Helicopter Parenting By: Cara Griffin-Locker, IMH

Anyone who is a parent knows it is the hardest job out there.  Being in charge of another human is the most terrifying yet rewarding experience. From the time they are babies, parents are the sole provider for this tiny life that they have created.  Being able to care for and instruct one’s children is a blessing, yet in the same respect can be a trial.  Parents are the ones they look to for guidance, the ones in control and who have things under control.  Parents control what they eat, wear and do from an early age.  That is until they start realizing that they have the ability to say yes or no and start challenging their parents’ instructions and decision-making. 

The average child’s frontal lobe does not develop until they are 25 years old, so it makes perfect sense that parents would want to remain in control of the decision-making process. Ultimately they are trying to prevent their kids from making mistakes that may alter their lives in a harmful way. Or maybe they are trying to save them from making the same mistakes they made as teens or young adults. As the parents try to remain in control, the kids push away; the parents then try to pull them in closer and soon they feel the power and control they once had slip away as their babies become teens and young adults. When parents feel like they are losing control of their child, they become over-protective. What are the signs of a controlling and/or over-protective parent? If you can answer yes to any of these questions then you may be guilty as charged:

1.       Over-scrutinizing your child’s eating, appearance or social life

2.       Violating their privacy

3.       Pressuring them to be perfect

4.       Forbidding them to question or disagree with you

5.       Being intimidating, overpowering or manipulative

6.       Discouraging them from expressing anger, fear or sadness

7.       Discouraging them from being able to express their individualism

8.       Giving them  no say in any given matter

9.       Unwillingness to admit when you are wrong

10.   Being (or accused of being) unaware of the pain your behavior is causing to your child

If you answered yes to four or more of these questions then you are guilty of helicopter parenting. Here are some helpful hints for the almost controlling (for those in denial) to controlling parent.

·         Evaluate your helpfulness. Some of the controlling things people do actually stem from a desire to be helpful. Unfortunately, in reality, such well-intended actions don’t always end up being helpful. Sit down and honestly evaluate your helping. If an action is effectively causing positive change, keep going. If not, stop doing it.

·         Perfection equals imperfection. No one is perfect, not even you. The more you try to make your child perfect, the more they will fail.  Set them up for success by allowing them to be who they are.  They will be good at some things and not so good at others.  It’s okay - no two people are the same.

·         Practice giving up control. To break the habit of being controlling, you’ll need to get out of your comfort zone and practice giving up control. Slowly working towards letting them make their own decisions will help shape them into the capable confident adult they will need to be.

·         Manage your anxiety. The need to control things comes from an internal anxiety. Turn your attention to managing your anxiety, rather than everything and everyone around you. Learn everything you can about anxiety and dealing with anxious feelings.

·         Accept. You cannot put your child in a bubble to protect them from the world.  They will make mistakes and maybe even some that you yourself have made, but that is how we grow and learn.

·         Therapy. Most of the time we are the product of how we were raised; we are our parents.  Stepping into therapy can be rather difficult but vital if you want to heal from your own wounds and not project them onto your child.

The most important job of a parent is to guide their children in such a way that prepares them for life and all it has to offer.  It is also to illustrate respect, love and understanding through actions and words.  To do this effectively takes finding the right balance between being involved in the lives of one’s children and giving them enough space to grow and express their individuality in the various scenarios that life will throw at them.

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