The Dangers of Helicopter Parenting Include Stunting of Maturity and Decision Making Skills

The communication revolution has made great things possible. Instant communication via cellphones, email and even Internet video chatting can increase productivity by allowing people to remain connected to important projects. Problems can be recognized and corrected faster, information can be transferred instantly and people can use online resources to learn virtually any task and perform all manner of research. However, the digital revolution has also created a big problem: The infamous “helicopter parent.”

By now the term “helicopter parent” has permeated the lexicon. It refers to a parent who obsessively follows, and often manipulates, the lives of his or her children. According to “The Atlantic”, the phenomenon of the helicopter parent began in the 1990s with well-educated parents spending much more time with their children than traditionally occurred. These parents quickly became notorious for enrolling their children in countless extracurricular activities, constantly calling or visiting with teachers and coaches and volunteering at every possible function attended by their children. The Aspen Education Group attributes the specific term “helicopter parent” to authors Neil Howe and William Strauss, who said such parents “swoop in,” rather like a helicopter, to fix problems in their children’s lives. Many observers feel that helicopter parenting is only getting worse as the proliferation of the smartphone allows parents and children unprecedented access to each other’s lives and erases traditional boundaries.

The dangers of helicopter parenting are broad and can begin early in life. A key goal of helicopter parenting in today’s performance-obsessed culture, where grades and scores are meted out for every possible task, is to ensure a positive return on every childhood “investment.” As a result, kids are not allowed to have unstructured fun and play like they once did: They must be part of official groups and formal activities that can be quantified by parents. Over time, this can lead to intense stress, even among young children and possibly develop into anxiety disorders.

Later in life, as children become teenagers, helicopter parenting takes a different toll. Though teens are traditionally becoming mature decision-makers and learning to accept responsibility for their actions, the phenomenon of helicopter parenting can weaken this development. If teens know that their parents can and will fix most problems, they never have to learn to fend for themselves in terms of problem-solving. As a result, children of helicopter parents can grow up lacking in skills related to discipline, innovation and negotation. Due to excessive parental help, they never have to develop the skills needed to stay out of trouble or overcome obstacles.

The proliferation of the cellphone has added the new dilemma of unlimited communication, which has furthered all aforementioned problems and also introduced the new problem of chronic indecision. Children of helicopter parents, always expected to check in with their parents for advice or permission, become overly dependent on their parents to make decisions for them. By the time these children are adults and should be independent decision-makers, they have not reached that stage. They suffer from chronic indecision and, even as adults, routinely seek the opinions of their parents before making everyday decisions.

Helicopter parenting can summarily be criticized as delaying the onset of adulthood, keeping teenagers and young adults at the developmental level of children, reliant on parents for problem-solving and decision-making. Children raised by such over-involved parents may come to resent such “helicoptering” and find it oppressive even as they continually need it, perpetuating a horrible cycle of anger, need and shame, particularly as the adult children grow older and cannot break free from needing parents’ help.