Is Helicopter Parenting Abuse? [Here’s What to Avoid]

Helicopter parenting, in its most extreme form, could be considered a type of abuse and can badly influence your child’s future. The long-term repercussions can follow them into adolescence and adulthood. Low self-esteem and doubting one’s own abilities are only a fraction of the adverse effects children parented in this style can experience.

In 1990, Foster Cline and Jim Fay, child development researchers, published a book about parenting. They were the first to coin the term “helicopter parenting” and explained it very thoroughly. Over 30 years later, you may still be asking; What is helicopter parenting, and is it considered abuse?

How does helicopter parenting “abuse” your child’s future, mental and physical state? This article will address this parenting style and how parents and children can avoid helicopter parenting.

Animated image portraying helicopter parenting as abusive

Related Reading: How to Switch from Helicopter Parenting to Another Style

Is Helicopter Parenting Abuse?

Extreme helicopter parenting is a form of abuse because it deprives children of developing the basic psychological skills required to successfully navigate life. Children become wholly dependent on their parents even in adulthood. Unknowingly, helicopter parents inhibit the development of self-regulatory abilities, which can cause emotional issues as the child grows up into a youth/adult.

Helicopter parents can make their children self-conscious, resulting in low self-esteem and confidence. Kids will always doubt their power to do something because they fear it might not be good enough for their parents. This can result in anxiety, depression, aggression, and incomplete coping skills.

Another repercussion of helicopter parenting is the sense of entitlement the child will develop. If parents are too involved and always do things for their children, children become used to their parents fulfilling their needs. They will then begin to expect this treatment from others and may become frustrated if they do not receive it. They can become demanding and upset when they cannot get what they want. It can complicate relationships, work, education, and other social interactions.

What Is Helicopter Parenting?

Helicopter parenting is a “parenting style” and refers to parents who are always hovering over their child’s shoulder, trying to control and oversee all facets of their child’s life. These parents become overly involved in their children’s lives by controlling their social interactions and constantly wanting to fix all of their problems, never allowing their child to deal with things on their own and thus preventing them from developing strategies or resilience to challenges.

Helicopter parents are typically very focused on their child’s education and/or athletic endeavors and, while it is good to supervise your children and offer them guidance when facing the real world, these parents do it at a highly unhealthy rate.

They do not allow their children to learn things on their own or become self-sufficient. Sometimes, helicopter parents unknowingly make their kids wholly dependent on them, which can cause many problems in the future when the child becomes an adult and no longer has their parent with them at every moment.

10 Signs of Helicopter Parents and What It Looks Like

Here is what helicopter parenting looks like:

  1. Excessive worry and concern about your child getting hurt or failing at academics or other activities.
  2. Constantly hovering over children and not promoting healthy separation and autonomy.
  3. Making decisions for their children regarding their future without considering their child’s thoughts and feelings.
  4. Preventing children from engaging in age-appropriate activities.
  5. Overly involved in all facets of the child’s life, including friendships, academics, and school activities.
  6. Do not allow children to make mistakes but rather correct them.
  7. Take every opportunity to be with their children, for example, being the class parent or volunteering to do activities at the school so they can keep a closer eye on their child.
  8. Not allowing children to experience failure or disappointment.
  9. Intruding when your child goes through conflict rather than allowing them to resolve their own issues.
  10. Depriving your child of learning independence by doing tasks such as homework, chores, etc., for them.

What Are the Causes of Helicopter Parenting?

There are various causes of helicopter parenting, which can stem from deep-rooted problems from their past or fear and anxiety for their child’s future endeavors.

Searching For a Sense of Purpose

Sometimes parents can be too involved in their child’s success or accomplishments, leading them to overindulge in their child’s life.

Anxiety About What Might Happen to Their Child

It is usual for a parent to worry about their child’s safety, although excessive worrying can prevent your child from becoming resilient. As parents, we need to let children experience the challenging situations in life, rather than hold them back. They learn when they make mistakes and grow stronger from the difficulties they experience from childhood into adolescence.

Fear About the Child’s Future

A helicopter parent focuses significantly on their child’s education and extracurricular activities. For their child, the pressure can become too much.

Fear for your child’s future is absolutely normal; however, if they receive a low grade or their team does not end up winning a soccer match, it does not mean that their future is doomed. Sometimes these parents force their children to take on too much, resulting in many emotional and physical problems. It can even lead to burnout.

Social Pressure

Parents surrounded by other parents who use helicopter parenting to raise their kids can feel inclined to do the same. They also want to appear as a better and more capable parent than other parents. The parent will start seeing everything as a competition between their child and their peers.

Excessive Compensation

It may be that parents use helicopter parenting as a means not to repeat what happened in their own childhood. Some parents might have felt so neglected or unloved by their own parents that they vow never to let their own child experience this or feel that way, but we must learn when it is ‘too much’ and becomes smothering.

Overbearing and overly protective parents who go over the top to control their child’s life may not know that it can ultimately lead to complications in their teen years and even follow them into adulthood. Thus, having the exact opposite effect from what they hoped or planned for.

The Harmful Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Children’s Development

Children who come from a household of overbearing and overindulgent parents, i.e., helicopter parents, face many struggles later in life. Children who experience helicopter parenting have a greater chance of dysfunctional emotional regulation.

They struggle with incorporating coping strategies due to the overinvolvement of their parents and will lack the appropriate problem-solving and coping skills required to navigate life.

Many factors further mediate the link between overcontrolling parents and childhood anxiety. Research suggests that children whose parents use helicopter parenting have a higher degree of neuroticism.

This includes their ability to perform tasks and clouded beliefs about their sense of autonomy. A vast link between parental overcontrol and the reduction of self-perceived confidence and emotional well-being negatively impacts the development of sufficient coping abilities.

Further investigation deduced that complications with emotional regulation arise at the age of 2, difficulty with inhibitory control at the age of 5, and emotional and educational (school) issues at the mere age of 10. Parenting style plays a vital role in the development of self-regulatory in toddlerhood which affects the adaption of children into their adolescence stage.

Helicopter Parenting and Mental Health of Children

Children who have helicopter parents can develop various mental health concerns such as:

  • Separation anxiety and panic attacks when parted from parents.
  • Maladaptive perfectionism. Helicopter parents often put extreme pressure on their children to perform well in their studies. This can lead to the child thinking that whatever they do will never be good enough.
  • The children of such parents may actually feel that their parents are emotionally supportive and involved; however, they were not given the necessary autonomy support. Autonomy is a basic psychological need that assists children with problem-solving and decision-making processes.
  • Helicopter parenting causes the stunting of a child’s learning and development. This, in return, culminates in childhood anxiety, poor self-regulation, depression, stress, and poorer adaption in not only schools but other environments too.

How To Avoid Helicopter Parenting

If you are a parent and realize that your style of helicopter parenting could possibly negatively influence your child’s development and future, here is how you can avoid helicopter parenting:

  • If you find it difficult to stray away from this parenting style, go to a therapist/counselor to assist you. They will help you implement methods to prevent helicopter parenting.
  • Offer support and encourage independence. Allow your child to engage in age-appropriate activities with their peers.
  • Implement methods of positive discipline to enable independent thinking and responsible behavior.
  • Talk to your child about future plans instead of deciding their paths for them. Help them set long- and short-term goals.
  • Let your child learn from their mistakes, empathize, and be by their side when they experience the consequences.
  • Encourage your child to resolve their problems to develop problem-solving skills. Only get involved when they ask for guidance.
  • Love them unconditionally based on who they are rather than basing it on their accomplishments and behavior.

Related Reading: The Impact Of Parenting Styles On Child Development


Helicopter parenting may sound appealing to some, but it can have dire long-term emotional and psychological consequences which will affect your child’s entire way of life; therefore, we would ultimately consider helicopter parenting, in its extreme, a form of abuse. Thus, we must allow our children to become independent and learn from their mistakes. They must acquire problem-solving skills that will guide them in life.

Parents should teach their kids independence and self-reliance. Without these aspects, children become unsure and doubtful of themselves and will find it troubling to juggle life without the help of their parents.

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