How to Support Without Hovering: Avoiding Helicopter Parenting
Helicopter parenting, characterized by overprotection, smothering of independence, and struggling to relinquish control over your child’s life, is detrimental to childhood development for many reasons. It prevents children from learning to self-regulate, squashes creativity, and breeds anxiety in both the parent and child.
Yet, as parents, we want to care for our children in every way that we can, so how do we navigate the dance between supportive and overbearing?
Types of Parenting Styles
Psychologists and researchers have broken down parenting styles into four different types:
These first three styles were developed by Diana Baumrind and came as the result of studying the effects of differential parenting during early childhood. The expansion of Baumrind’s work resulted in the addition of a fourth category, neglectful, as well as evidence that these early childhood parental styles have lasting and predictable impacts on adolescence and later academic success.
The conclusion of this work?
Baumrind and other professionals consistently found that the authoritative parenting style – characterized by a balance of high demands and high responsiveness – is the best way to support children without hovering into the category of extreme, overbearing helicopter parenting. This balanced approach leads to the best childhood and adolescent outcomes because these parents set expectations and enforce safe boundaries while being empathetic and warm, without overstepping or interfering with their child’s independence.
Steps to Take as Parents
Parenting is hard enough as it is, so attempting to objectively assess how we parent can be intimidating, disheartening, or flat out insulting, depending on where your current comfort level as a caregiver lies.
With all of this in mind, here are the two foundational aspects of authoritative parenting with further description on how you can step into a more supportive and accepting parental role, without crossing over into helicopter mode.
- Set rules, expectations, and guidelines for your kids. Provide them with an unwavering framework for kindness, good manners, and humility by giving them daily responsibilities and holding them accountable for it. Raising creative, open-minded children doesn’t mean letting them govern themselves before their brains are developed enough to do so. Structure is key to creating a relationship built on trust and it makes children feel safer and more confident when exploring or figuring things out on their own. Just as important as it is to build trust in your child, you must be willing and able to trust them in return. Without trust, it’s easy to descend into helicopter mode and perceive normal obstacles as illusory threats or danger from which your child needs to be protected.
- Once rules are established, let kids be kids. Childhood is all about curiosity and exploration. Allowing kids to take ownership of their development and learning is key to raising self-aware, independent humans. Make space for failure, mistakes, and problem solving within the realm of structure that you provide. Your role as an authoritative parent is not to be the looming superhero, but rather to observe and monitor at a safe distance, teaching your kids when it’s appropriate to ask for help and when they can use their own devices and reasoning to solve problems on their own.
Parenting is tricky – there’s no doubt about it – and every child is different. Still, with these foundations in place, your child is more likely to achieve academic and personal success, develop healthier psychosocial relationships, and feel more supported at home.