Helicopter parenting has become the go-to buzz word in the child-raising world. Everybody is critical of parents deemed to be overly protective of their child and helicopter parenting has become blamed for the failure of children everywhere to successfully grow up.

All of this is so much so that the term “helicopter parent” is being used to brand parents who dare to drop a forgotten lunch off to school, heft a wayward backpack into a kindergarten classroom, or carry a child who has two legs that “work perfectly well.” And thus it is no wonder that parents find themselves going one of two routes. Either parents spend a lot of time wondering “am I that helicopter parent that is robbing my child of the chance to taste life and grow up?” Or they rage against that possibility by becoming a very strict no-rescue parent.

There are basically two questions to ask yourself when it comes to knowing if the whir of the helicopter propeller has become too loud – or indeed, too quiet – in your journey as a parent.

First, are you tuned into the needs of your child?

I call this your child’s “need’s barometer.” Since each child is unique in terms of temperament, developmental patterns, and general emotional makeup, what they need from you as a parent will also be unique. There will be no one-size fits all – which is the problem inherent to strict no-rescue parenting. Having a sense of your child’s needs as you consider the bigger picture will help you know when to move in swiftly to help your child move on or when to hold steady, provide support, and push forward when your child’s needs have been addressed. Things like change, fatigue, stress, temperament (including sensitivity), losses, and developmental and/or learning exceptionalities should all be part of what you take stock of when checking in with your child’s needs barometer.

If you have become a no-rescue extremist, you might:

  1. Force too many repeated failures upon your still growing child.
  2. Fail to protect physically or emotionally when the child still needs you to.
  3. Forget to account for developmental stage.
  4. Neglect to accommodate emotional needs in your chosen response.
  5. Abandon empathy altogether in your “tough love” approach.

Shaky and Uncertain

Second, is the energy behind your decision making as a parent fueled by anxiety or by a relative confidence?

Helicopter parenting is very unsettling for children because it is born of a parent’s fears and insecurities, and children can sense this. How would you feel if the person who you depended on for your very survival seemed all shaky and uncertain?! So if you are hovering out of a general lack of swagger, then there is a chance that you are putting the clamp down on your child’s development by robbing them of opportunities to venture forth and grow.

If you are a helicopter parent you might:

  1. Rescue when the child desires to go it alone – normal safety and reality not withstanding.
  2. Rescue because of your fears of your child’s failures.
  3. Squash the child’s effort to “emerge” with doubts of their competence.
  4. Fail to create a climate for growth that allows for do-over’s.
  5. Seek to control, order, and sort to the extent that it smothers.

So what is the answer?

The answer is to drop all the catchy terminology, reject the rallying cries of the “expert” culture warning of the pitfalls of helicopter parenting or championing the merits of no-rescue parenting, and instead, respond with compassion and swagger. This is what I calling “being it” for your child.

Are you a parent with compassion and swagger?

If you are you will:

  1. Take into account your child’s current emotional state
  2. Consider how life is generally going for your child. Do they have extra needs, huge disappointments, or other challenges likely to make day-to-day realities extra impactful?
  3. Understand any recent occurrences that may have depleted your child’s coping resources.
  4. Do your job as a parent in setting your child up for success using visual reminders, incorporating standard routines, and defining appropriate expectations.
  5. Have confidence in myself as a parent to know your child, set limits as needed, and infuse every decision with compassion.

Turns out, once again, that all of the labels are actually not that helpful. On the one end the fear-infused culture around parenting has parents lacking in confidence. On the other end is the extremist backlash to that which is really just a neglectful, head in the sand kind of approach. Rather than thinking about helicopter parenting and no-rescue policies, what if we just think about parenting with heart, soul, and a whole lot of swagger?!

Yes. That.

I’ve created an infographic showcasing the various current parenting styles. Please feel free to share or print it as you wish.

Are YOU a helicopter parent?

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Dr V