Have you ever heard the term “helicopter parent?” It’s a slang term for overparenting. It was given that nickname because kids would refer to their parent’s sometimes overbearing presence as “hovering.” Get it? Hovering like a helicopter? Many coParents seem to struggle with this due to the nature of raising their child with a parent who’s not around that often (or at all)!
Overparenting is a real issue that many of us aren’t aware of. Several psychologists see families each year because of situations thought to be associated with parenting styles and children’s responses to them.
Overparenting has several layers, but it is most notably defined as a parent’s desire to be excessively involved in their child’s life, to shield them from painful experiences and to aid in their path to success. On the surface, none of that sounds all that bad, right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be an active participant in their child’s life? None of us want to see our kids hurt or struggling to get ahead, so this all seems and sounds reasonable enough. The last few sentences you just read are the exact reasons some parents use to justify their helicopter parenting style. This way of parenting doesn’t always yield the greatest results.
The first step is to get right to the root of your own beliefs and where they originated. Take a look at how your parents raised you and how it affected you growing up. My mom and dad were very different in their parenting styles. Dad was much more laid back, while Mom definitely over-parented. I remember being a kid and wanting to walk to school along with all my friends, and having that request rejected time and time again. Mom never felt it was a safe enough option for me despite most kids my age were doing it every day! She monitored my friendships to make sure she approved and liked who I was hanging out with. I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies until after the age of 13. Now, I know what you’re thinking: That’s what the rating means, right? I get that, but I would attend slumber parties with girls my age and I would have to leave early because I was the only one who couldn’t watch the movies they picked out. Other times, the room would groan in disappointment when they would have to change the movie to something no one else wanted to watch because of my mother’s rules. Now that’s embarrassing!
As a parent, you develop this instinctual need to protect your kids, and some of it is indeed out of fear. It isn’t hard to understand how that could lead to overparenting.
I constantly have to remind myself that my children need healthy independence, but also balancing that with boundaries. For example, both of my children love the water, so we spend a lot of time at the pool. My youngest child has discovered a love for leaping from the edge of the pool towards me, often without warning. When he last decided to jump, he dove head first into the pool, I was right there, but I intentionally let his head go completely underwater for three seconds before I caught him and pulled him up. Does that sound extreme? Maybe it is, but he needs to learn that if mommy isn’t there to catch him, unfortunate things could happen. He has to learn what his own fears are. That’s one of the ways kids establish their own boundaries and limits. We can’t shield them from everything and then expect them to know how to conquer the real world without us.
Having a balanced parenting style is key. Not too attached and not too removed. Its a balance I still sometimes struggle with but have to realize it will make them grow up to be more successful adults.