Helicopter Parents – More harm than good?

A teacher’s take on independence…

So, Destiny’s Child would lead you to believe that if one buys her own diamonds and her own rings, then she is an independent woman. Does that 13 year old (yikes!) song define independence… someone who is self-supporting or self-reliant?

Clearly, parenting styles have changed and with any change there’s also bound to be side effects. Is so-called ‘over parenting’ leading to a cohort of children that cannot do anything for themselves and in turn actually expect everything to be done for them? Make my breakfast, tidy my bedroom, defend me when my teacher says I’ve done the wrong thing, let me do whatever I want with discipline, fix all of my problems for me… A post from a fellow blogger (http://runningawayfrom49.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/another-great-thing-about-the-1980s/) got me thinking about independence and the important learning curve that MUST take place for children on their journey toward it, and the potentially detrimental effects, perfectly well-meaning [helicopter] parents are having on their children. I’m talking here about a small percentage of parents.


As a teacher I’ve come across a plethora of parents that are always there to step in when things for their child aren’t quite going to plan. Maybe it’s been a playground disagreement, maybe the child’s being playing up in class, maybe there’s been a difficulty with their learning, maybe it’s been suspiciously adult-like completion of projects, maybe it’s generally parents taking matter into their own hands and in the process taking them out of their child’s.

I’ll restrain from going on too much of a rant, but here’s a Teachling Tip – Relax! Your kid’s going to turn out alright. Not only that, but they’ll actually be better off by you “cutting the cord” (or if that’s too much too soon, at least “slack the cord”). Giving them space to figure things out on their own and dare I say, make mistakes along the way, will teach them valuable lessons in building resilience, taking responsibility for their actions, their belongings, their relationships, their learning, and so on. If they have a problem, don’t solve it for them and certainly don’t make it your problem. Guide them if you will, or completely step back. They’ll figure it out, trust them.

Children need to learn to take responsibility, as an essential step toward becoming effecting individuals and citizens. Given I teach first grade, examples of children that are yet to develop any sense of independence appear insignificant, but isn’t this the best time to change habits (after all, it’s much easier to change habits early, rather than try to break established habits later!). “Mum left my book bag at home” (um, no, it’s your book bag and you should be responsible for bringing it to school). “I just got back from the bathroom and I don’t know what to do” (well look around, every other student in the class is eating their lunch, what do you suppose you should do?). “I don’t have a chair to sit on” (there’s a two spare chairs at the table behind you, just pull one of them over). Maybe I’m expecting too much – they are 6 years old after all. But, put it all in a context where everything is done for them, they’re never held responsible for wrong-doing, someone is always there to protect them from failure, and you find yourself just a few years away from a child with serious independence issues. I mean this in the nicest way possible – A child needs to learn to fend for themselves.

Here’s another Teachling Tip – Start by making your child responsible for their ‘things’ and soon they’ll learn to take responsibility for many aspects of their lives and their independence will grow. For example, make them pack their own schoolbag, maybe even make their own lunch, carry their belongings to class, and more! What do you think? Am I expecting too much?

(Image source: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdxpym5S1l1qzpwk0o1_400.jpg)

Helicopter parenting is a popular blog post topic. Read more…

10 thoughts on “Helicopter Parents – More harm than good?

  1. You say it very simply and effectively – cut the cord. Thanks for the reference to my blog and continuing the thoughts. I do think it’s a topic worthy of exploration especially from someone in the classroom.

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  6. I love this topic! Probably because I have to deal with it way too much… I’ve noticed different types of helicopter parents recently. I call them the TV News Chopper 5 and the Apache attack helicopter. News Channel 5 hovers in the waiting area and works behind the scenes while the Apache doesn’t let her son/daughter speak a word during our meeting and is always the first to become disgruntled.

    And honestly, I’ve never had a father helicopter parent; they always seem to be the mothers…

    • Haha, I’ll say “no comment” to your observation about a lack of male helicopter parents! Sometimes I find the TV News Channel 5 choppers more annoying because they’re always lingering. A least the Apaches will swoop in, take you out, tear you to shreds, then disappear again until they have something to complain about! 🙂

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  8. I have an employee with several children in high school and college. To hear him talk of needing to be home to make them lunch, take one to a recital, etc. or make all of their travel arrangements makes me think they’re 7 years old. His helicopter parenting has cost him professionally as he is not nearly as far a long in his career as he could be. These decisions have consequences for the parents as well. Work becomes a big interruption in his day.

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