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How to Stop Being a Helicopter Mom or Dad

Most parents want to do everything they can to improve their children’s chances of being successful. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to over-bearing parenting or “helicopter parenting.” Helicopter parents are known to constantly worry about their children’s safety and well-being, over-cater to their every need, and restrict their freedom in order to protect them. While the motivation for this kind of parenting is usually love, it can cause children to be less active, to have a difficult time making decisions and handling conflicts on their own, and to suffer from anxiety and depression. If you want to stop being a helicopter parent, pay careful attention to your everyday interactions with your children and try to give them more freedom.[1]

Giving Your Children More Freedom

  1. Avoid worrying constantly about your children. While it is understandable that caring parents would be concerned about bad things happening to their children, worrying too much can be extremely damaging. The first thing you need to do if you want to stop being a helicopter parent is to relax and accept the fact that you will never be capable of protecting your children from all of the dangers in the world.[2]

    • This may be easier said than done, so a good first step is to stop letting your kids know that you are worried about them. Try to avoid constantly asking them questions about whether they can handle things or how they are coping. This is likely to create anxiety for them.
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  3. Give children the opportunity to take small risks. Kids who are too confined to “safe spaces” miss out on many developmental opportunities. If you want your children to learn how to navigate the world, they need to be able to step out of their comfort zones sometimes.[3]

    • This may mean allowing them to try skateboarding, even though they might fall and scrape a knee. It may also mean allowing them to go out for a short time without your supervision.
    • It’s fine to protect your children from taking big risks. For example, if your child wants to ride his bike on the highway, it’s reasonable for you to intervene.
    • If you teach your kids about how to protect themselves from dangers, you should feel much better about allowing them to take risks. For example, you may teach your children how to safely cross a street, or to always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
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  5. Watch from afar. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep an eye on your children to make sure they’re safe. After all, there are real dangers in the world that you need to protect them from! Luckily, you can keep an eye on them without being a helicopter parent; simply take a few steps back and give them a little extra space. It helps if they don’t know that you are always watching.[4]

    • This works best for younger children, especially when they are playing with their peers, like at a playground. As your children get older, you may have to let them out of your sight more often.
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  7. Limit telephone contact. If your children are older, you need to set boundaries regarding the amount of contact you have with them. For example, if your children are in college and are calling you to let you know how every class went, they need to learn to be more independent.[5]

    • If your children do not live with you, try talking to them a few times a week instead of a few times a day.
    • Consider letting your children call you instead of calling them.
    • This applies for younger children also. You do not need to be calling or texting them while they are at school.

Letting Your Children Make Their Own Decisions

  1. Start letting your children make small decisions. When encouraging your children to start making decisions for themselves, you can start very small. For example, you may want to let your children decide what they want to wear to school instead of choosing their outfits for them. The more accustomed they are to making small decisions for themselves, the better prepared they will be to make more important decisions.[6]

    • Consider asking for your children’s input on family decisions as well. For example, if you are planning a family vacation, you may want to ask them where they would like to go instead of choosing the destination by yourself.
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  3. Avoid labeling your children. Labeling your children can cause them to feel a lot of unnecessary pressure to live up to your expectations. Instead of telling them what they are or what they should be, give them the freedom to explore different paths. For example, avoid telling your children that they are “the smart one” or calling them things like “the future scientist.”[7]

    • Try not to be hyper-focused on your children’s future success, especially if they are very young. This will only cause undue anxiety.

     

  4. Let your children choose their own interests. Instead of choosing the extracurricular activities that you think will give your children the best competitive edge, allow them to choose which activities they will participate in. Likewise, you should allow your children the freedom to choose their own classes in school, rather than telling them what classes they need to take.[8]

    • If your children don’t seem interested in trying new activities, you can still encourage them to do so. Try looking for opportunities that will allow them to test out a new activity without making a big commitment. For example, instead of signing them up for six months worth of dance lessons, pay for the classes individually and allow them to decide if they want to continue dancing after they have tried it a few times.
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  6. Encourage your children to form their own opinions. It’s healthy for children to think for themselves and form their own opinions. They might not always agree with you, and that’s okay. Let your children know that you respect their individual opinions and that you encourage them to be independent thinkers.[9]

    • Be respectful when they express opinions that differ from your own, and teach them to be respectful as well. Differing opinions do not need to lead to an argument!

Teaching Your Children to Become Problem Solvers

  1. Allow your children to do things on their own. Helicopter parents often swoop in and do things for their children, even though the children would have been perfectly capable of doing it on their own. This increases dependency and deprives kids of the chance to try things for themselves, so give them a chance to figure it out.[10]

    • If you’re having a hard time with this, start with small things, like letting your children dress themselves or make their own lunches. Once you get more comfortable with them doing everyday activities on their own, you may feel better about letting them deal with more complicated situations on their own too.
    • If you know that your children do certain things for themselves when they are at school or with the babysitter, hold them to that same standard of independence when you are around.[11]
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  3. Don’t answer every cry for help. If your children are used to your helicopter parenting, they may be accustomed to running to you for help whenever something is challenging or doesn’t go their way. This will not help your children learn and grow, so avoid running to their aid right away.[12]

    • If your children are in immediate danger of any kind, help them right away!
    • It may help to count to ten in non-emergency situations. For example, if your child asks you to help him with a puzzle, tell him you’ll be there in a minute. Then count to ten, while he takes some more time to work on it himself. He might just figure it out without your help.
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  5. See if your child can solve his own problems at school first. While there’s nothing wrong with contacting the school to help resolve an issue, you should always ask yourself if your child would be able to handle it without you first. If the answer is yes, allow your child the opportunity to deal with the situation before you intervene.[13] For example, if your child is having a problem with another child at school, do not intervene right away. However, if your child is being bullied, you should intervene right away.

    • This is especially true if your children are in college. You should only contact the school in extreme situations.
    • Some signs of bullying include coming home from school with injuries, losing personal belongings, having frequent headaches or other complaints, not wanting to go to school, losing friends or withdrawing, feeling helpless, losing self-esteem, talking about running away or committing suicide.[14]
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  7. Focus on listening. You probably don’t want your children to think that you don’t care about their problems because you aren’t offering to help solve them. Luckily, they don’t have to feel that way at all; you can still be supportive without being overbearing. The next time your children come to you with a problem that you think they can handle on their own, take time to listen to how they are feeling about it instead of immediately offering to help. They may just need some time to talk through the issue and figure things out.[15]

    • If your children seem stuck, consider asking, “What do you want to do about this?” instead of, “What do you want me to do about this?”
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  9. Stop protecting your children from consequences. Helicopter parents often want to protect their children from being hurt or feeling bad about themselves, which often means that they intervene in order to shelter them from the consequences of their own actions. This kind of parenting prevents kids from learning from their mistakes, so let your kids experience negative consequences.[16]

    • Instead of protecting your kids from consequences, talk to them about what they can do to solve their problems. For example, if your son got a bad grade in math class, ask him what he is going to do to improve the grade instead of calling his teacher to complain about it.
    • If this is hard for you, start with something that has relatively low stakes. For example, if your daughter cannot wake up on time to make the bus, you may not want to choose a day when she has a final exam during first hour to stop bailing her out and giving her a ride.

Tips

  • Give yourself a break. Reshaping behaviors can take time, especially when your first instinct is to jump in and fix whatever is bothering your children.
  • Avoid going to extremes in either direction. Try to transition from being a manager into being a mentor for your children.
  • Keep in mind that you can still give your children the tools they need to be successful. For example, if your children are struggling with a homework assignment, you shouldn’t do it for them, but you can offer them tips and pointers for how to approach the work.

Sources and Citations

  1. http://www.parenting.com/article/helicopter-parenting
  2. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-stop-worrying-and-avoid-helicopter-parenting-dont-do-these-6-things/
  3. http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/family/kids-parenting/helicopter-parents/harmful
  4. http://www.parenting.com/article/helicopter-parenting
  5. http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/helicopter-parent/
  6. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-stop-worrying-and-avoid-helicopter-parenting-dont-do-these-6-things/
  7. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-stop-worrying-and-avoid-helicopter-parenting-dont-do-these-6-things/
  8. http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/helicopter-parent/
  9. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-stop-worrying-and-avoid-helicopter-parenting-dont-do-these-6-things/
  10. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-stop-worrying-and-avoid-helicopter-parenting-dont-do-these-6-things/
  11. http://www.parenting.com/article/helicopter-parenting
  12. http://www.parenting.com/article/helicopter-parenting
  13. http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/helicopter-parent/
  14. http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/
  15. https://www.teenlife.com/blogs/helicopter-parenting-why-its-not-good-your-teen
  16. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-stop-worrying-and-avoid-helicopter-parenting-dont-do-these-6-things/

Excerpt from Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki building the world’s largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on Expert Reviewed How to Stop Being a Helicopter Mom or Dad. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

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