Parents have very crucial roles in the upbringing of their children. In most marriages, the parenting lives could be so demanding and often requiring one of the parents to leave jobs temporarily. Helicopter parents, although they are in most cases well-meaning, can do significant harm to their children as they become adults and begin their careers.
The question however is, how far do we go in providing support and care. What determines the cut off?
In several countries this is linked to civic definition of maturity such as age of decision or voting age. Generally 18 is the mode year. At this age the child becomes an adult, and is expected to take up adult responsibilities and carry out related tasks.
The helicopter parent phenomenon is becoming popular now, as against the past when it was a rarity. How do we describe this phenomenon? Here it is – parents are putting in excessive levels of involvement, control and problem solving while the child is left in the sleep mode – they just watch on.
Why are parents adopting the helicopter approach to child rearing? Why will a parent be involved in seeking post graduate admission or driving the child for a job interview?
Some research finding attribute the trend to higher cost of training children nowadays and so parents feel they have to monitor their investment by influencing the outcome one way or the other.
There are other reasons such as:
- Most parents are anxious and concerned about the success of their children, so they want to help them especially removing obstacles on their way to success. No wonder we see parents getting involved in examination malpractices just for their children to gain admission into universities etc. In fact they help them look for jobs, help them confront any difficult boss even answer queries for them. The list is endless they just take up their tasks for them.
- Parents want to sustain relationships with their children by being part of the decisions. They choose career for them even marriage partners not to talk of buying houses and cars for them. Show of love you may say.
- Some parents hold on to the children for emotional closeness missing from their marriages. Single parents are worst here as the child just become the alternate spouse or friend!
- When parents refuse to design or have clear roles post parenting lives. It is like they have no other things doing if the care for the children suddenly ends. Parents in active career may not have such luxury while those with lots of spare times lavish the time on the adult child as the next project.
In all, helicopter parents are putting their own emotional needs ahead of the developmental needs of their children. They compromise children autonomy, mastery and personal growth.
Here are some impacts on the children subjected to excessive parental involvement
- Growth is retarded-mental and Psychological growth
- They become unwise
- Poor decision making
- Low self esteem
- Overtly dependent (even beyond the parents)
- Short term focus – not capable of long term planning
- Failure in career (the career is the choice of parents: not real interest)
- Failure in marriage (spouse chosen by parents!)
- Generally they do things they don’t like but merely pleasing other people.
- Constantly refer problems to parents to solve
The conclusion here is that we should allow our children to grow up. Parent should only grow a child who is capable of taking on adult tasks. Let them learn to make good choices for themselves this may involve some mistakes. We should counsel them, coach them but support their choices. Let them take risks: it is part of growing up. When we watch them take decisions we can provide objective feedback which will make them better. To helicopter parents note that it is their lives not yours. Someone said that these children will in future take decisions about our welfare. So if they lack that ability to take good decisions they may take wrong decisions about us including dumping us in the old people’s home to finally get rid of us. That may be payback period for helicopter parents.