As parents, we all want the best for our kids. Whether it's a scuffle on the playground or a failing grade on a paper, it's easy to let the mama bear come out in defense. But fighting your child's battles and constantly hovering over them is one of the telltale signs of helicopter parenting. Besides the fact that hovering is annoying, a new study found that it's also detrimental; a Keene State College psychologist found that kids of helicopter parents are more "vulnerable, anxious and self-consciousness."
So how do you stop yourself from being a true-blue helicopter parent? Like all other bad behavior, the first step is admitting the problem. After that, it's all about identifying some of the worst helicopter parenting moves to relinquish (some) control and give your child room to roam.
1. Make excuses for bad behavior. It's a parent's role to protect, so when your child is accused of bad behavior, whether at school, playgroup or anywhere else, it's all too easy to make an excuse. "Johnny was tired and that's why he was so cranky." "Sarah has had a really hard time at home lately, which is why her grades are slipping." You may think that you're helping by avoiding consequences, but you're actually removing the responsibility from your kid altogether.
- Limit your protection to things that are out of your youngster's control. While talking to your child's teacher about a learning disability is a good idea, don't make excuses for poor performance based on laziness or distraction. He needs to learn to take responsibility for his actions; when you make excuses, he becomes complacent, believing it'll always be mom to the rescue!
2. Break up fights. When you see your little one go head-to-head with a playmate over the last car, is your first instinct to step in and save your tiny warrior? Without conflict-solving skills, he simply waits around for an adult to save the day.
- Only intervene if an altercation gets physical; otherwise, give your child the chance to resolve it himself. As he learns to read others' reactions, he'll naturally learn to deal with conflict. Whether he's 6 or 16, you don't always need to fight his battles for him.
3. Baby your baby. Obviously, you hope your child gets the best of the best. But constantly giving into a his demands doesn't teach much in the way of self-control. Indulgence and a lack of rules are often the marks of a hovering parent who puts her kid on a pedestal. Loving your child? Great. Allowing your tiny tyrant to terrorize everyone around you? Not OK.
- Set clear limits and boundaries. Indulgence is OK on a once-in-a-while basis, but giving your child everything he wants—regardless of his behavior or the needs of others—will set you up with an entitled tot. Saying "no" is often the best move to help temper your kid's expectations.
4. Safety overboard. Some safety measures are totally necessary; using the correct car seat and slathering on sunscreen are non-negotiable. But practically wrapping your child in bubble wrap before he plays outside is probably unnecessary. We get that you don't want anything bad to happen to your little one, but being overprotective robs him of some of the best experiences of childhood.
- Remember, all children get sick and hurt from time to time. Suffering through a twisted ankle or nasty cold isn't fun, but it serves specific purposes. Bumps and bruises build a stronger immune system and teach which activities are safe and which should be avoided. As long as your kiddo isn't jumping from the roof into the pool or something equally dangerous, take a deep breath and send him on his way. A trip down the slide or a game of soccer isn't usually life-threatening.
5. Overanalyzing sniffles. Was that a cough you just heard or a bout of fatal whooping cough? If you're a helicopter parent, your doctor's probably on speed dial by now. Cautious, informed parenting is great; hypochondriac parenting could cause you to raise a child who's scared of every sneeze.
- Watch for the signs of a serious problem. A fever of over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, rash, sore throat without a cold, lethargy and an aversion to liquids for more than a day all merit a call to the pediatrician. A runny nose? Probably best for Dr. Mom to handle.
6. Taking over major choices. If you want your budding musician to become a concert pianist, you'll sign him up for hours of lessons. If he's wondering what college to attend, you already have the application for Harvard filled out. Helicopter parents make all the major decisions for their kids without asking for input.
- Let your child make his own choices. Whether it's what to eat for lunch or which extracurricular activity to join, it's crucial to learn how to weigh pros and cons to become more proactive. Without the ability to make decisions, your kid will grow up to be indecisive and lack self-confidence in his choices, so ask his opinion whenever possible.
Helicopter parents are hardly a new phenomenon; however, they've just barely received their label. If you don't want to be the hovering type, make sure your child has freedom within reason. Sure, you might be biting your lip when you watch your child tumble from the swings, but you'll be on the sideline to make the boo-boos better.