Who is a ‘helicopter parent’ and why is it wrong to be one?
As a new study suggests that the children of ‘helicopter parents’ are more likely to be anxious or depressed, we get experts to tell us more about the phenomenon.sex and relationships Updated: Jul 28, 2016 07:44 IST
Many working parents often rue the fact that they don’t get enough time to spend with their kids. On the other hand, if the findings of a new research are to be believed, then some parents, who give their children too much time, need to back off a bit.
The study conducted by the Florida State University, USA, reveals that children who enjoy “higher levels of autonomy from their parents” have “greater life satisfaction, better physical health, and more confidence in their own self-efficacy”. However, children of these so-called ‘helicopter parents’ were more likely to report “low levels of life satisfaction and self-efficacy, as well as higher levels of anxiety and depression”. Physical health was also generally worse for these young adults, according to the study.
The concept defined
So, who is a ‘helicopter parent’, and why is it wrong to be one? “Helicopter parents are people who constantly hover around their children, both physically and psychologically, with the intention to protect them from all kinds of stressful situations. Some of these situations may be real, and some may be imagined. This is irrespective of the age of the child,” says child psychologist Prachi Chitre, adding that such parents always want to be the problem-solvers for their children.
Many times young mothers and fathers don’t even realise that they have become ‘helicopter parents’.
Clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany says since most new-age parents have one child, they end up becoming overly possessive about him or her. “Also, fears about gadget addiction, drugs, etc., are making parenting more and more difficult in today’s day and age,” she says.
Surprisingly, Chitre says such parenting has become extremely common in India, mainly because of the high levels of competition in all fields here. “It is so severe in India that parents feel that they cannot allow their child to miss any opportunity. They want the best for their child, but the method may not always be right,” she says.
Not so positive, after all
More often than not, children usually bear the brunt of their parents’ over-involvement.
Psychiatrist Aditi Acharya says children of such parents usually lack confidence. At a young age, it is ingrained in their minds that they will always require the support of their parents to achieve success.
“Being a ‘helicopter parent’ has more negative implications than positive, mainly because such individuals produce anxious and dependent personalities. The self-esteem and self-confidence of a child suffer to a great extent because of this,” she says.
Hingorrany adds that if parents make all their decisions for the kids, then the children will never experience life to the fullest. “Always interfering and being over-protective makes them co-dependent and not self-reliant,” she says.
In fact, according to another 2015 study, by the Brigham Young University, Utah, USA, “stepping in and doing for a child what the child developmentally should be doing for him or herself, is negative”.
Time to change
However, remedial measures can be taken to create a positive environment for children. These efforts can help boost their confidence and mental development. But first, parents need to understand that providing readymade solutions and fighting all the battles for their children is actually detrimental to the child’s growth.
Chitre says, “It is a parent’s natural instinct to protect his or her child from danger. But as rational parents, they need to ask themselves a few questions — ‘What I perceive as a threat, is it actually a life lesson for the kid?’, ‘Do I want my child to be a responsible, mature adult, who knows how to solve his or her own problems and take decisions?’, ‘Can I always be around for my child?’, and ‘Do I want to advocate self-reliance or dependency?”.
What parents need to do
1. Handling peer relations and discussing concerns with teachers need to be encouraged
2. Assure your child that you will always be around, but there are some things that he or she needs to do independently
3. Children need privacy. Keep a watch over their activities, but do not suffocate them
4. Keep all channels of communication open at all times
5.Trust your kids, and teach them to have faith in themselves
6. Let them bear the consequences of their actions. Let their decisions go wrong and let them understand what failure is
7. Let them also understand the importance of struggle, compromise and adjustment.