Why Helicopter Parenting is Now the Rule

We hear a lot these days about “helicopter” parenting, or a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.  It’s important we distinguish between parents that are adequately involved in their children’s lives and those that get involved in every aspect of their children’s lives.   As a father of an only child, it is hard for me to not get too involved but realizing that doing so can be detrimental I have made a conscious effort to relax a bit and try to be more hands off.  It’s funny, my parents, and parents born in the baby boomer generation often make fun of us new breed of parents, and like to critique our helicopter ways and make comparisons to when they were parents and how less hands on they were.   While this is true, times have changed, and things have happened that have led to the rise of the helicopter parent, for good or for bad.  Let’s take a look at some of the things that have happened.

  1.  Access to Information:  In this age of parenting, information is available to us instantly on any topic we could possibly desire.  And because this info can be generated endlessly by anyone with a computer, click bait headlines, typically designed to scare or elicit a response from users are utilized.  Now, I will argue that technology has allowed parents to be better and make better decisions for their children, but, I know for a fact that for every beneficial article we read, there is one that scares us about something whether it’s the flu killing kids, bullying at school, vaccinations leading to autism, school shootings, kidnappings, etc…  So, as parents become more informed, we also become more afraid of the dangers to our kids, and thus, opt to keep them close to us and indoors where it is safest.
  2. Less Time:  As the cost to live rises and wages remain stagnant, both parents going to work is now the rule rather than the exception.  When this happens, kids are forced to spend more time in before and after care, and thus don’t get home from school until later, sometimes very close to dinner time.  By that time, parents have little time to actually “parent” and spend quality time with their kids and let them speak and show them their schoolwork, etc…. So, with little time in the mornings and after school, it becomes much easier for parents to just do things for their kids, or at best, push them through things quicker than they would if they had more time.  
  3. TVs, Video Games, Computers:  Ahh yes, you know it would make this list right?  But it is true.  Piggybacking off point 1 and 2, you have a more anxious and worried parent from all the negative, scary info they are seeing coupled with a lack of time for them to actually parent, a perfect void for technology to fill.  Parents get home late, have a lot to do in a short amount of time, they are not comfortable letting their kids play outside, so instead, they let them watch TV, or use a phone or computer because it keeps them busy and also, in the house.   This checks off two key items for parents allowing them get stuff done, and also not have to worry about where their kids are.
  4. Currency of Education:  The importance of education and its impact on being able to make a living has gone up over time, and thus, parental involvement in kids schooling has as well.  This isn’t to say that my parents didn’t care about my education or how I was performing, but nowadays parents are more likely to do homework for, or get significantly more involved in their kids projects with a fear of the child not getting a good grade, or being embarrassed or not prepared for a project.  Writing kids essays, putting together power points, and even doing homework for kids are all things parents do today to help better the outcome for their kids.
  5. Anxiety:  This is the final and summation of all the points listed above.  Parents are more anxious than ever.  They have less time, money, are more afraid of the environment kids have to grow up in and arguably under more pressure than previous generations (or at least can’t handle the pressures as well).  When humans are more anxious, they tend to be less patient, and when parents are less patient, they are more likely to get involved when they shouldn’t. 

So yes, helicopter parenting is on the rise, and in my opinion will only get worse simply because the reasons listed above will only get worse.  In no way am I defending “helicoptering” as an appropriate parenting style, in fact I think it does real harm to our kids, creating a less resilient more anxious set of humans.  The goal of this article was to simply put out some reasons as to why it is happening so frequently and let all of the haters out there who are quick to judge know that times have changed from the ways they had to parent. 

For more information on how helicopter parenting can negatively affect kids mental health, please see the following articles

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2018/06/helicopter-parenting

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201701/the-effects-helicopter-parenting

Chris Fasano
Dr. Chris Fasano is the creator and founder of MentalSrongKids.com and host of the Better Mental Health for Kids and Parents Podcast. Chris Fasano is a developmental neuroscientist and mental health advocate.

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