Guilty of helicopter parenting? With characteristic wit and wisdom, this author tells us about how her sister hovered over her son continuously and the many dangers this entailed.

I often talk about my parenting mantras on Indian Moms Connect. But today I’d like to share my sister’s story. For years, I have never missed an opportunity to point out to her that she is a HOVERER!

Let me paint you a picture of our typical summer vacations. Every year, me and my sis along with our kids are at my mother’s house for two weeks. My son is 7 and her son is 8. Here’s how both kids handle day to day activities (which my sis would describe as CHALLENGES!)

At the park

My son

  • When at the park my son can easily be spotted at the noisiest corner (he’s generally the one behind the hullabaloo).
  • He plays with the other kids.
  • I find that he enjoys the swings. He plays every trick in the book to take an extra chance on the slides.
  • More importantly, he fights with his best friend, swears he’ll never set eyes on him, and is back playing with the same friend within minutes!

He manages all of this without any intervention from his mom, because, frankly I’m at the park to have a little ‘me time’. If bothered I’ll only ask my child to handle things on his own and let mommy read her book.

My sister’s son

  • Is standing on the top of the slide and screaming for mommy to hold his hand while he slides down (very carefully).
  • He is often playing alone in the sand, making shapes and showing them to mom.
  • My sister’s son sits on the bench with mommy, looking at other kids playing.
  • He is fed a zillion varieties of fruits and nuts by mommy dearest.

Why the child prefers to play with his mom instead of other kids his own age? I’ll tell you why – because his mother won’t let him! This is a classic case of what one calls ‘helicopter parenting.’ This is a common practice with a lot of moms. With a toddler we often impose restriction by repeatedly saying, “Don’t play outside! There’s stranger danger. Don’t go on the slide, you’ll get hurt. “Don’t talk to those kids whom you don’t know.” The problem is that when these kids grow up, we still don’t give up our DON’T’S!

Sounds familiar? Let me tell you what the constant don’ts teach your child:

Don’t play outside there’s stranger danger – Don’t trust ANYONE.

Don’t go on the slide you’ll get hurt – Don’t explore new things.

Don’t talk to those kids who you don’t know – Don’t expand your social circle.

Were these the life lessons you wanted to inculcate in your child thanks to your helicopter parenting? I think not!

Coming back to my sister, here’s what happens at home:

At home

My son

  • Is potty trained since he was 3 years old.
  • Feeds, brushes, bathes himself.
  • Packs his bag himself.
  • Picks up his dishes after himself.
  • Makes his bed.

My sister’s son

  • Mommy is still wiping after sunny-boy (because otherwise, the 8-year-old will touch his dirty hands here and there and may get sick!).
  • Mommy feeds him (because otherwise, the 8-year-old won’t eat and all hell will break loose!)
  • She packs the bag (because she doesn’t trust the 8-year-old with his own timetable!)
  • Let’s not forget, she picks his dishes (because the 8-year-old doesn’t know how to do it!)
  • And finally, mommy makes the bed (10 times a day because how can the 8-year-old do such an intricate task!)

Last time when we were at mom’s house I sat my sister down and pointed all of the above points. She accepted the comparison between both children and said – “Well your son is more mature!” In response, I rolled my eyes (totally called for) and explained to her, that my son acts responsibly not because the child is more mature, but because the mother lets him be.

Two different moms two totally different parenting styles

Here’s the thing, my sister with her irrepressible motherly instincts hovers over her son – EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF THE DAY. Yes, you heard me. She micromanages his every activity with complete enthusiasm and interest. I realize that this is her own unique parenting style and everything she does comes from love and love alone. But, little does she realize that this overdose of nurturing is hampering the child’s prospects in the real world.

Had this child been given a chance I am sure he’ll be able to easily carry out basic day-to-day tasks like bathing, brushing or cleaning after himself. She picks his clothes, his toys, and even his friends. I told my sister that she’s being a helicopter parent by not trusting her child with making his own choices. She is depriving him of the opportunity to experience the real world by exploring it firsthand. Her excuse remains the same. “He’s too young to be taught these skills, with time he’ll adapt”

To help her see the gravity of the situation I asked her one question. “What happens when he turns into a teen who still looks at his mom for every decision. What if he isn’t capable of adapting?”

Our hour-long discussion was followed by a series of YouTube videos on the same subject. Thankfully my rigid-older-sibling realized that something was amiss. In fact, she also accepted that she would rather raise an independent child than an overly dependent one.

Few things discovered about Helicopter Parenting on YouTube (they really shook her up):

  • A 2009 survey of 9,000 university students established that 38% of freshmen and 29% of seniors admit that their parents constantly intervene to solve their day-to-day problems for them.
  • A 2013 online survey established that college students with helicopter parents are less likely to be pleased with their lives. These students also exhibited lower levels of autonomy and competency.
  • Scientists claim that this kind of neurotic Helicopter Parenting is more evident in today’s generation of young adults and it is causing a rise in mental disorders.
  • Renowned psychologist H. Schiffrin claims that depression and excessive parental control are interlinked.
  • Psychology professor Neil Montgomery surveyed 300 college freshmen in 2010 and discovered that children with helicopter parents were not open to new ideas. They were also found to be more self-conscious and anxious.
  • Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan’s 2011 study on more than 300 students established that students with helicopter parents are more prone to be medicated for depression and anxiety.

Long story short

The hard truth to swallow is that when we don’t give our children the space and opportunity to struggle through their own problems, they become less confident about their abilities, and this affects their self-esteem. Also, when we don’t allow children to struggle, they don’t experience failure, this, in turn, develops a fear of failure in the child.

After two weeks worth of ‘Helicopter Parenting Therapy,’ I finally convinced my sister to land the Helicopter Parenting ride safely. While she’s still seen on the sidelines of her son’s football practice, drives him everywhere and sits next to him as he solves his math problems, her role is limited to that of a supervisor or a chauffeur. Moreover, with a lot less of helicopter parenting she has more time for herself. She’s doing yoga, she meditates, she has taken up reading again and she’s even planning to start weekend Zumba classes. Now I ask you, what kind of parenting style is more favourable for the child as well as the mom? I’ll let you be the judge!

Featured image credit: Flickr

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