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What is Helicopter Parenting?

Helicopter parent

For too many millennials, parents have micromanaged every part of their lives.  Having Mom or Dad hover over them, then rush in and “save the day” every time a child encounter stress is normal in today’s culture.  “Helicopter parenting,” can range from scheduling a play date for a four-year old to writing college admissions essays in the hopes the child gets into the best college.  Helicopter parent is a term for a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not.

In Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter.  It is also known as "lawnmower parents," "cosseting parent," or "bulldoze parent."

Some helicopter parents continue to hover over their children into adulthood.   According to an Adecco survey cited by the Wall Street Journal, eight (8) percent of recent college graduates chose to bring their parents to a job interview.  Even more amazing is the fact that a full three (3) percent actually had their parents attend an actual job tryout.

Hyper-parental involvement is not a very positive trend.  Research reveals that too much parental involvement in children’s lives can actually result in lower grades and decreased motivation for their kids. The Wall Street Journal says employers are catering to the odd tendency by hosting “Take Your Parents to Work” days and even inviting them to corporate open houses.  We must examine what has changed to make this generation so different by looking at it from their perspective.

Helicopter parents are protecting children from bad outcomes such as being unhappy or failure.  However these negative outcomes are some of life’s best teachers.  Over parenting is a learned behavior among peers.  We watch other parents do it and our need to protect becomes hypersensitive.

Helicopter parenting can result in five negative outcomes says Dr. Gilboa:

  • Low confidence and poor self-esteem. Since my parents don’t trust me, I must not be capable.
  • Poor coping skills. I have never learned how deal with loss or disappointment in life.
  • Unhealthy anxiety. I feel anxious and depressed.
  • Sense of entitlement. I have always been a winner.  I am wonderful.  I must get my way.
  • Poor life skills. My mom wakes me up for classes in college.  My dad pays my bills.

Today’s workforce is different and if we try to manage them like generations of the past, we will struggle.  Supervisors must be more sensitive to each individual and understand employees may lack basic life skills as young adults.  Parents must resist the urge to solve and support by letting children fail in a safe yet constructive environment.  I refer to this as controlled failure and it can apply to grades, jobs, and relationships.