The Dangers Of Being A Helicopter Parent: Why You Should Back Off


Parenting Styles: Why Being A Helicopter Parent Is Not Effective
Giving your children all of the answers will prevent them from excelling in the real world.

Many parents suggest that they feel there is no danger in being helicopter parents. In fact, they believe that it is the smartest, healthiest way to parent in that it gives their children the very best chance at a successful, happy life. We, however, aren't so sure, based on our experiences, that hovering over your children may actually be such a great idea.  We'd like to share some situations that suggest that parental hovering in your child's younger years may actually hold your child back as they become adults and prevent them from common sense, independence, ability to handle failure, and basic communication skills. 

  • What activities and tasks do you allow your children to do as they get older?
  • Do you manage everything for them?
  • Do you hover over them as they do homework?
  • Do you clean up after them and fix any mistakes they make?
  • Do you enable them to not have any common sense?
  • Are they forgetful and unorganized and do you manage all of this for them?
  • Are your children old enough to do many things for themselves but you do them anyway because you want to be a more active part of their lives? 

Consistently doing things for your child instead of teaching your child how to be responsible and navigate situations on their own deprives them of the opportunity to develop the skills they need to become responsible, productive adults.  Students should come to college and graduate school with a fair amount of common sense that they have developed in middle and high school. They know how to navigate the "system" that is the real world. Nowadays, students have their parents to register them for classes, speak to the professor about a grade and deal with roommate disputes. Our job as parents is to teach our children, not do for our children. When children are encouraged, coached and taught to deal with these types of scenarios on their own, they become capable adults instead of twenty-eight year old children.

Let's talk about homework. Are you guilty of the following behaviors?

  • Are you so sure that monitoring your child's grades and homework will actually help them in college and beyond?
  • Do your children clearly not pay attention in school only to have you reteach them the lesson when they get home from school?
  • Are you constantly checking their online grades, talking to teachers, and hiring tutors to make sure that your child gets their work done?
  • Do you "advocate" for your child's grades and for assignments that are easier for them?
  • Are you able to recite each of your children's homework assignments and the status of said assignments at any given moment?
  • Will you argue about these assignments with your child's teacher if you don’t agree with the grade?

Somewhere along the line students (and parents) started to believe that, because they paid tuition, they are entitled to a certain grade, specifically an A. Both parents and students need to understand that students earn the grade and that the tuition merely entitles them to a spot in the class. Doing your child's homework through grade school and high school teaches them nothing but how to get someone else to do their work for them and that won't and doesn't work in the real world.

Negotiating with your child's teacher to obtain a better grade doesn't provide your child anything but a sense of entitlement. To earn the grade, the student must pay attention, take notes in class, do the readings and assignments on time and study for the exams without your help, not spend class time on Facebook and email. Students, not parents, must ask the professor about things they do not understand. Teachers want to see students succeed. We want to see the light bulb go on over students' heads as they understand something for the first time. If the parent calls the teacher or professor to dispute the exam grade or clarify a point, the chance for understanding and learning is gone.

  • Do you allow your child to quit anything that gets too complicated for them? 
  • Do you run interference so that your child doesn't have to struggle with any task or situation? 
  • Do you smooth the path for them before they even get to the path? 
  • Do you ever let your child fail? 
  • Have you allowed your child to struggle on their homework or even not finish it in order to go back to school and discuss it with their teacher? 

College, and especially graduate school, is supposed to be hard. Faculty spend many years learning the subject to be able to teach it to students and is often not something that can be learned in a single three-hour class. The learning comes from spending time with the subject outside of class through reading, absorbing, asking questions and processing the material. As parents we need to teach our children to work for the things they want as opposed to handing things to them. Children need to learn the feeling that comes from working very hard and finally succeeding. It is a much better feeling that the one that comes after being handed something. Yes, they may fail but failing as a child produces adults who can pick themselves up, dust off and try again. To fail for the first time as an adult is terrifying and often mentally paralyzing. Keep reading...

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Article contributed by

Dr. Lisa Kaplin

YourTango Expert Partner

Dr. Lisa J. Kaplin is a life coach and psychologist you can reach her at:


Location: Chicago, IL
Credentials: CPC, ELI-MP, MS, PsyD
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