There’s a fine line between loving parent and helicopter parent.  Find out if you’re hovering too much (and what to do about it).

It seems like a notorious buzz word among families these days is “helicopter parent.” Still, parenting is no easy feat. We think it’s pretty safe to say, it is one of the absolute hardest, most deeply rewarding adventures. Starting from their very first breaths of life, children look to their parents to show them everything there is to know about the world.

Every skinned knee, sweet discovery (“Look, Mom, I can stand on my head!), grocery store meltdown, and cozy bedtime story is a responsibility parents take on from the start.

While one would hope it became easier as time went on, the thing with children is they grow up. Each stage of their lives offers new challenges and triumphs. There’s no map telling parents which way to steer on this bumpy road.

It’s no wonder some moms and dads start to show symptoms of “helicopter parent syndrome.” Just so we’re all on the same page here, this is a solid helicopter parent definition: a parent who is overly involved and/or overprotective in the life of his or her child.

Its roots come from a good place – a place of wanting the very best for your children. However, two of the most critical skills kids need to learn are independence and self-confidence.

8 Signs You’re Slipping into Helicopter Parent Territory

helicopter parent family photo with child

In a nutshell, there are 3 types of helicopter parents, each correlating with different stages in the child’s development: early childhood, pre-teens/teens, and college age.

Early Stages of Helicopter Parent Syndrome: Young Children

1) Making Decisions Solely on One’s Own Without Consulting the Child (100% of the time)

 Yes, a parent’s wisdom and sound judgement are very valuable. That said, a child needs to develop his or her own critical thinking skills. If parents calls 100% of the shots on what to eat, wear, sports to play, etc., children may feel their opinions are not important.

 How to Fix It: Let’s say your son or daughter develops a passion for acting and loses interest in those soccer lessons. Even if your visions of a future soccer star dissolve, you’ll be encouraging your child’s self-discovery. The same can be said for self-expression with clothing. Sure, you know your son is not quite pulling off those neon shorts, but he sure feels proud to be wearing them! 

2) Regularly Contacting (via Email, Phone, and Drop-ins) Every Teacher for Inside Details

 If your son’s teacher starts screening your calls, you may need to ease up on the check-ins! Being involved in the child’s academic progress is wonderful, but overdoing it can be intrusive.

 How to Fix It: Consider (discreetly) observing your child’s study habits. By simply taking note of cues (how often she sits at her desk, is she aloof and careless, or stressed and distraught?) go a long way in helping you understand your child’s progress. Rather than checking in with the teacher, trying checking in with your child.

 Tip: aim to create a comforting, open environment to show your child you genuinely want to help.

3) Spraying on Hand Sanitizer at the Touch of Every Door Knob, Counter, or Toy

 It’s true, children seem to bring home the colds and flus of their entire preschool class. While not so fun for the family, it is important that children build up strong immunities. Being exposed to different germs is part of a healthy development. When we shield children from every intruder, they begin relying on sanitizer (instead of their own bodies) for protection.

 How to Fix It: Choose wisely when using hand sanitizers and disinfectants. If the threat is a bad one, then please do protect your child. The key is differentiating  between what is very harmful from what is mild enough to let go. Simply implementing rules to wash your hands after the bathroom and before meals goes a long way.

The Overly Involved Helicopter Parent: Pre-Teens and Teens

4) Inspecting Every Homework  Assignment, Editing, and Even Redoing Sections

 How to Fix It: If your pre-teen or teen comes to you for advice, then it is a nice gesture to offer guidance. However, young adults need to develop their own voices. Learning also requires stumbling through their own mistakes. The effort is more important than the grade.

5) Selecting a List of Colleges as Early as 8th Grade (or Sooner)

How to Fix It: Planning for college is both exciting and exhausting. The application process is complicated, to say the least, so there’s no harm in offering your young adult structure and guidance. Still, to avoid helicopter parent status, just make sure you wait until he or she is ready to talk openly about it and be involved in the process.

While prepping ahead of time can help you get organized, your young adult may change dramatically over the course of his or her high school years. Try staying tuned to their changing interests, skills, hobbies, and talents. Each of these will ultimately affect the decision.

helicopter parent and beautiful daughter

The Can’t- Let- Go Helicopter Parent: The College Years

6) Requiring Daily Calls on Academic Progress and Extracurriculars

 How to Fix It: Saying goodbye when your son or daughter leaves for college can be very emotional and often quite scary. Unfortunately, we have to trust our children to make good choices. Even if they don’t, they are adult enough to learn that actions have consequences.

 Tip: When you do chat on the phone to catch up, enjoy simply listening (instead of prying).

7) Texting the College-aged Adult to Wake Up for Class, Eat Healthily, and Shower Daily

 How to Fix It: Allow your child the freedom to make independent choices. If they miss their classes from oversleeping, that is on them! College is their chance to learn self-discipline and control.

8) If the Student Lives Nearby, the Parent Cleans the Dorm Room and Does the Laundry

How to Fix It: Unless you want to be doing these chores for your children the rest of your life, it’s time to let go and teach them to take care of themselves!

Helicopter Parent or Not: All You Need Is Love

In the end, the #1 gift your children need is your unconditional love and support. Even if you are erring on the side of helicopter parent, it is because you care deeply (the secret is trusting your child to take the  wisdom you’ve shared and carry it along the journey).