10 warning signs you’re a helicopter parent

Constantly hovering over and controlling your kids may cause them to crash and burn…learn how to let go!

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Are you an involved and supportive parent? What makes you so sure you don’t step over the line, such that you’re an overprotective mum or dad who fusses over your kids?

The term “helicopter parent” term first appeared in 1969 in the book Between Parent & Teenager by Dr Haim Ginott. Also known as “cosseting parent”, “lawnmower parent” or “bulldoze parent”, in this parenting style, parents hover over their children, doing tasks for them.

Helicopter parents spend a lot of time micromanaging their children and do not give them space to explore and learn independently,” explains Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

This group of parents also go to great lengths to ensure that their offspring succeed because they want them to live their own unrequited ambitions. While helicopter and supportive parents share similar traits (both demand parental involvement), the latter group, however, encourage their kids to develop positive core beliefs, so that they feel empowered to succeed, Koh adds.

Helicopter parents spend a lot of time micromanaging their children and do not give them space to explore and learn independently.”

On the other hand, helicopter parents thwart their children from being independent and street-smart, according to an advisory warning against this breed of parents by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

To highlight the perils of helicopter parenting, MOE also released a series of graphics on its Facebook page and blog site, Schoolbag.sg, that showed parents doing their children’s projects and “flying” to school with their child’s homework. Do you tick off any of the following statements?

1. Do your children’s homework.
2. Constantly shadow your child.
3. Fight junior’s battles.
4. Spoil your child.
5. Don’t let junior perform house chores.
6. Shield your offspring from failure.
7. Can’t concentrate on your activities when junior is at school or out on excursions.
8. Don’t consider your child’s opinions or feelings.
9. Don’t let junior make age-appropriate choices.
10. Overschedule your kid’s lives with extracurricular activities.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the world of helicopter parents! Incidentally, parents are more overprotective of girls ― 13 per cent ― compared to 5 per cent for boys.

Why parents hover

Nobody sets out to be a helicopter parent. Notes hypnotherapist Cornelia Dahinten, “The helicopter parents do not act from a place of bad intention, they have the best intentions.” Dahinten is also coach and director of The Parent You Want To Be ― Conscious Parenting Training and Playgroups.

The main causes of helicopter parenting are:

* Fear of failure You worry about that your child might fail. You believe your involvement, like debating with teachers to obtain a better grade for your child, can prevent junior from being disappointed.

* Overcompensation You were probably unloved or neglected as a child, so you overcompensate by monitoring junior — all the time!

* Peer pressure You observe how others overparent their children, and feel like a bad parent if you don’t follow suit.

* Anxiety You worry about the job market or economy and feel that you need to help your children. You also perceive challenges are more threatening than how your child perceives them.


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Effects of helicopter parenting

Think you’re protecting junior from the ugliness of this world? Far from it! Helicopter parenting actually backfires.

“Being overly involved and protective will not benefit the child in the long run,” says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness. For example, highly-strung parents are seen as difficult by teachers, which can make things worse for the child in school, he explains.

“The kids may model after their parents and learn to whine about every disappointment and blame others, instead of looking at their own shortcomings,” he notes.

Don’t protect them from hardship — it’s all part of growing up! As parents, you can help them explore ways to resolve problems.

Other downsides to helicopter parenting include:

Low self-esteem and confidence Your child has low self-esteem, is mistrustful, stressed and unhappy. They will grow up believing that they’re not capable of carrying out any task that they are confronted with.

Immature coping skills You always solve junior’s problems. This prevents them from learning critical coping strategies and problem-solving skills.

Overanxiety A National University of Singapore study of 263 children with helicopter parents found that the kids tend to have higher levels of self-criticism, anxiety and depression. Junior is at risk of becoming too dependent on you. Over time, this erodes their ability to succeed on their own and potentially increases their anxiety.

Sense of entitlement complex You turn junior into a demanding individual as they will feel it’s their right to have whatever they want.

Underdeveloped life skills Junior’s not allowed to clean the bathroom or handle knives because cleaning liquids are harmful and knives are too dangerous? Not allowing junior to perform house chores may result in their refusing to pick up life skills such as cooking or cleaning.

Negative feelings Restricting your child from voicing their opinion simply because it differs from yours may result in junior viewing you in a negative light. This can strain the parent-child relationship, especially if they are a tween or teen who craves privacy and independence.

Lack of creativity Strictly controlled environments ― whether at home or at school —

How to avoid overparenting your kid

So that junior soar on their own:

1. Give junior the freedom to explore and take risks Let them ride a bike or climb a tree but keep them safe when necessary.

2. Resist doing things for them if they can already do so themselves.

3. Don’t answer on junior’s behalf Don’t constantly check with teachers about his progress. Instead, encourage children to respect teachers’ opinions. Teach them how to talk to their teachers.

4. Let go of negative thoughts Don’t create self-doubt in junior by asking “Are you sure?” or “Can you handle it?”

5. Let children fight their own battles Don’t protect them from hardship — it’s all part of growing up! As parents, you can help them explore ways to resolve problems.

Dr Lim advises, “Give children the opportunity and space to learn from mistakes knowing that adversities and consequences will help them mature and grow into better, more successful people.”

6. Listen to your child’s opinions Don’t impose your wishes on him.

7. Don’t raise children who expect special treatment for something they don’t deserve.

8. Let your child manage her homework and deadlines Give your feedback when asked.

9. Avoid being emotional with junior If you are too obliging, they’ll want you to fulfil every whim.

10. Don’t neglect your own life at the expense of junior’s.

Koh says, “Talk to others and learn positive ways to deal with issues. Know that your child will want to be with you when everyone is happy and relaxed.”

Seek help from parent support groups or parenting classes, advises Dahinten. Spouses should also support the helicopter parent instead of mocking him or her, she adds.

Photos: iStock

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