to parents trying to obtain self-actualization or fulfilment through the child. Also, projection of one's own goal onto the child may further foster helicopter parenting.


Literature on parents suggests a strong impact of culture on the kind of parenting. These studies show different types of parenting styles from eastern and Western cultures. Parents from Eastern culture lean towards interdependence and parents from the West follow independence. Thus, social expectations, values, ethnicity and belief of parents influence parenting styles.


Society fosters various perceptions and stereotypes about genders, this not only impacts parenting methods but also perceptions about parenting styles. A father’s hovering may be perceived as protective and involved. Whereas the same style employed by the mother is perceived as overwhelming and suffocating.

Negative Impacts of Helicopter parenting on the child

While there can be a few positive influences, the negative impact of parenting is tremendous

  1. Anxiety: Children raised by helicopter parents tend to suffer from separation anxiety and panic attacks. There is help for anxiety.

  2. Maladaptive perfectionism: The lofty expectations of parents on the child, foster a ‘never good enough’ sentiment. Therefore, such children often suffer from depression, anxiety and become more self-critical. The need for the parent to control or hover diminishes the ability of a child to succeed on their own. More on maladaptive perfectionism.

  3. Acting out behavior: Increased acting-out behaviors and learning problems are associated with too much school involvement by mothers. The amount of parental involvement is linked to the mental health of children entering adolescence. Understanding acting out.

  4. Poor self-regulation: Children of helicopter parenting get dependent on other family members for problem solving and decision making. They also will fall behind in learning and development due to poor self-regulation and childhood anxiety.

How to reverse the effects of helicopter parenting?

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Find a hobby


At Learner Circle, we understand that parenting can get stressful and can get overwhelming. We encourage parents to be creatively engaged, allowing the child space to grow. Learner Circle offers online classes for adults in various arts like dance and music. Do not hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. We have a wide plethora of courses for children as well. Keeping a child productively engaged will ease the stress of parenting. Our courses like art, music, singing, dance , coding and sketching focus on cognitive skills and overall development of the child. Our teachers are experienced and qualified. More details are available on our website.


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