You hear about them all the time – parents who hover around their children and micromanage them so much that they’ve earned the nickname “helicopter parent.” But is being involved in your child’s life a bad thing? Experts say there is a line that some parents cross that takes them from being caring and concerned to over-involved.

What is a Helicopter Parent?

graphic of man and woman hovering over childThe phrase first popped up way back in a 1969 book called Parents & Teenagers by Dr. Haim Ginott. It was used by teens in the book who described their parents constantly hovering over them. In general, experts say, a helicopter parent is taking too much responsibility for their child’s success or failure. They become overly involved in homework assignments, sometimes even doing the work for the child. They do things for a child that the child is capable of doing himself.

Helicopter parents may not let a child go anywhere by herself, or even secretly follow them to watch them. They get in the middle of their child’s play with other children, resolving problems for the child. These parents become so fearful for a child’s safety that they protect them from every possible harm, refusing to allow them to play anywhere that is not deemed 100% safe (in the parent’s eyes).

Helicopter parents become overly involved in the child’s education from the first days of school right up through college. College educators report that some parents call them to debate a grade, even though the son or daughter is an adult. Professional recruiters have even reported that a parent showed up with their child for a job interview!

What Are The Effects of Helicopter Parenting?

A recent article in Psychology Today indicates that micromanaging your child can actually harm them. The article quotes a new study that says helicopter parenting can trigger anxiety in children and keep them from healthy emotional and cognitive development. And this can last well into adult years, with studies showing that college students with helicopter parents are “more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may also experience academic difficulties.”

Stepping Back

Parents will always worry, of course, but managing that worry at a healthy level that does not interfere with your child’s ability to learn, grow and experience frustration can be tricky. It is difficult to see a child fail, but without failure, he or she may not learn how to overcome it.

Encourage your children to take ownership of their homework, chores, friendships and problems. Experts encourage parents to refrain from stepping in too soon; instead, listen to your child and wait until he requests help. Help her to become independent and develop a sense of self-confidence in coping with challenges.

Keep in mind that the job of a parent is not to raise a child – it is to raise a competent, independent and mature adult who can function for a lifetime.