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Helicopter Parenting: Can it Backfire?

helicopter parenting

Do you feel as if your parents are overprotective, or don’t let you do anything on your own? Do they always lean over your shoulder, getting into your business? Have your parents always tried to make sure nothing bad happens in your life? Do they direct your every move?

If you can relate to this parenting style, you may have a helicopter parent—a term commonly used to describe a specific parenting style where a parent pays extremely close attention to a child’s experiences and problems. The term was first coined in 1990 by Foster Cline and Jim Fay in their book, Parenting with Love and Logic, and it gained relevance with college admissions staff who noticed how parents of prospective students were inserting themselves in the admissions process.

To understand this parenting style, you must grasp that parents want to protect you from the dangers of society. They want you to be safe, have every advantage possible, and be successful. However, if parents over-protect and smother you, it can backfire big time.

Helicopter parents are communicating to you in subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways, that you won’t be safe unless they are there looking out for you. When you have to go off on your own, you may not be prepared to meet daily challenges. This can cause a great deal of worry since your protector is no longer around to help you. This inability to find creative solutions and make decisions on your own can cause a great deal of worry. You can experience anxiety, depression, a lack of confidence, and low self-esteem.


Achieving independence is an essential part of your journey to adulthood. To make this journey successful, you need the freedom to try new things. You still need guidance and support, too. Here are a few tips to help you find the right balance.

  • COMMUNICATE REGULARLY WITH YOUR PARENTS. Initiate a conversation and let them know that you would like more independence to take care of tasks, settle conflicts, and manage your time.
  • DEMONSTRATE BEHAVIOR TO PROVE YOU ARE CAPABLE OF MORE INDEPENDENCE. Show them you are ready to accept responsibility! Be trustworthy and self-disciplined. Remember…actions speak louder than words!

Act swiftly and certainly when something unacceptable happens. Accept responsibility for your actions, control your anger, apologize, and begin working to regain trust and independence again.


According to the Gottman Institute, a research-based approach to relationships, we know that overparenting only leads to more problems for our kids, we can make the following adjustments in our parenting approach:

  1. Support your children’s growth and independence by listening to them, and not always pushing your desires on them.
  2. Refrain from doing everything for your children (this includes homework!). Gradually teach them how to accomplish tasks on their own.
  3. Don’t try to help your children escape consequences for their actions unless you believe those consequences are unfair or life-altering.
  4. Don’t raise your child to expect to be treated differently than other children.
  5. Encourage your children to solve their own problems by asking them to come up with creative solutions.
  6. Teach your children to speak up for themselves in a respectful manner.
  7. Understand and accept your children’s weaknesses and strengths, and help them to use their strengths to achieve their own goals.

IN SUMMARY, try letting your children discover themselves—their weaknesses, strengths, goals, and dreams. You can help them succeed, but you should also let them fail. Teach them how to try again. Learning what failure means, how it feels, and how to bounce back is an important part of becoming independent in our world.

Sue C. Jones, Co-Founder and Executive Director


Teens preparing for college need to learn how to develop responsible habits, resolve conflicts on their own, manage their own schedules, live a healthy lifestyle, and deal with difficult situations without their parents jumping in to save them.

Here are 7 signs of a helicopter parent that prevent teens from doing just that:

  1. Not allowing teens to make age-appropriate decisions without consulting his/her parents
  2. Stepping in to resolve conflicts between a teen and their friends
  3. Overseeing a high school student’s homework
  4. Monitoring a teen’s diet and exercise
  5. Cleaning a teen’s room for them
  6. Sending multiple texts/calls each day to a child away at college
  7. Intervening in a teen’s life to prevent them from failing at a task or project

Teens need a helping hand as they learn to navigate this thing called life on their own, but parents need to allow their teens to mature and thrive without hindering them through overparenting.


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