The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter; the term became popular enough to be put in the dictionary in 2011. A helicopter parent is defined as a parent who is overprotective of his or her child and takes an obsessive interest in the child's life.
Our society is always evolving, getting smarter with technology, allowing children to have access to a wide array of information. It also seems as though the world is getting worse, with more disease, more violence and more political uncertainties. Unfortunately, this has led to extreme worry and anxiety among parents who want to protect their children from all of these things. Hence, the helicopter parent term was coined. Now it must be said, that being protective of younger children does not necessarily make you a helicopter parent. However, if you are still being overprotective of your teenager, there might be a problem.
Answer These Questions to See If You Are a Helicopter Parent
- I tend to worry a lot about my child - if he or she is safe, are they smart enough, and am I doing enough to make my child live to their potential. Y or N
- When my child has a school project due, I want them to get the best possible grade so I help or do part of the project that they are struggling with. Y or N
- I am constantly asking them to wash their hands, sanitize anything from school, and get anxiety when I hear there is an outbreak of the flu or lice at school. Y or N
- I reward my child on a regular basis for good behavior, good grades, or doing small tasks. Y or N
- When my child does sports or does potentially dangerous activities, I discourage them to do anything where they might get hurt. Y or N
- I tend to always defend my child and see that a problem is usually the result of a mistake made by another classmate or the teacher. Y or N
- I have given my child strong encouragement about which college they should attend. Y or N
- When preparing for an activity or trip, I tend to overpack so that we can be prepared for any situation we might encounter. Y or N
If you answered Yes to three or more of these questions, you could be a helicopter parent!
Characteristics of a Helicopter Parent
- Helicopter parents worry a lot. They are always doing everything for their child to make sure they don’t fail.
- Helicopter parents tend to be the homework helpers or doers. They will always make sure the child’s homework gets done, even if that means sending the child to bed and completing the project themselves.
- Helicopter parents tend to be germaphobes. There is the constant fear of their child getting sick because they don’t want their child to go through that pain or stress.
- Helicopter parents tend to be more permissive and tend to spoil their child because they never want to disappoint them.
- The helicopter parent is overprotective and restricts activities where the child might injure themselves. They don’t want them to experience pain or have long term complications in the future.
- Helicopter parents are the constant lobbyist for their child. This can be in conflict issues, teacher issues, disciplinary issues or many other scenarios. Many times this turns into a blame game against other people (blaming teachers, other children, school officials, etc).
- Helicopter parents tend to want to control every aspect of the child’s life. This also includes any decisions the child wishes to make. They will not let the child make decisions or participate in activities where the child has a chance of failure.
- Helicopter parents tend to be chronically overprepared. These are the parents that in order to go to the park, they have the sunscreen, sunglasses, band aids, finger splints, knee pads, helmet, snacks and drinks for every child, and even a four course meal if necessary.
As a Christian parent, you could be a double whammy helicopter parent! In addition to all the normal worries of a parent, you also fear for your child’s spiritual well being making you a Christian helicopter parent. For example, many Christian helicopter parents live in fear that their child will be exposed to the secular world. As a result, they tend to shield them in a bubble and control everything about their lives. They are afraid of what their child will do if exposed to those Non-Christian ideas, principles or people. This can include not allowing the child to listen to any secular music, see any secular movies, not letting the child read any secular books and especially controlling which friends they spend time with.
If you are thinking right now, “Well, great, I am a helicopter parent, and now I am worrying about worrying too much!” Don’t fret. We all have our different struggles and being a parent is no easy task. It is hard to find a balance of guidance and nurture without being over protective. But we have a solution for this problem and it is found in God’s word. Look for next week’s article, “Be a Lighthouse Not a Helicopter” to see how the Bible addresses this.
Read about how teaching perserverance is important in our blog "It's OK to Let Your Child Struggle and Fail"