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How “Helicopter Parenting” Impacts Children

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How “Helicopter Parenting” Impacts Children

The term “helicopter parenting” is now a household phrase. It started in 1969 with the release of a book called Parents & Teenagers by Dr. Haim Ginott. It is a parenting style that causes you to hyper-focus or “hover” over your child. If you are a helicopter parent, it means you try to spare your child from failure or harm all the time. That may mean doing his or her homework, intervening with teachers or taking other overprotective steps to ensure his or her success. 

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Our free guide will help you understand the steps you have to take and how to obtain the benefits you are looking for.

A 2018 study conducted at the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development found being overprotective of your child when he or she is young could negatively impact him or her in later years. Many other studies on children ranging in age from preschoolers to college students have resulted in similar findings. Familiarizing yourself with the many potential negative results of helicopter parenting may cause you to change how you treat your child. Below is a list of several ways in which helicopter parenting impacts children. 

Helicopter Parenting May Prevent Your Child From Making Mistakes

If you are a helicopter parent, your goal may be to stop your child from making mistakes. That is an admirable sentiment, but consider what happens when you are successful. According to experts, successfully stopping your child from making mistakes impedes his or her learning process. Therefore, he or she may not have the life experiences needed to make informed decisions in the future. 

According to Psychology Today experts, the expectations you have for your child when you are a helicopter parent may be too high, adding undue stress in already stressful situations. For example, you may want him or her to achieve academic excellence, but taking actions like the following may prevent his or her long-term success:

  • Doing or correcting his or her homework
  • Drilling him or her about schoolwork
  • Demanding he or she gets top grades
  • Over-praising his or her academic achievements

One study conducted by Stanford University researchers in 2011 found praising your child for his or her effort is more likely to lead to success than praising his or her achievements. Praising his or her achievement causes a fear of failure. Praising effort causes a desire to always continue trying, even after minor mistakes. It also encourages your child to learn from his or her mistakes. 

Helicopter Parenting May Cause Emotional Problems for Your Child

Your child is not born knowing how to interact in social situations or what behavior is appropriate at a certain time. He or she must learn such concepts while growing up. If you are too sheltering and hover over your child constantly, he or she may suffer from stunted emotional development. Such emotional problems may cause conflict when he or she is old enough to attend school or is in any other environment where socialization is required. 

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Many studies indicate helicopter parenting may cause your child to become anxious or nervous. One study published in 2017 indicated if your child is already presenting social anxiety symptoms, you might become more protective of him or her. That may create growing feelings of anxiety for both of you. As you try to help your child more, even when he or she does not request help, his or her senses of self-control and self-esteem may be lost. 

Helicopter Parenting May Increase Child Dependence on External Input

By nature, helicopter parenting deprives your child of his or her independence. When he or she is young, some supervision is necessary. For example, you cannot sit idly and watch him or her touch a hot stove. However, as he or she gets older, allowing some independent thoughts and actions is imperative. 

He or she needs to develop the coping skills necessary to deal with real-world situations. Without those skills, he or she cannot resolve conflicts, make decisions or develop self-esteem. Young adults with the proper skills and abilities will be better able to cope with responsibilities, such as obtaining a job or applying for benefits, than those who have limited experience fending for themselves. 

You also cannot monitor his or her behavior indefinitely into adulthood. At some point, you may pass away or be otherwise unavailable for consultation, leaving him or her with no safety net and no past decision-making experiences from which to draw. 

According to Cleveland Clinic experts, helicopter parenting may even cause your child to develop dependent personality disorder (DPD). It is a disorder causing him or her to have an extreme need for reassurance and, often, physical contact. Having DPD may impact all aspects of his or her life throughout childhood and adulthood. Symptoms of DPD include:

  • Separation anxiety.
  • Clingy behavior.
  • Fear of abandonment, particularly by his or her spouse.
  • Meekness or active avoidance of conflict.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others.
  • Depression or pessimism.
  • Attempting to make others happy before him or herself.
  • Lack of personal responsibility or independent completion of tasks.

Helicopter Parenting May Keep Your Child From Succeeding in Adulthood

Multiple studies have shown your child may have a low sense of self-esteem if you are a helicopter parent. He or she may also have a low sense of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is his or her belief that he or she is able to achieve goals independently. 

According to Indiana University experts, lack of self-efficacy can make it difficult for him or her to perform well in college or find work after graduating. For example, your adult child may not know how to set up a budget when it comes to living expenses. He or she may struggle in such independent environments and return to living with you where he or she can enjoy a sense of safety and comfort. 

If your child does get an interview or job and you involve yourself in the process, there may be additional consequences. Experts agree it is important for your young adult child to interview for work without interference from you. Independence and self-motivation are key factors in successful job interviews. Employers may not take your child seriously if you attend an interview with him or her or call to intervene on his or her behalf. 

There is also a direct link between high self-esteem and high earnings at work according to many studies. Therefore, even if your adult child finds a job, he or she may earn low wages. Lack of confidence in his or her decision-making skills and capabilities may also make promotions less likely. Therefore, even if he or she does leave the safety of your home to live independently, paying ongoing living costs may be difficult. 

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