Who are the helicopter parents, these toxic adults to their children?

They are constantly on the back of their child and seek to control his life to protect him from everything. On the other side of the Atlantic, they get the nickname “helicopter parents“. An educational model that is increasingly being questioned. These over-involved parents in their child’s education can actually be detrimental to their offspring. What are the consequences of this excessive behavior? To what extent should we invest in the child’s schooling, activities and development?

What is a Helicopter Parent?

Helicopter parents are overprotective parents. This term was first used by Haim Ginott, an Israeli psychologist in his council book Between parents and teenagerpublished in 1969. Some attribute the invention of this term to Foster Cline and Jim Fay in their parenting book, Parenting with love and logicfirst published in 1990.

Helicopter parents refer to parents who are always behind their children to see and stimulate them, like hovering helicopters. “It’s parents who are at the same time ‘firefighters’, ‘paramedics’, ‘healers’,” defines Anne-Laure Buffet, therapist and author of the book Family prisons: Liberation and healing from invisible violence. They are said to be helicopters as they see “from above”, they “fly” over and to the aid of their child. The helicopter parents are the parents who will do instead of the child, will monitor everything, control everything, be in a very big – too big – prevention.

These parents intervene in everything they consider to be physical or social risks, always with the aim that their offspring do not suffer. “From the first fall to the first bad note, they intervene, often even anticipate, and remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of their child,” the specialist explains. A harmful pedagogical behavior, which is nevertheless based on a good intention, as the helicopter parents want to make life easier for the child. “If they make life easier for him, they remove all analytical skills and all autonomy,” the therapist clarifies.

Helicopter parents: what consequences for the child?

For Anne-Laure Buffet, this hyperparenthood presents risks. “That a parent wants to get involved in their child’s life, especially the youngest, to bring it to safety and familiarity, to ensure its well-being and his good physical, mental and emotional development is normal. That is what we should want “But when this involvement is excessive and becomes disabling for the child, it is necessarily harmful,” she suggests.

Overprotection can lead to emotional dependence in adulthood. “The child remains in a dependent attachment to the parent and trusts that he is really and implicitly always present no matter what,” the therapist explains. This also risks giving stress, anxiety, lack of creativity but above all great lack of self-confidence. “That helicopter parents children can develop great anxiety away from the parent, and the feeling of being unable to … after all, if everything has always been done for them, how do you know, how do you manage yourself, how do you know, how to react in case of a problem? ” asks the expert.

This kind of parenting also has detrimental effects on school, learning and social relationships as a whole. Anne-Laure Buffet explains that helicopter parental reactions not really allow the child’s liberation and social integration: “Let’s take an example, in a playground, the child of a helicopter parent can develop a fear, a fear of others. Or on the contrary to be too ruthless, do not calculate any danger and end up getting hurt. Without knowing how to calculate, assess his environment, he withdraws … or hurries into the heap. In either case, it is considered “difficult”, “separated”, “crazy” or “terrible”. Finally, the parents’ desire to overprotect the child puts it in social danger.

Helicopter parenting: the risks in adolescence and adulthood

This heavy protection can become more complicated in adolescence. The young person needs to build himself up and tries to detach himself from the family pattern he has been given. The number of overprotective parents are so devastated because he is leaving the path they had traced for him. “When he grows up, he may be blaming or even rejecting this parent who is present, which can be suffocating and disabling,” notes Anne-Laure Buffet. “The parent can not understand him who has the feeling of always having done the best for his child. Conflicts related to these misunderstandings can arise until the break, ”she continues.

According to the therapist, this emotional dependence that the parents maintain has serious consequences. “These children can become anxious, anxious, addicted adults – and the addictions can be several, with risky behavior. So often they will remain withdrawn from a world that frightens them, they can also, with unlimited reluctance, be constantly endangered.”

Why do we become a helicopter parent?

Several factors can lead parents fall into hyper parenthood, notes Anne-Laure Buffet. First, the repetition of a family model. “This need necessarily comes from those they themselves have known: an abused childhood, absent parents, permanent anxiety, an anxiety of abandonment that they do not want to repeat,” she explains. The fear that their child will suffer from those they themselves have suffered.

Society’s pressure on education and parenting has something to do with this phenomenon, which often imprints parents that what happens to their child is the direct consequence of their actions. Helicopter parents let themselves be led by this race for success, “social and individual anxiety, the need to be a” perfect “parent, who risks neither criticism nor blame, also fear the new dangers that they themselves do not know how to face up, ”explains Anne-Laure Buffet.

Parental overinvestment harms not only children but also parents who experience much higher levels of anxiety and stress in this case. These effects in turn have negative consequences for their children, who may perceive this concern and be overwhelmed by it.

Becoming aware of this harmful behavior is already a step towards finding a solution. The helicopter parent must question his relationship with the external environment and let his child perceive the world. “Of course, there is no question of leaving him in danger, but you have to talk to him, explain him, allow him to make mistakes, not be overprotected,” confirms Anne-Laure Buffet. “A parent must be able to pass on his knowledge to his child, but not prevent him from learning to grow and live.”

It is therefore necessary to get help and advice, as well as “to work with what animates this helicopter parenting behavior“.” What anxiety or what deficiency is the symptom? What “benefit” does the parent get from this behavior? Isn’t it also limiting for him to always be overprotective? And what does he expect from his child? ” invites the therapist to ask himself. An often tedious psychological journey that can hardly be done without the help of a professional.

For the sake of his child’s well-being, the helicopter parent must give him enough self-confidence so that he can go out into the outside world and fly on his own. “Let us not forget that a parent must also have control and set boundaries. Sometimes you have to ask yourself before you even ask the children, ”the therapist concludes.

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