By Laine Morris

Helicopter parenting is an overprotective style of raising children.  A helicopter parent will prevent their child from trying new activities if they are concerned about the safety of that activity.  Normal age-appropriate activities like walking to school or going to a sleepover may be forbidden by a helicopter parent.  While most helicopter parenting comes from a deep fear for a child’s safety, keeping your child constantly within arms-reach can be psychologically damaging to children.  If you think you may be a helicopter parent, consider these negative impacts it may be having on your child.

  1. Inhibiting Learning 
    As scary as it may be to allow your child to go out into the world and potentially get hurt, that is how they learn.  We have all experienced scrapes, pain and illness, but every discomfort is a learning experience.  Yes, your child may fall off the monkey bars, but they will grow from that experience.  Children learn from new experiences, including the discomfort that may come along with them.
  2. Discourage Autonomy
    Helicopter parenting involves making choices for your child that they can make for themselves.  If you cook every meal for your child because you don’t want them to get burned on the stove or you pick out their outfits so they’ll be matching, you are taking potential choices away from your child.  Having autonomy over their own lives is absolutely crucial for your child’s development.  By making all of their choices for them, you are stunting their growth and undermining their independence.  It will be more difficult for your child to make decisions as an adult if they rely on you to make all their choices as a child.
  3. Low Confidence 
    When a child has been sheltered from the world, they will subsequently learn to fear it.  If you teach them that the world is a scary place and they need to rely on their parents for safety, they are not going to trust in their own ability to handle life.  You may stress about your child walking to the bus stop on their own, but simple tasks like walking alone with other kids gives your child confidence to be out in the world.  And when your child subsequently sees their friends exhibit more freedom than they do, they’re going to begin to wonder why you don’t trust them to do age-appropriate activities.  Your distrust of your child’s ability to handle themselves will bleed into their self-esteem.  Your child will inevitably learn not to trust themselves.
  4. Mental Health Issues
    Helicopter parenting is a consequence of fear and anxiety.  If you don’t learn to control your fear about your child’s safety, they are going to learn that same fear.  Your child may struggle with depression and anxiety if they learn from you that the world is a scary place.  If they are not safe within the world and need constant supervision, that will carry over into anxiety in their adult life.  Your child may also be less open to new activities if you hold them back from new experiences.

If you fear you’re falling into helicopter parenting patterns, it’s not too late to loosen the strings and allow your child room to grow.  The psychological benefits of giving your child more control over their lives and their decisions are endless.

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