I’m a recovering “helicopter parent.” A helicopter parent is known as an over protective, over controlling and over perfecting parent. I believe the origin of my hovering instincts stems from the traumatic experience of my oldest son’s death. I struggled for several years with the fear of losing another child. To calm my fears, my natural reaction was never to miss a thing. I adapted to many sleepless nights checking on my children to make sure they were breathing. Thoughts of worry and concern became the way I viewed life. I honestly thought I was protecting my child. Not once did I recognize the only thing I was doing was protecting my fear.

I raised fearful toddlers who were overly alert to their surroundings. I consistently asked questions like “What are you doing? Where are you going? Why are you doing that?” I didn’t let my children breathe freely or learn through their own experiences. I didn’t allow them to do anything alone.

When my children slept over at a family member’s home, I would call and send text messages, checking on them every chance I got. I began to give off the “I don’t trust you” vibe. My children didn’t go outside without my permission. They couldn’t eat without me being present. I made sure we were always together.

In the meantime as my hovering got worse, I lost contact with friends. My health was terrible, I refused to exercise. I stopped scheduling time for myself. I encouraged date nights with my husband at home. I simply stopped living. The more I fueled my controlling patterns, the worse my surroundings became.

I was confused about how to be an involved parent without smothering. Dr. Anne Dunnelwood, Ph.D. a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, explains “the main problem with helicopter parenting is that it backfires.” My results of over parenting caused my children to have undeveloped coping skills, increased anxiety, sense of entitlement and undeveloped life skills.

Once I became aware of what I was doing, learning to change my behaviors was quite the challenge. The more I researched and studied healthy parenting patterns the more I was able to change. As I developed into an engaged parent, my children’s feelings of love and acceptance increased. Their self-confidence flourished. Opportunities for guidance to help my children grow multiplied.

Today, my oldest daughter is self-motivated with a 4.O grade point average. My youngest daughter is excelling athletically and academically. My son is a locally recognized artist and academically talented, as well. Their social skills are incredible all because I let go and moved out of the way.

As for me, I have my life back. I’m regularly exercising, socializing and building great friendships, and my career is succeeding. I also have time to volunteer and love it. My husband and I have dates outside the home and enjoy every second of it. I’m finally free of my demons. I forgave myself and released the fear of the unknown from my traumatic experience.

My recommendations for Engaged Parenting vs.. Helicopter Parenting

Promote responsibility instead of dependability. Kids who are dependable toward others expect the world to wait for them. As the child grows into an adult, this expectation sticks with them. Karen Ruskin, Psy.D., author of The 9 Key Techniques for Raising Respectful Children Who Make Responsible Choices says “Ingraining responsibility in children is not a trick but is simply teaching them life skills.” Responsibility is a life skill that teaches a child to learn through experience, let them help.

For example, teach a child how to make their bed but don’t do it for them. Use your words of instruction while the child learns how to make their bed. Through time switch roles and have the child teach you what they learned. Once the skill is mastered let them do it on their own without nagging or reminding. If a parent nags or reminds this becomes an expectation from the child to the parent.

Teach accountability instead of blame. Children devalue themselves when they engage in the blame game. Teaching a child to take responsibility for their personal actions is vigilant. Self-awareness focuses on a child’s ability to judge their own behaviors.

For example, a parent is accountable to guide a child through acknowledging their actions and decisions. If a child takes a toy from another child telling them to “say sorry” teaches a lesson of blame. But, if a parent teaches a child to acknowledge what they did wrong by asking questions that guide the child to recognize an apology is necessary, that teaches accountability. Amy McCready, a parent expert and the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, explains “The fact is that while forcing kids to apologize in the heat of the moment often makes parents feel better, it does little to help children truly understand the effects of their misbehavior. “

Teach a child to take pride in making decisions vs. being indecisive. A helicopter parent makes all the decisions and controls the outcome. When the child is away from the parent, they tend to become indecisive. “Recurring indecision is a debilitating trait. In the long-term, it can negatively affect well-being, life satisfaction, and success in relationships and work,” says Renee Jaine, chief storyteller at GoZen.com, anxiety relief programs for kids.

A child that takes pride in making decisions forms healthy habits. Encourage your child to make a decision by giving them two options. Start off with simple decisions, “Would you like to make a ham or chicken sandwich for your school lunch today?” Educating your children on the decisions they make is an excellent way to think before they act. At times, this may not always be the case, but introducing this life skill to them could decrease the amount of peer pressure they face.

Be the example instead of the moderator. Coaching children through their life experiences is a valuable type of engaged parenting. Asking questions to help guide a child through taking responsibility for their actions, learning to be accountable and making decisions helps them also to learn how to handle disappointment. We can’t always be there for our child, but we can teach them the life skills to mature through experience.


Crystal Horton is the author of “Stretch Marks, A Mother’s Journey To Awareness.”

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Dr. Anne Dunnelwood
Ph.D. a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box
Blog article by Kate Bayless.
What is Helicopter Parenting: http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/what-is-helicopter-parenting/

Karen Ruskin
Psy.D., author of The 9 Key Techniques for Raising Respectful Children Who Make Responsible Choices
Blog article by Alonna Friedman, a freelance writer and mother of two
9 Tips for Teaching Kids Responsibility: https://www.care.com/a/9-tips-for-teaching-kids-responsibility-1303120948

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert and “recovering yeller,” of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling.
Blog Article: How To Teach Kids To Say Sorry

Renee Jain
Chief Storyteller at GoZen.com, Anxiety Relief Programs for Kids
Blog Article: Help Your Kids Avoid the Indecision Blues