Are you a helicopter mom? Some of us struggle with this question because we don’t want to limit the opportunities of our children with our own behavior. I know I’ve done things that are borderline. With two disabled daughters, it’s easy to see me hovering in the background too much of the time. But as my more responsible daughter heads to high school, I know that it’s time to back off. I think. So what is the difference between a mom who has a reasonable amount of caution and protects her babies and a mother who has potential mental health problems? This is a difficult question to explore, but let’s give it a go!
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How Being A Helicopter Mom Can Hurt Your Child
We want the best for our kids but it can easily lead to becoming a helicopter mom. The problem is finding that perfect balance between supervising your child and over-parenting her to the point of harm. In a day and age when there is danger from everything from abusive teachers to cyber-bullying, it all too easy to find an excuse to go overboard monitoring our kids.
In fact, helicopter parenting has already had negative effects on our young adults. A study done a few years ago showed that “inappropriate, anxiety-driven parenting tactics … often reflect a critical attitude by parents, who praise their children when they do well but withdraw affection, subtly or overtly, when they don’t bring home that A.” Are you subtly critical of your child when they don’t perform?
You may be hurting their growth and autonomy …or worse. Parents have been known to call prospective employers on behalf of children, complete their child’s graduate school applications, or manage the bank accounts of adult children. Helen Johnson, author and a consultant on parental relations for some of America’s top universities, says this type of parenting sends kids “a profound message: You are not capable of handling your life.”
That can have long term consequences, costing your child his self-esteem and his ability to handle situations like an adult.
5 Reasons Why You May Be a Helicopter Mom
There are lots of reasons why the trend of being a helicopter mom is on the rise.
1. Fear of The Future
As a parent, you may be uncertain and fearful about the future in general. A few minutes of watching the news or social media will tell you frightening information about crime, violence, war, joblessness, environmental disasters and more. We have unlimited access to bad news about the future. That can create a level of fear that drives us to over-protecting our kids. Parents always want their children to do better than them, and living in a world where we are told the next generation won’t outlive the last terrifies us.
2. Our Own Childhood Experiences
While it’s often thought that most abused people become abusive parents, many people who were treated poorly as kids actually tend to helicopter their kids, overcompensating for their past experiences. These parents are so worried about neglecting their children as they were neglected that they end up hovering over their child’s every act.
3. Fear of Missing Out
Today, every parent thinks their kid needs to do all the things to be successful. We read stories about kids who are prodigies at 8, or business owners at 12, or skipping ahead to college and 14, and that increases our anxiety that our kids might miss the boat.
4. Peer Pressure
Parents.com listed peer pressure from other parents as a common cause. Think about the last time you heard, “I would never let my child do that!” It’s easy to take that as a judgment that we are making poor choices. The idea of not measuring up to other parents can make us believe we are endangering our kids and cause us to over-parent them.
5. Your Own Parenting Mistakes
Sometimes, you are the one putting pressure on yourself. It’s easy to recall some big error we made as a parent. After all, we’re not perfect. Parents may overcompensate for that error by attempting to avoid ever making a mistake again and that leads to helicopter parenting.
How To Stop Being A Helicopter Mom
Now that you know some of the reasons behind this issue, you can take steps to avoid those reasons and protect your child without resorting to helicopter parenting. Here’s how:
Know Your Child’s Limitation and Skills
You know your child best: his maturity, his level of responsibility, and his ability to understand safety and protect himself. Judge how much to manage in his life based on those abilities in a way appropriate for his age. As you do, increase his responsibility in your safe home environment to build his self-reliance and to help you learn to let go.
Don’t Listen to News And Social Media
News and social media outlets do one thing well: reporting on the worst that the world has to offer. They frequently use scare tactics because they know fear drives people to their publication or website. Don’t use these sources to predict your child’s future. Instead, work to protect your child from local threats. Get to know your neighbors to keep an eye out and teach your child to trust adults. Research if there are any local predator threats. Teach your child safety and abduction-prevention strategies. You should also teach your child online safety habits.
Accept That Your Child Can’t Do Everything
If you manage too much and push too hard, you are going to ensure that your child rebels against anything you teach him – healthy eating, sports activities, summer work, etc. Growing kids have a lot of energy but also need plenty of rest and plenty of freedom in their schedules to discover themselves. Don’t be the parent with the kid in three different sports or after school activities who never has time for fun.
Understand That Every Parent Has Their Struggles
That “perfect” parent that you eye so enviously? She doesn’t exist. Everything may look fine on the outside, but a person’s reality is not the perfect pins they post. She may be struggling in ways you haven’t considered, or that she can’t admit. I have a friend who lives a nearly flawless non-toxic life and yet her child recently had setbacks. I also used to know a “perfect” parent who drove me crazy, and one day she confided in me her struggles with raising her youngest. It can happen to anyone, so make sure you stop envying what you don’t know.
Develop Confidence In Your Parenting Choices
Even if you want to emulate some other parent, you really can’t. The truth is that you know your child best and because of that, you are more qualified than anyone else to parent him. If you still struggle with confidence as a parent, take some time to remember your past successes. And look at your child’s good qualities: how did they get there? You instilled those good habits in him and they will see him through to adulthood.
Provide Your Child An Appropriate Safety Net
Keeping your child safe is your job, as is teaching him to protect himself, but you don’t have to do this all alone. There are tools that can help you, like the Child Safe Kit. It provides a resource guide with all the top websites, guides and tools to help your child stay safe. You can find helpful information on topics such as digital safety, cyber-bullying, a smartphone contract, creating a Profile & DNA kit, and more. They even have tools specifically for Babies & Kids or Teens. The Child Safe Kit is brought to you by the FamilySafetyResource.org, whose mission is to provide excellent resources including safety ratings, tech and product reviews, and digital safety tips.
You don’t have to be a helicopter mom. Smart choices, a sense of confidence in your parenting, and the right tools by your side will help you mature your amazing child into a safe and responsible adult.