The 6 Habits of Recovering Helicopter Parents

Jul 30, 2018


Are you worried that you might be a helicopter mom? Safeguarding our children is a priority for moms today but you may think you are stepping over the line. Being too overprotective of a child can hinder their journey towards independence and may bring an unwanted level of rebellion in their teen years. (I speak from experience!)

How do you know if you are walking that fine line between helicopter parenting and common sense safeguards? This list may help:

You may be a helicopter parent if:

  • You filled out your child's college application for them.
  • You do your child's homework for them or correct all their mistakes.
  • You called a company to inquire why they did not hire your child for the job they applied for.
  • Your teenager has no idea how to do laundry or work the toaster.
  • Your 10 year old refuses to make their bed or take a shower independently.
  • Your older child cannot ride a bike or knows how but is too scared to do it.
  • Discipline is ineffective on your child because you always give in to what they want.
  • You shield your child from every possible hurt.

I'm not only guilty of some of these; I was raised by a helicopter parent myself. My mother tried to shield me from so many things that it is hard for me to do challenging tasks now. This is true for any child with an extremely protective and restrictive parent. Another result of helicopter parenting is that your child will have a tough time overcoming their fears. My fear of water is a result of Mom voicing her fears whenever I was in the water as a child. You may be planting your fearful seeds in your child's head unintentionally.

Bottom line: You are a helicopter parent if you don't let your child do activities that are age and developmentally appropriate on their own, don't let them fail, and always shield them from getting hurt.

However, we do live in a world where our children are exposed to more danger than ever, thanks to social media, the Internet, and the large number of connected devices in our kids' hands. We need to be smart parents by making sound choices about what to monitor at what age and how to give them more independence day by day. How do we protect our children without sheltering them from everything?

The 6 Habits of Recovering Helicopter Parents

Smart parents give their kids freedom and set limitations with expectations that they can expand as they mature. Here are 6 habits of smart parenting:

  1. Give Them as much freedom as they can handle
    Let them be kids in a safe, friendly neighborhood without a constant watch on them. Gradually teach them to be on their own and learn who to trust.
  2. Set rules by age
    Establish firm rules for when your child can come and go that are age appropriate. For example, you might want your 3rd grader home by sundown, but you can set a curfew like 10:00 or 11:00PM for your teenager. If you're not sure what's appropriate, ask some trusted friends or even a police officer or teacher.
  3. Set up practical communication guidelines
    Teach your children to contact you in emergencies, when their plans change and when they feel the need to break curfew or miss events. If your kids are new to having their own phone, this sort of demand allows you to place restrictions on when and how they use their phone.
  4. Monitor their online activity
    In monitoring your child's online activities, you should gradually pull back as they learn responsibility. A middle schooler can't always discern between an interesting article and a scam, but an older teen needs to learn to be savvy as well as feel trusted by their parents.
  5. Enable Reasonable Online Restrictions
    For little ones, you may want as strong blocking as you can, such as only G-rated material. For children who don't understand the value of money, you will want to block their ability to make in-app purchases. As they grow, you may want to block specific things, like scam or X-rated material. Block by age, words, or other parameters as you see fit. You should also set limits on their daily online exposure as well. Think about using parental control software like Net Nanny ® which not only blacklists certain websites but uses dynamic content filtering to make sure everything is safe. This way you can adjust the settings as they get older giving them more freedom on the web as they earn it.
  6. Let Them Fail
    All parents hate this one, and I'm no exception, but if you don't let your kids fail they will never be able to deal with the crushing disappointments that life hands them. It begins with small things, like failing a test, not making the team or losing a game. Handling these disappointments, which can seem overwhelming for a child, will teach them that failure is not the end of the world but can open doors they might not have considered.

Smart parents know that protecting the safety of their children is an action that should gradually be passed into that child's own hands as they grow. Don't worry about being a helicopter parent as you safeguard your child. Instead, teach them to protect themselves, online and off, as they grow.