The Tyranny of the Helicopter Mom

helicopter_mom_and_dad_700x493You’ve heard all the labels: Helicopter Mom. Hover Mother. Tiger Mom. Ivy League Mom. The names change, but the underlying message is the same: Some mothers—and fathers!—push their children too hard to succeed and many are too heavily invested in their kids’ education.


Mayday, Mayday!
And it doesn’t stop there. Helicopter Moms also try to protect their children from experiencing failure or disappointment. They try to “manage” their children’s relationships with peers, teachers, and coaches. They can even go so far as to check in on children once they’ve graduated from high school or college by intervening with professors and managers in the workplace!

Helicopter mom

Am I Being Supportive . . . or Hovering?

It’s a fine line, for sure. All of us want to be supportive parents. We want our children to reach their full potential. We strive to teach them to work hard and to persevere when they feel challenged.

So how do you know when you’re shifting from being a helpful, supportive mom into a helicopter state? Experts say there are a few simple questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I pushing my child out of fear and anxiety over what MIGHT happen?
  2. Or am I reacting to some real problem occurring in the now?
  3. Am I projecting my own dreams and disappointments onto my child?
  4. Am I doing so much for my kid they won’t be able to manage on their own if I’m not around?

If your answer to most of these questions is Yes, then you might, indeed, be a Helicopter or Hover Mom!

What Helicoptering is REALLY Saying

If we’re honest with ourselves, helicoptering is more about how WE feel than what our kids are experiencing. We fear we’ll fail as parents or that we aren’t doing enough to ensure that our kids succeed. Some former “execu-moms” project their own anxieties and insecurities onto their children because they have left the workplace and suddenly their children become “their projects.”

Possible Risks of Helicoptering

The risks to our kids are great if we try to do too much for them or are constantly nagging them to do better. According to Parents Magazine, some of the potential harm includes:

  • Decreased confidence and self-esteem.
  • Undeveloped coping skills.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Sense of entitlement.
  • Undeveloped life skills.
  • Growing up with unreasonable expectations and often feeling disappointed.
  • Never learning how to cope with real-life failures and sadness.
  • Increased risk of rebelling against parents in a dramatic way.
Possible Benefits of Stepping Back and Allowing Kids to Make Mistakes

• Children must develop a sense of confidence and mastery. This can often be achieved if they exceed their own expectations.

• Parents who can help their children “own” their experiences (instead of doing things to please others) will help their children develop strong self esteem.

• If a child does not experience negative emotions like anger or frustration, he could remain fearful and never now how to handle these feelings as an adult.

Helicopter mom pointing

What to Do About It

So how can we stop ourselves from indulging our inner Helicopter Parent?

We need to swallow hard and allow our children to struggle, be disappointed, and when they fail, we need to help them learn to work through their failures on their own. It also means understanding what your child is physically and mentally capable of doing. It’s always good to encourage your child to do his best, but shaming him or comparing him negatively to other children his age is never good practice.

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