Helicopter parenting

Helicopter parenting
Are you overprotective of your child? Find out if you are a helicopter parent.

A “helicopter parent” is a figurative description of a parent who always seems to be “hovering” over their child to foresee possible dangers and difficulties. What are the reasons for this attitude and how does it impact the child?

An overprotective parent

A helicopter parent tends to be overprotective. Even if acting this way for the sake of their child, this behaviour can undermine the autonomy and confidence of a toddler. There are several reasons why a parent may want to spare their child from facing any problems.

Some parents want to shield their child from any injury or difficult emotion at any cost. Others overprotect their children to calm their own anxiety. A desire to perform may also lead parents to act in this manner. They want to be the best possible parent or want to prevent their child from making mistakes.

The child’s need for autonomy

Of course, the helicopter parent is acting with good intentions, but overprotecting a child can harm their development. Indeed, a child needs to have a variety of life experiences and to explore the world on their own in order to develop their autonomy and confidence and learn to manage their emotions. This means that the child must experience success… but also failure.

It is normal for your child to experience difficulties. Your role is to help them find solutions.

Unwittingly, the helicopter parent is sending a message to their child that the world is not safe. This leads the child to believe that they cannot face the world and do things on their own.

Protect without overprotecting

Think you might be a helicopter parent? Here are some strategies to protect your child without being overprotective:

  • Guide your child. Provide guidance to your child instead of doing things for them. Teach them how to do things such as getting dressed, going to a playground alone, or using utensils.
  • Help them overcome their difficulties and fix their own mistakes. A child learns by exploring and making mistakes. When they spill a glass of milk, make them help you clean up the mess. If your child is sad or angry, help them put their emotions into words. And if your child has been fighting with a friend, help them see how they could solve the issue.
  • Have them take calculated risks. Give your child challenges that are appropriate for their age, or ask them what challenge they would like to take on, such as climbing the big slide at the park or learning how to grate a carrot. Provide guidance through the challenges, but without doing things in their place.
  • Stay confident. Remember that there is no such thing as perfect parents. Have confidence in your abilities and those of your child.
  • Educate yourself. Adapt your interventions to your child’s age, personality, and needs. You can learn about the different stages of child development through magazines, websites, and specialized books. You will find out, for example, at what age they can transition to a larger bed or walk up and down the stairs on their own.
  • Share your concerns. Tell your social circle (e.g., partner, friends, grandparents) about your fears or what you are feeling when your child is having a difficult time. This can help you de-escalate the situation. Do not hesitate to ask a professional for help if your concerns or anxiety are too difficult to calm.
How do I talk to the other parent?
If you notice your partner is helicopter parenting, it is a good idea to talk to them so they can become aware of their behaviour. Since a helicopter parent is often overly involved in their child’s experiences, you can ask how you could get more involved. For example, you could participate more in morning or bedtime routines, take your child to medical appointments, or sign up for an activity with them. The goal is to get the helicopter parent to delegate tasks and to let go of some concerns.

Things to keep in mind

  • Helicopter parents tend to be overprotective of their child.
  • Children need a variety of life experiences and to make mistakes in order to develop their autonomy and confidence.
  • It is better to guide your child and help them overcome difficulties for their development.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Catherine Chiasson, psychologist
Research and copywriting:
The Naître et grandir team
Avril 2018


Photo: GettyImages/Vesnaandjic