How to Tell if You Are a Helicopter Parent

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Helicopter Parents - that is the nickname given to parents who hover (like a helicopter) near their children so much that their children never get the opportunity to grow by exploring and experiencing natural consequences. Teachers, coaches, other parents and even the friends of helicopter parents recognize how difficult these overshadowing, interfering parents can be, for their own children and anyone else who comes into regular contact with the child.

If you are involved in your child's school life, then you may have wondered if you ever take things too far, and act like a helicopter parent.

So, how do you know the difference between being involved in your child's life and overshadowing your child? What is the difference between being involved and over involved?

From my own experience working in schools and being an involved parent, I have never met a helicopter parent who was willing to admit they were one. I am guessing that if you are reading this, it is a good sign already that you are not a helicopter parent. If you think you may venture into helicopter parents territory at times, or you want to take some precautions to make sure you do not become a helicopter parent, read on.

Before we dive into the signs of helicopter parenting, it is helpful to know where this hovering behavior comes from. Helicopter parents seem to over involve themselves out of a sense of being afraid that their children will somehow lack something important unless the parent takes extreme measures to protect their child from experience and any sense of struggle.

 Without experiencing some of the negative aspects of what hard work can feel like, children do not get the chance to feel a sense of accomplishment from overcoming a struggle. They also do not get the chance to develop skills to function independently, leaving these children unable to get by without their parents in the future.

You worry your child will have the same bad experience you did.

Your entire school career lasted many years and had several ups and downs. You probably had some negative experiences and struggles at some point in shcool. If those experiences were not handled well by the school, you probably carry some resentment and fear over the past situation. That is perfectly normal.

Perhaps you struggled in school and were held back a grade level and it didn't help you.  Maybe you were bullied in school and you worry a great deal that this will happen to your child. Maybe you struggled with an unidentified learning disability and you are vigilant to watch for your own child's struggles, even though they aren't showing signs of learning struggles.

If you can relate to this, remember that your child is not you, and that your child will have their own experience to live through.  It is important to realize the children do still face problems in school. School teachers and the educational system have also learned even more about what works to help children.

If your child does face similar struggles to what you experienced, you can work with your child's school for a positive outcome suited to your child.  

You Spend More Time On Your Child's Homework Than Your Child.  

If you find yourself all but writing down the work, or even if you are explaining and writing down the work, then you are doing too much of your child's work. Your child needs to be the one doing their homework. Yoru child may need a little help or guidance from time to time. If you are working harder on your child's homework than your child is, your child is not having the learning experience that doing their homework provides.

If you find that you are doing too much of your child's homework, step back. Stop and ask your child what they think they need to do next. You can try different strategies to encourage your child to take a more active role in doing their homework. If your child really can't (mostly) do their own homework, contact your child's teacher to see if your child is also struggling with the material at school. Knowing if your child can do their work when you aren't around to do it for them will help you plan your next steps to increase your child's independence.

You Decide Who Your Child's Friends Are

This isn't just deciding which homes your child may visit. Rather, your child is only friends with children you have decided they may be friends with. Maybe you make constant suggestions, or approve of each and every friend your child has. This level of control over your child's peer group does not allow your child to make meaningful decisions about who their friends are, rendering your child unable to make this decision on their own.

Your child may need a little advice from time to time on how to make new friends or how to handle conflicts, but they need to learn how to make and keep friends on their own.

Be open to the children your child gravitates to for friendship. Let them select who they play with and spend time. Change your focus from selecting your child's friends to helping your child learn to be a good friend and manage the occasional conflict.

You Think Volunteering At Your Child's School Means You Get To Hang Out With Your Child.

When you volunteer at your child's school, you support your child in an indirect way - by supporting the child's school.  If your volunteer focus centers around benefitting your child rather than benefitting the  entire class or activity group you are helping, then you are doing no one a favor. The other children need your volunteer time, too.  

Check with the teacher or volunteer coordinator to make sure you are clear on what duties you will be doing as a volunteer. Make sure that you do those duties in a way that helps the entire group. If you are volunteering to help your child's class during math or reading, be sure to help all of the children, not just or mostly your own. If you are a chaperone on a  field trip, be sure that you are monitoring all of the children in your group.

You Spend A Lot Of Time Comparing Yourself To Other Parents  

Many helicopter parents worry that they are not doing as much for their own children as other parents may be doing. This leads to more worry that their children might not be getting enough to be successful, whether in academics, sports or even socially. This keeping up with the Joneses can turn into a vicious cycle of comparing the amount of time and level of involvement activity rather than looking at how their involvement benefits their child long term.

Instead of focusing on whether your family is doing exactly what other families are doing, ask if your child is doing well in a particular area. If your child is struggling, try to find solutions to that issue. You can look to other families for ideas, but remember, each family is unique. Just because another family that appears to be happy and successful is benefitting from certain activities or owning certain items doesn't mean it will always have the exact same effect on your family.

Overall, remember that a parent's role is to help a child grow into being an independent adult. Yoru child needs your love, attention and guidance. Feel free to provide those and watch your child bloom into success.

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