Earlier this year, the term ‘helicopter parenting’ was once again brought into the limelight, after Pope Francis preached to parents from the Vatican about giving their children some space to grow, learning how to become more independent and face challenges. While speaking about the role of fathers in family life, Pope Francis mentioned that whilst it is important for both parents to be present during their child’s life, it was important not to become too overbearing, stating “being around doesn’t mean being overly controlling. Parents who override their children too often do not let them grow.” Yet, as a society, we are seeing a rise in the ‘helicopter parent’, the parent who takes an excessive interest or overprotective view of their child, with parents of young children hovering whilst they play, scared they will fall and hurt themselves, whilst universities in America have reported parents submitting essays on behalf of their teenage children or even ringing up businesses, demanding more pay for their sons and daughters.
While some people may argue about ‘helicopter parenting’, with some parents suggesting they need to control certain aspects of their children’s lives in order to protect them from life, others support Pope Francis, with Lyss Stern, CEO of Divamoms.com stating that “children need to learn how to fall and get up on their own two feet…they are not puppets!”. One client who I used to teach, had three boys between the ages of 2-10, and she often commented on other mums and their overprotectiveness of children. If her sons were playing on a climbing frame, or in an open area, she would leave them to it, knowing a scrape would do them no harm; their experience or mistakes teaching them not to do it again, whilst other mums would choose to hover, disallowing their children to play in case they would get hurt.
Although some parents choose to believe this is the best parenting method for their children, universities would disagree. During her decade as dean at Stanford University in America, Julie Lythcott-Haims was shocked to see how many of the college students were unable to take care of themselves, and how often parents were interfering with their children’s lives, at a time when these students should have been experiencing freedom for the first time, and learning how to take responsibility for themselves and their work. Instead, Lythcott-Haims noted that parents were becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives, ringing their children up multiple times a day and even ringing up the University to interfere when a difficult situation arose.
Although parents may feel that ‘helicopter parenting’ is the best method of parenting for their child, it is important to remember the effect it can have in the future. Helicopter parenting is leading to a generation of children, and growing adults who are unable to do anything without the help of loved ones, at a time when parents should be respecting their child’s growth and allowing them to develop their own personality and experience.
The next time your child or teenager complains of a difficult situation at school, do not pick up that phone unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead take the time to talk the problem through with your child, and think of different solutions to help overcome the problem at hand. You’ll be rewarded in the future, once you know your child does not need your help to become a better person.