Helicopter Parent Effects
Parenting is not always easy. In fact, it is generally considered to be highly challenging and exceedingly demanding. The needs of children are perpetually shifting, as they require different levels of support at different times throughout their adolescence and beyond. Further, all children are unique and each will have nuanced needs throughout their lifetime. Parents are also different and will have distinct parenting styles, often even when parenting the same child. The term “helicopter parent” was first used in 1969 by Dr. Haim G. Ginott in his book Between Parent & Teenager. Shortly after, it became a popular way to describe a style of child rearing. In 2011, the term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry. A helicopter parent is currently defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.” Although many helicopter parents’ start off with genuine intentions, the helicopter parenting effects are widespread. Common effects could include, but are not limited to, any of the following consequences, as provided by International School Parent Magazine:
- Underdevelopment of the brain: one aspect of helicopter parenting is that of parents over-managing decisions for their child, which minimizes the need for the young person to cultivate problem solving skills or make decisions themselves. The prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that reigns rational thought, executive planning and impulse control) is the last part of the brain to fully develop. Although it does not reach full development until age 25, “it is like a muscle and if not given the chance to exercise it will not grow substantially, meaning that these skills will stay underdeveloped.”
- Decreased self-esteem and confidence: a young person with helicopter parents often believes that their parents do not trust their ability to carry out tasks independently. Depriving a child of the opportunity to develop coping strategies, build resilience, explore their own creativity, etc. prohibits them from distinguishing what makes them happy and interferes with their processes of self-exploration and self-discovery.
- Unhealthy sense of entitlement: teenagers with helicopter parents become accustomed to their parents constantly fulfilling their needs, which makes them overly demanding.
- Mental health complications: research has found that helicopter parenting increases a young person’s depression and anxiety levels. Due to an underdeveloped self-confidence, children with overactive parents are constantly seeking guidance and are often unable to make decisions without external validation. Studies have also found young people with overbearing parents to be more vulnerable, self-conscious, and closed-minded.
Helicopter parenting can develop for a variety of reasons. In order for young people to learn the skills needed to effectively navigate adulthood, they must be afforded with opportunities to struggle, experience disappointment and have the space to work through failures. Allowing your child the ability to individuate, learn to become self-reliant, and cultivate their own problem-solving skills will be invaluable to their physiological development.
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