By: Carol Maxym, Ph.D.
Helicopter Parenting is a term coined by Dr. Haim Ginott in 1969, and is used to describe a parent that is overly focused on and involved in his or her child’s life. Do you find yourself questioning your child’s every move? Are you constantly hovering over everything he or she is does? If you’re a helicopter parent, you typically take too much responsibility for your child’s experiences, failures, and successes.
Helicopter parents tend to overparent, overprotect, overcontrol, and micro manage their kids’ experiences. This type of parent is obsessed with monitoring his or her child’s behavior at home, at school, at after-school and extracurricular programs, giving the child little to no breathing room to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow as a result of stumbling.
The question to ask yourself as a parent: what do you get out of helicoptering your kid’s every move?
I know that I have just asked you a really hard question. Your first reaction is probably to list all the reasons why you must helicopter. Please slow down, and read on to give your chance to think about it in a different way.
Professional Mothering is the term I’ve coined to describe one of the main ways modern moms (and dads) get caught in helicoptering.
At work, anticipating problems and solving problems as they arise is a very good thing. Preventing problems and managing risk helps you succeed as an employee or as a professional. Being well-organized and tying up loose ends are other pluses in the working world. Rescuing your boss from a giant blunder— a big time good move in the professional world. But, here’s the caveat… is doing all those things as a mother (father) always a good thing?
The answer is: No.
Today, there are so many “soccer moms” who have a great education and/or many years of professional success before deciding to become moms. Please don’t take this the wrong way moms, but there are certainly times when being a mom can be boring and unstimulating. You begin wondering what that great education was for. I remember that feeling very well from my days as a young mother. Mothering just isn’t always intellectually stimulating, Mothering often isn’t exciting. Mothering rarely provides a sense of immediate success or reward—the kind that can and does occur in the working world. Frankly, it’s seldom that anyone really thanks you (certainly not your toddler who cannot understand) or pays real and authentic interest or appreciation to what you do all day.
There is no respite from mothering. You are on duty 24/7 for years and years. So, mothers, let’s face it: You look for something to do, something stimulating, and something you can really sink your teeth into. You are trying to bring into your mothering world the parts of your professional world that you really liked that kept you stimulated. Understandable. The question to ask yourself: is it useful?
Helicoptering is one of the ways to feel busy, useful, and important. The more you helicopter, the more your child [appears to] needs you, so the more you have to do. I mean, if he’s forgotten his lunch, well, you must take it to him. Same goes for homework. And what about the project for science? Getting her ready for camp—certainly she or he can’t pack her own things. She or he wouldn’t know how.
Here’s the deal: Your child will never learn how to be independent and highly functional if you helicopter. As your child feels less than competent because he/she isn’t as competent as you are (well, of course—you are an adult, you child is…well, a child), anxiety can take hold because your child cannot feel competent to do a task, remember what needs to be remembered, take care of whatever needs to be taken care of.
So, I’ll be really blunt: Helicoptering is selfish parenting and it isn’t good mothering (or fathering).
Think about it.