I left my daughter at college this weekend. As soon as I realized she would be attending college 562.3 miles from my home I began investigating buying or renting a helicopter. A helicopter would allow me to drop in from time to time and hang out with her, and her friends therefore easing her transition away from home. My quest has ended. Even renting a helicopter is cost prohibitive. Further, I’ve learned there is a name for parents like me; the researchers call us helicopter parents. Dr. Haim Ghinott coined the term back in 1969 to describe parents who hover over their child like a helicopter. Helicopter parents have been known to call professors about their child’s poor grades, and even to set up exercising schedules for their college students.
Actually, helicopter parenting can even be found in elementary aged school children where parents complain about the amount of homework their child receives or interfere when they do not feel their child is playing enough on a sports team. Helicopter parents often intervene to spare their child from pain or worry. How do you know if you may be a helicopter parent? Consider your child’s grades and activities. Are you more concerned about their grade point average than they are? Are you more concerned about their performance on a team than they are? If you are, you are at risk for becoming a helicopter parent.
As a parent we are always trying to find the proper balance between nurturing and developing our children. The key to their growth is that they feel the pressure (more than us) over a poor performance or low grades. When the parent is more concerned about the grades of their child than the child is, they are in an unsustainable situation. We cannot carry that dynamic into adulthood where a parent would be more concerned about their child’s job performance or marital relationship than the child would be.
In the long run, being a helicopter parent is detrimental to the development of a child. In one study of college students, those with helicopter parents experienced more depression, decreased life satisfaction, and lower levels of autonomy.* So, I have decided not to be a helicopter parent. Keep me in your thoughts. I’ve got to break the news to my daughter that I will not be getting a helicopter and dropping in all of the time. I know she is going to be disappointed.
*Schiffrin, H. H., Liss, M., Miles-McLean, H., Geary, K. A., Erchull, M. J., & Tashner, T. (2014). Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 548-557.