The term "helicopter parent" was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who claimed their parents hovered over them like a helicopter.
But there's a fine line between being a loving, caring, involved parent and being an over-involved, hovering parent. There's a temptation for parents to become so involved that they lose perspective on what their kids really need. Many parents blur those lines and don’t even realize they are hovering.
How do you know when you’ve crossed that line? If you show any of these signs, you may be hovering too much:
You act as if you are your child’s agent, always trying to prove that your son or daughter is smart, talented, or beautiful. This shows up in the form of constant bragging or trying to “sell” your kid to everyone you talk to. It’s one thing to be a proud sports parent; it’s another to be constantly bragging and reminding every other parent how skilled your child is.
You jump into at the first sign of conflict between your child and another child. Before you jump in out of fear that your child can’t handle the situation, step back and see how he or she handles it; you might be surprised.
As your child gets older, you plan out every day and fill it with activities so they will not be bored. You think that filling his or her time with scheduled events that are educational or that pushing then athletically or musically will make the a more well-rounded individual. The honest truth is that it’s good for kids to be bored now and then; it forces them to use their brains to come up with ways to entertain themselves.
You want your child to get good grades, so you become their personal homework assistant. Let your kids do their own projects! How many times have you seen science projects that looked suspiciously like they were done by parents? How does that benefit your child? They are not learning much if Mom or Dad is doing most of the work.
You fight your child’s battles in youth sports and in the classroom. When your child isn’t getting the playing time or can’t play the position they want, you confront the coach. Your child can talk; let them handle it. When your child isn’t getting the grades you want, you confront the teacher as if it’s his or her fault. Let him talk to their teacher or perhaps you two talk about it and go to the teacher together?
The goal is to be involved without hovering. Engaged parents know how to give their kids love, acceptance, self-confidence, guidance, and opportunities to grow without always being in control.
"The problem is that, once parenting becomes governed by fear and decisions based on what might happen, it is hard to keep in mind all the things kids learn when we are not right next to them or guiding each step," Dr. Gilboa, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School, explains. "Failure and challenges teach kids new skills, and, most important, teach kids that they can handle failure and challenges.”
Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.