In Definitions/ Parent Tips/ The Happy Student Podcast

#96 The Effectiveness of Helicopter Parenting

Recently research about the effectiveness of helicopter parenting came out – it seemed to say that helicopter parenting works. And yet, experts, like us, have warned against it. So Fireborn took a look at this research and came to the conclusion that maybe helicopter parenting works, but the research affirms what experts have always been saying: an authoritative parenting style is the most important thing for positive outcomes.

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No one that I know wants to be a helicopter parent. It’s more like they feel forced into it because of societal pressures. And then they feel ashamed of being a helicopter parent because all of the experts tell them it’s actually bad for their kids. I try to avoid talking about helicopter parenting or tiger moms or the lawnmower parent or any other term used for parents that’s not scientific and based in research.

Wikipedia says that a helicopter parent is: a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. It is hyper-involved parenting that this New York Times article says “is the route to kids’ success in today’s unequal world.”

Helicopter parenting is not one of the three main types of parenting researched by researchers (though, to be fair, it is now being researched, but it has not found a place amongst these three styles). These three styles are:

  1. Authoritarian: a parenting style characterized by high demands and low responsiveness. Parents with an authoritarian style have very high expectations of their children, yet provide very little in the way of feedback and nurturance. Mistakes tend to be punished harshly.
  2. Permissive: a type of parenting style characterized by low demands with high responsiveness. Permissive parents tend to be very loving, yet provide few guidelines and rules. These parents do not expect mature behavior from their children and often seem more like a friend than a parental figure.
  3. Authoritative: a parenting style characterized by high responsiveness and high demands. Authoritative parents are responsive to the child’s emotional needs while having high standards. They set limits and are very consistent in enforcing boundaries.
  • Authoritative parenting is best, has the best outcomes, is backed by a ton of research, and it is also the hardest and most time intensive. It takes time to talk with your kid about why what they did was wrong and what they will do in the future and make them understand that what they did was wrong, but also maintain your relationship.

Helicopter parenting could be associated with any of these parenting styles. Helicopter parenting is making sure that your kid has done their homework, maybe by knowing exactly what homework they have to do and reviewing it for their kid. An authoritarian parent might take dessert or screen time away if you didn’t do your homework when you said you had. A permissive parent might excuse the lie away – “Oh my child is just so overwhelmed by work.” And then help their kid do the homework together. And an authoritative parent might talk to their kid about why they lied and get to the bottom of that.

There is new research according to the article that is going to upset psychologists and other experts who have “[insisted] that hyper-parenting backfires – creating a generation of stressed-out kids who can’t function alone.” And what this new research shows, arguably, is that helicopter parenting works – kids of helicopter parents are more successful, they just also happen to be more stressed out too.

The article “The Bad News About Helicopter Parenting: It Works” starts talking about helicopter parenting and talks about how parents are currently spending more hours a day parenting kids than they used to do. And then the article sites this research that was done on how successful kids were depending on how “intense” their parents’ parenting style was. Kids who had “intense” parenting performed better on tests. The author transitions to say that the traditional parenting styles affected those tests scores. So parents who were strict (or authoritarian), their kids did not get the full benefits of the helicopter parenting. The article says, “The most effective parents, according to the authors, are ‘authoritative.’ They use reasoning to persuade kids to do things that are good for them. Instead of strict obedience, they emphasize adaptability, problem-solving and independence – skills that will help their offspring in future workplaces that we can’t even imagine yet.” The author continues by saying that these kids get more college and postgraduate degrees, are healthier and have higher self-esteem. This is exactly what that 20 years of research on authoritative parenting has said all along!

So when I read this article, I find that it simply reinforces what we already know: that kids of authoritative parents have the best outcomes. The most important thing is to be an authoritative parent to the best of your ability. Whether or not you are a helicopter parent, that seems negligible or like a non-sequitur because we already knew that kids of authoritative parents did better. This research said that kids of intensive parents did better but were also more stressed out. But the kids who had authoritative parents, even if they were intensive, whatever that means, were healthier and had higher self-esteem. And what other researchers have shown is that it can protect against that stress.

Maybe being a helicopter parent can help your kids. It can also stress them out. And the research is clear that if you are choosing a parenting style, authoritative is best. You can be authoritative and a helicopter parent. So, if you are going to be a helicopter parent, and I know it is close to impossible to avoid being one, be an authoritative helicopter parent.

Resources:

Lighthouse Parenting

Because I Said So

“The Bad News About Helicopter Parenting: It Works”

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