Helicopter Parenting Definition – Does It Hurt Your Child’s Development?

In today’s world there are so many dangers out there and as a parent you want nothing more than to protect your children and make sure they are staying out of trouble, but is being a helicopter parent really the way you should go? I don’t think so because it can end up causing your children to rebel against you even more so than the children who not being helicoptered by their parents. Keep in mind that these are just my opinions on helicopter parenting based on what I have seen when observing parents who are this way and what has happened with my own children with the different ways that I have parented them.

According to the dictionary the helicopter parenting definition is “a parent who takes an overprotective and excessive interest in the life of their child or children”. It even states that some college officials see all this as the behavior of an overindulged generation, raised by helicopter parents and lacking in resilience.

Wanting To Be Involved But Not Over Involved

Now you are probably thinking to yourself “but you’re supposed to want to be involved in your children’s life” and you would be absolutely right. However, you don’t have to hover over your child at all times to be involved in their lives. You can be involved without smothering them to death.

Children need space to grow and learn and if you are constantly over top of them about everything they will not be able to learn from their mistakes, they won’t learn how to evolve and grow from their experiences. If you dictate everything and never give them any space to do their own thing once in awhile, you may actually cause them harm. As I have stated in many of my other articles, you aren’t going to live forever and they need to learn how to solve things on their own and survive without you.

I can tell you from my own experience with my oldest child that always doing everything for your child and not giving them the space to learn does cause issues when they become adults. Even my husband had this problem when we first got together. Neither one of them knew how to fend for themselves.

My daughter calls me about everything and wanting me to do things for her that I am no longer able to do for her because she is an adult and I am not legally allowed to do them for her anymore. She can’t even make phone calls to people she needs to speak to, doesn’t know how to solve problems on her own, and several other issues that are a bit too personal for me to post here.

As for my husband, when we first met I asked him to brown hamburger meat for me while I ran up to the store real quick and he asked me how to do it. Seriously? How do you not know how to brown hamburger meat.

When we got married I had to teach him that just because I was his wife, it didn’t automatically give me the right to handle certain things for him without him having to call them first and give them permission to talk to me.

Now, with him, he has several skills that he needs to be an adult, but there were still a lot of things that I had to teach him. So his mom was partially a helicopter parent but still managed to give him some space to learn, but because she hovered (and still hovers) my loving husband isn’t able to handle certain situations without me. He is 36 years old this year but sometimes still has the mind of a teenager.

There are other issues that you may come across like them being completely closed off to you when they become an adult because they crave that freedom, which can also cause problems with their other relationships. They can grow to hate people helping them with anything because of spending their childhood with someone always there doing things for them and now feel that they have something to prove.

Why Some Parents Become This Way.

There are many reasons that someone can end up becoming this kind of parent. However, I think most people’s parenting styles are based on their own parent’s parenting styles. Some people do the opposite of what their parents do because they didn’t like how they were brought up and others parent just like their parents. Most are going to end up parenting either exactly like their parents or a little like their parents.

Every once in awhile while parenting my children, I hear my mother come out in me and then laugh about it because she always said she couldn’t wait for me to become a mother because her belief was that your children are going to have children that behave worse than they did (a mother’s payback, lol).

In my research on helicopter parenting I was able to narrow down at least 4 reasons a parent ends up doing this kind of parenting. I have listed them below.

Fear of dire consequences: They have an innate fear of their children not excelling, getting bad grades, not making that sports team they are trying to be a part of, not getting that perfect job, without them being completely involved. They think that they have to be involved to keep their children from struggling, keep them from ever being unhappy. This is not a bad thing because all parents want to keep things from happening, but they also need to know when to back off and allow some things to happen so their children can learn how to get through them on their own.

Feelings of anxiety: Parents worrying about the economy, the jobs available, and the world in general (especially in this world today) can cause parents to want to take more control over their child’s life to protect them. As I mentioned in the above reason, this is a normal feeling and you should be protecting your children. However, you still need to give them the opportunity to learn how to cope because you aren’t always going to be there to protect them unless you found a way to be immortal (if you did please let me know the secret).

Overcompensation: These are the ones that I mentioned earlier about parents not wanting to parent like their parents did. Maybe they felt unloved, neglected, or ignored as children so now they are overcompensating with their own children because of the fear of their own children feeling that way. 

Peer pressure from other parents: When parents see other over involved parents, it can trigger a similar response. Parents can easily feel that if they don’t immerse themselves in their children’s lives, they are bad parents. It doesn’t help when society/other parents make it a point to make you feel less than when it comes to parenting because they think their parenting is the only way it should be done. You can check out my article about this here.

A Few Issues Helicopter Parenting Can Cause

I have mentioned a few things that helicopter parenting can cause in your children, but there are some other things that can be caused by this parenting style.

You can cause you child to have low self-esteem like I mentioned earlier, they feel that they are not good enough and have something to prove.

As I have also mentioned you can prevent your children from learning how to cope with things. What are they going to do when you aren’t there to take care of the issue they are having? How are they going to learn how to deal with stress. Stress in life is a given, there is no way to avoid it especially in today’s world and your children need to learn how to handle these things on their own.

You can also cause them to have more anxiety and/or depression by hovering over them all the time. You have to find an in between, protect your children but give them some space as well. Let them be children and learn from their mistakes. Give them some freedom.

Then you have the thing that everybody says this generation is, the feeling of entitlement. If you do everything for your children they grow up thinking that they are entitled to have everything they want without having to work for it. They grow up thinking things are just going to land in their lap. Do you really want your child being that way?

Then the big one I have mentioned several times in this article is the undeveloped skills to make it as an adult. Not learning the skills of doing things on their own like browning hamburger meat.

Are You A Helicopter Parent?

Are you now wondering if you are a helicopter parent or are you thinking about your friend’s parenting style, wondering if they are helicopter parents?

Here are some questions you should ask yourself to determine if you are a helicopter parent or not.

Do you only let your child play on a playground that has those safe shredded rubber mulch grounds? (My children ride four wheelers and play in the dirt)

When your child comes home crying because their supposed friend called them a name, did you automatically call that child’s parent and sort things yourself? (I advise my child on how to handle it and only interfere when them handling themselves isn’t working anymore and it starts getting out of hand)

Did you stay up late to rewrite your child’s essay because you felt they could have done better on it if they hadn’t been so tired or did you sit and make them do it until it was perfect no matter how long it took? (I check their homework but only help them correct spelling errors or whatever, but they have to correct it and today’s curriculum is not something I am able to help them with, it just causes arguments)

How long did you keep the training wheels on your child’s bike, how often do you allow them to ride their bike without you running next to them? (I watched my child and waiting for them to tell me when they were ready to try without training wheels and I don’t follow them at all when they ride them. I watch them from a distance and will run to them if they fall to make sure they are okay)

Do you follow your toddler all over the house bent down to keep them from falling down? ( I allowed my toddlers run around on their own and just watched them from where I was sitting and checked on them when they got really quiet. I tried to keep them in my view at all times but I didn’t follow them all around. Can’t get anything else done doing that.)

Do you freak out about letting your child go on a school field trip without you? (I never freaked out unless they were going more than an hour away. My thought was it is a great learning experience for them.)

Do you keep your child from helping you cook dinner for fear they are going to harm themselves? (I am famous for this one but for other reasons other than them getting harmed, lol)

During teacher conferences do you answer for your child anytime their teacher asks them a question? (I have been known to do this one too because my children don’t know how to speak up)

Finding A Happy Medium

So you see helicopter parenting is not, in my opinion, a way to parent your child because the consequences are just not something you want to have happening to your baby. You need to find a happy medium when it comes to parenting and protecting your children.

You need to protect them, that is your job, but you also need to let them have the freedom to make their own mistakes and learn from those mistakes like I did when my child stole for the first time. You can read more about this here.

I hope you found this article helpful in getting you the information you were looking for about helicopter parenting. Please feel free to leave any questions and/or comments below.



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  • Derek Marshall

    Finally – An excellent description of what a helicopter parent is. I could never really find one that explains it fully and properly. You are really hitting the nail on the head there.

    • Kristena


      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post. I am glad I was able to explain it more thoroughly for you. Most people use Helicopter parent in the wrong way and really don’t know what it really is and this is why I went into great detail about it.

  • JidroneP

    Hello, you are right writing about the “helicopter parent.” Many parents are overreacting and controlling their kids. Kids grow up and don’t know how to live on their own. My daughter’s friend, almost 30 years old, has two beautiful girls, and recently divorced. She is lazy to pay her bills, and she is asking her mother for help. It is sad.
    Nice article.

    • Kristena

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post. That seems to be a lot of the younger generation these days and it has to do with parents not teaching their children how to do it themselves and not rely on them for everything. You need to be there for your kids, but you also need to teach them how to do things on their own when you are not on this earth any longer.

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