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Are You a Helicopter Parent?

Updated on August 28, 2010

When my oldest child was one and learning to walk we were visiting a friend when he fell down. My friend was completely shocked that I didn't rescue him and not only let him fall, but didn't make a big deal of the fact that he fell. I asked her what I was supposed to do differently because I could not go through life following him around with my hands outstretched to catch him. I could never possibly come to the rescue every time something started to go wrong. She didn't know what to say.

I now have four kids and have since realized that when a parent always rescues their children this is not good for them. In fact, parenting experts Foster Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay (authors of Parenting with Love and Logic) have a term for this type of parent - helicopter parent. While I learned early on that I couldn't always rescue my kids, it is still tempting at times to protect them and shelter them from the consequences of their behavior. But in the end, this is not good for our children.

Helicopter parents tend to hover around their kids always coming to the rescue and protecting their kids from consequences. When this happens, children do not learn anything from their actions. Therefore the chances are good the child will do it again and again. Think for a minute about a school aged child who forgets his homework or lunch. If the parent drops everything to take the forgotten item to school for the child, what does the child learn? He learns that his mom or dad will bring him what he forgot. This usually means that next time he won't worry so much about forgetting his lunch because he knows mom or dad will bring it.

As the parent in the above situation, if you do not take him his homework or lunch what does the child learn? He learns that if he forgets his lunch he will be hungry. Chances are good he won't forget his lunch often. He also learns how to deal with the teacher concerning his missing homework and will face the consequences of a lower grade for turning it in late the next day. Do you think it is better for him to learn this lesson when he is nine and his grades don't matter long term or when he is nineteen and it affects his college GPA?

According to Cline and Fay, helicopter parents send messages to their children every time they shelter them from consequences. Messages such as the child is too fragile to make it on his own, that the child needs the parent to run interference for her, and the child needs to be protected from the world. These are not messages that I want to send to my child.

I want my child to be confident in his or her ability to handle anything that might come up in life. I want them to learn life lessons early, not when they're 25 years old. I want my children to succeed without me. It can be hard to watch my kids suffer the consequences of their behavior, but I keep reminding myself that it will be worth it in the end when they are confident adults succeeding in life.


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    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To Jennifer: While I believe that parents should be nurturing and caring for their children, being a helicopter parent is a little bit asinine. Helicopter parents can be classified as abusive parents for these types of parents stunt their children's growth and confidence. The overwhelming majority of helicopter parents are found in upper middle income socioeconomic groups with one to two children. Most working class parents are not helicopter parents and they believe that their children should not be moddycoddled and assert that they should experience the hard knocks of life. Also parents who have four children and more do not have the energy to helicopter their children; they believe in letting their children experience the lessons of life so they can succeed and grow up.

      I believe that in order to raise successful and independent children, you must raise them tough. I do not mean abusive but teaching self-reliance and independence early in steps so at least by the time, a child reaches the teen-age years, he/she is at least 75%

      self-sufficient. Many teen-agers in the upper middle income socioeconomic backet are not independent. In fact, they are infantile and dependent which is totally ridiculous. Do not get me wrong. I adamantly believe in the small family and in achieving the utmost in material affluence but let us not baby our children but teach them to be self-sufficient, confident, and independent adults.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My daughter forgot her lunch today actually. Which is what made me look up this article because I was wondering if I did the right thing but not bringing it back to her. She is 9 by the way and full of attitude. I realized she didn't have it when we were almost to the school. At first I did agree to bring it because I didn't think I had any money on me. I didn't want her to go hungry..Then I realized I did have a few bucks. She refused it though. Saying it was sloopy joe and she didn't want that. She said "unless you bring my lunch, I'm not eating." "My friends mom brings her lunch all the time." That's when the alarm went off in my head. If I did this for her, she would take it for granted and start doing it more often. I gave her one more chance to take the money and she refused slamming the car door behind her. If she changes her mind she can always charge her lunch. She has done it before, so it's not like I'm causing her to go hungry. However, I will not be a helicopter mom!

    • mythbuster profile image


      8 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Hey Jennifer, this is a great article. Easy to read, understand, etc., and I think will be very helpful for most people to read. Something that came to mind when I was reading is that there are "helicopter people," in general - adults who hover over adults, too. I'm one of them sometimes - a caretaker - but sometimes I have to step back and get back into my own stuff or my friends can't make mistakes they need to learn about living.


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Gradyp, It helped my daughter a "TO DO LIST" attached to her folder. That way she just needed to follow the steps and once they are doing it for a while it becomes a routine. I hope this helps.

    • gradyp profile image


      8 years ago

      As I look at the comments again on this hub, I realized that I am in the midst of another situation where I could be a helicopter parent, but am not doing so. My son has been forgetting to bring home his reader book that he is supposed to read every night. He has also been forgetting to either bring home his folder that has his homework or taking his homework to school.

      Now, the consequences he faces now are not that severe, but we keep trying to get him to understand that it is his responsibility to remember these things and make sure they get done. We (his parents and teacher) can only remind him to do these things, we are not always in a position to do it for him.

      It's tough, but it is better for them to learn at a young age than have to learn that lesson as an adult.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I had a helicopter mom and I am probably borderline with my daughter. I believe a brain isn't developed until they are much older and they don't learn consequences or foresight until older as well. I turned out fine- aware of dangers but not overly cautious. If igured it all out. I believe it's made me learn from other people's mistakes before having to make some of my own like taking drugs, smoking, or getting into boys to oearly. Most moms of teens should helicopter more actually.

      I save my 3 yr old once from a first time potential danger and if she didn't get the idea then, then I let her try it our for herself. I think some parents are too overwhelmed with more than one kid to pay much attention to them so they just figure it's fine to let them do it all and figure it out for themselves. I don't like that idea either.

    • Specialk3749 profile image

      Karen Metz 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      I see parents with their teenagers, helping them out of a speeding ticket or buying their school clothes, etc.. How is a child to learn responsibilities if they are not allowed to feel the consequences of their actions or take on some responsiblity?

      Last week we gave each of our older kids $10 to buy lunch at the fair. We told them they could get anything they wanted, or if they wanted to save it that was fine too...but, they could not complain they were hungry. It was fun to see how each of them reacted. My oldest two shared a $7 taco salad and had money left over. One wanted an expensive $8 steak stip dinner and the youngest bought a $5 hamburger and spent the other $5 on toys. When it came time to buy a caramel apple, my youngest two didn't have any money. They didn't get an apple and learned a lesson.

      Thanks for a great hub!

    • gradyp profile image


      8 years ago

      What a great hub! As a father of 2, I try not to jump up every time that I hear my kids fall. I realize that sometimes, it wasn't that big a deal to them. But at other times, I know that they need the help, so I jump to help them.

      I have also long been a proponent of letting them try to do things themselves. My wife I know often did things for my older one, but over time has learned to let him do more for himself. Now, I do still try to help, but more as a guide, assisting them, but not doing it for them as much as possible.

      Thanks for the great ideas!

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      8 years ago from Sweden

      Hi, I agree with you. In Sweden we call it "curling parents". The parents sweeps away all obstacles in front of the children and constantly watch over them so they dont make any mistakes. And that isn´t good for any one. It is better to be there for your children when they need you, and guide them if they need help, but do not do it for them. Great hub!

    • SteveoMc profile image


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      I have seen the helicopter parents over the years, and I believe that they do more harm than good. Surprisingly, a lot of the kids figure it out and begin to manipulate the situation and that makes for some really interesting twists. You could always plan to go to his college dorm room once a week and clean while you do his laundry. That way, you will be letting the whole world know how pathetic and incapable you believe him to be.

      Actually, I would not allow a child to go hungry, but there is such a thing as nutrition vs. cuisine. You know, something like sardines, oatmeal, power bar (the healthy but yucky tasting ones), etc. instead of hamburger and french fries might be a better way to encourage the reminder.

      My granddaughter, who is 10, forgets her lunch about once a month or so. I don't think it is a big deal at all and we just have an account for her at school with a few bucks in it, she doesn't have to stress about it and it is never an issue. I'd like to see her parents go hungry once in awhile though.

      You have a very good point here, loved reading it...I bet everyone is going to have an opinion on this one.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Jennifer, this is a great title and hub. You made a perfect point there.

    • Jennifer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Mom Kat - I would never expect my preschooler to go hungry - nor to actually remember to take his lunch. At that age, it is the parent's responsibilities. My 12 year old though? A different story. I almost mentioned this, but our system has always been to help them out the first time and let them know that in the future we won't be helping them if it happens again.

      And every situation is different, I would never let my kids suffer dangerous consequences.

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      Kids learn from their bumps and bruises. If you let them fight it out, they'll find out while they are still young that bad behavior has consequences.

    • Mom Kat profile image

      Mom Kat 

      8 years ago from USA

      I may just be a "helicoper parent". I don't believe a child should go hungry in school to learn a lesson. Being a preschool teacher for 8 years I know that hungry children have a more difficult time learning, listening, and controling their emotions & behaviors. So if my child forgets a lunch, yes, I will bring it to school for them. I want my child to succeed in his/her education.

      I will admit to being over-protective. It drives me nuts to see children walking down the block without parental supervision. With all of the dangers children aren't aware of - it just seems like the parents are asking for something bad to happen to their child.

      I do allow my children to experience natural consequenses at home (or in a safe and controled environment). If you don't like what is for dinner I'm not going to make you something else. You can eat it or be hungry.

      Our job as parents is to teach, guide, and encourage our children to become happy, healthy, productive members of our community.

      Children are children. They are going to forget sometimes. They need a parents love, understanding, and support in order to develop a healthy self-esteem and a feeling of safety and security. If your child can't even look to you for a meal when they forgot it - why would they come to you when they are really in trouble later on?

      Everyone parents differently, and the best anyone can ever do is what they believe is right and best for their child & family.

      This was a well written hub - very thought provoking.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jennifer, I agree. Very well put. Now, if we could just get the government to stop being a helicopter parent to all of us, we could all be better off!


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