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Understanding the Impacts of Helicopter Parenting

We all want the best for our kids and to keep them safe, but are we hovering too closely? Is helicopter parenting ruining our kids?

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Helicopter parenting is a term that has been buzzing around parenting circles for quite some time now. But what exactly does it mean, and what are the effects of helicopter parenting on children and their development? Let’s soar through the skies of helicopter parenting, examining its impacts and how it can shape the lives of the next generation. Buckle up because we’re in for an enlightening ride!

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Defining Helicopter Parenting

Before we delve into the impacts, let’s get our terminology straight. Helicopter parenting is a parenting style characterized by an overbearing presence and a tendency to hover over one’s children. Think of it like a helicopter hovering over a landing pad. Helicopter parents are known for their excessive involvement in their children’s lives, from academic matters to extracurricular activities and even their social interactions. They often micro-manage their children’s lives with the best of intentions but sometimes end up smothering their independence.

Impacts of Helicopter Parenting

Over-involved parents are sometimes control freaks, but that’s not always the case. It’s a tough world out here, and most helicopter moms and dads have good intentions. They’re just trying to do the best for their children, ensure their safety, and prevent them from experiencing pain or mistreatment from others. However, sometimes this style of parenting can backfire. In the next sections, we’ll look at the impact of overprotective parents and examine how it affects coping skills, self-confidence, and overall mental health.

1. Academic Achievement

Research has shown that helicopter parenting can significantly impact a child’s academic performance. While these parents often intervene to ensure their children excel in school, their intervention can lead to unintended consequences. A study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies (Schiffrin 2017) found that children of helicopter parents are more likely to experience stress and anxiety related to schoolwork.

Constant monitoring and pressure to perform can be overwhelming for a child, leaving them with the impression that their self-worth is tied to their academic success. Overparenting was specifically linked to inappropriate academic motivations, meaning that children sought to achieve out of fear of failure instead of healthier motivations. Overparenting was also linked to a strong sense of academic entitlement in the children and a maladaptive perfectionist discrepancy. All of these outcomes have been previously linked with poor academic performance in the long run.

While it’s perfectly natural for parents to want the best for their children and support them in their academic endeavors, hovering too closely can sometimes hinder the very achievement they seek. The anxiety induced by the pressure to perform can stifle a child’s creativity and love for learning. They may start seeing their education as a set of tasks to complete rather than an opportunity for growth. The constant fear of failure and inability to live up to perfectionist ideals is a prime cause of academic burnout.

2. Independence and Decision-Making

One of the most notable impacts of helicopter parenting is the hindrance of a child’s ability to make decisions and solve problems on their own. A different study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies (Schiffrin 2014) suggests that children of helicopter parents may struggle with decision-making later in life. College students in the study reported feeling higher levels of depression and decreased life satisfaction, mostly due to a feeling of having their basic right to autonomy and self-determination impaired. They grew up with parents who were always there to provide answers and solutions, making it challenging for them to develop a sense of independence.

While it’s natural for parents to want to protect their children and guide them through life’s challenges, it’s equally essential to allow children the space to learn from their mistakes. Decision-making skills develop through experience. We need to make mistakes and deal with the consequences in order to develop competent decision-making abilities. When parents consistently make decisions for their children or shield them from any consequences, the children miss out on valuable opportunities to learn.

3. Development of Life Skills

Helicopter parenting can also impede the development of crucial life skills. When parents consistently intervene, children don’t learn essential skills on their own, such as managing finances, cooking, or basic home maintenance. The over-involvement of parents in their children’s lives can hinder growth, blocking them from becoming responsible and self-reliant adults. Parents who hover over their child’s every movement can even prevent them from developing physical strength and the ability to appropriately assess dangerous situations.

The nurturing aspect of parenting should encompass teaching life skills. Providing guidance on budgeting, cooking, laundry, and basic home maintenance is part and parcel of preparing a child for adulthood. By taking on these tasks, helicopter parents unintentionally undermine their children’s ability to handle these responsibilities on their own. Consequently, children raised in such an environment may find themselves ill-prepared when they need to manage their lives and solve their own problems.

4. Anxiety and Low Self-Esteem

A study presented at the International Academic Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities in 2014 found that helicopter parenting can lead to higher levels of anxiety. Increased anxiety is often associated with lower self-esteem in children. Constant parental involvement can make children doubt their abilities and feel incapable of handling life’s challenges. These effects can persist into adulthood, affecting relationships, career decisions, and overall well-being.

While it’s vital to offer emotional support and guidance, an overbearing approach can inadvertently erode a child’s self-esteem. When parents intervene excessively or consistently highlight a child’s shortcomings, they may inadvertently convey the message that their child is not competent enough to handle challenges on their own.

5. Building Relationships

Helicopter parenting doesn’t just affect academic and personal development; it can also impact a child’s ability to form meaningful relationships. A study published in the Journal of College Counseling showed that young adults raised by helicopter parents may struggle with interpersonal skills, as they have had limited opportunities to navigate social situations independently. They found a correlation between overprotective parenting and a lack of trust among peers and alienation from peers in children.

In another study published by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, researchers found that overprotective parents raised adult children with high levels of narcissism. On the surface, this may seem counterintuitive to our claim that helicopter parenting causes low self-esteem, but the arrogance and controlling nature of narcissistic personalities are actually tied to their low feelings of self-worth. People with narcissistic personalities have immense trouble forming healthy relationships. Their interactions with others are often mentally and emotionally abusive due to their need for control over every aspect of life.

Relationships are a fundamental aspect of human life, and learning how to navigate them is a critical part of growing up. By sheltering children from social interactions and relationships, helicopter parents can inadvertently hinder their ability to connect with peers and build healthy relationships. Children need the freedom to explore and form connections independently. Then can learn vital lessons about trust, communication, and empathy as a result.

6. Career and Professional Development

As discussed earlier, in the article “Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being,” Schiffrin and colleagues reveal that individuals raised by helicopter parents may face challenges with competence and autonomy. The impact of helicopter parenting can extend well into adulthood. They may struggle with autonomy in the workplace, require constant validation from supervisors, and have difficulty coping with setbacks.

Another study, published in BMC Psychology, correlates overprotective parenting with a decrease in goal engagement in young adults. Children of helicopter parents never got the chance to explore their own desires or goals in childhood. Their aspirations were mostly dictated by the need to please a hovering parent, preventing them from developing their own desires and life goals. This transfers into their professional careers as these children have difficulty making career projections, setting goals, and making active steps to achieve them.

In the professional realm, independence and self-reliance are invaluable traits. The ability to make decisions, adapt to unexpected changes, and learn from one’s mistakes are key to success in a career. Helicopter parents, while meaning well, may inadvertently undermine these skills, making it difficult for their children to navigate the complexities of the working world.

7. Resilience and Problem-Solving

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, and problem-solving skills are crucial for this. Helicopter parenting can undermine the development of resilience and the ability to tackle challenges. Research published in Education & Training demonstrates that children raised by helicopter parents may have a harder time dealing with setbacks and adapting to life’s inevitable hurdles. These students scored very low in self-efficacy, the perceived ability to solve their own problems and achieve goals.

Life is full of challenges and setbacks, and resilience is the key to overcoming them. By constantly intervening and protecting their children from difficulties, helicopter parents may prevent them from developing the essential skills required to face adversity with strength and resilience. The ability to navigate setbacks and emerge stronger is a vital life skill that children should acquire.

8. Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is a vital aspect of psychological well-being. However, helicopter parenting can interfere with a child’s ability to develop these skills and contribute to mental health problems. Children with overprotective caregivers may struggle with self-regulation of emotions, as they have not had the chance to experience and regulate their feelings independently.

Emotional regulation is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence and mental health. Children need opportunities to identify, express, and manage their emotions. When parents constantly intervene or shield their children from emotional challenges, they may hinder their development in this crucial area.

9. Addictive Behavior

Several research studies coming out of college campuses are highlighting the effects of overparenting with dangerous behaviors. When children transition from high school to college, they receive a new level of autonomy. For children of helicopter parents, the combined aspects of being out from under the thumb of a controlling parent and the retarded ability to make informed decisions can lead to dangerous behavior and poor decisions. Research is emerging that may link helicopter parenting with increased and unsafe alcohol use (partially attributed to the increased anxiety and depression in these young adults), more promiscuous sexual behavior, and social media addiction.

It’s important to note here that some of the same effects are correlated with free-range parenting or overly permissive parenting. When it comes to the types of parenting, these extremes seem to affect how children perceive their parent’s authority over their lives and decisions. They engage in dangerous behavior either because they think their parents won’t care or because they’re rebelling against an overly protective parent.

10. Frustration With Parents

Studies are mixed on this one, depending on culture. While Chinese children didn’t report lower life satisfaction, American children were often resentful in adulthood. As children grow, the relationship between parent and child may become strained due to this resentment. Young adults who feel that their parents don’t trust them to make their own decisions often feel inadequate and frustrated.

While most helicopter parents see their protection as love, this can be interpreted differently by children, especially as they become adults and make adult friends. Having too much authority in your kids’ lives may have the unintended effect of them pushing you out of their lives when they mature.


A satisfying and fulfilling life is the ultimate goal for most individuals. However, the impacts of helicopter parenting can create roadblocks to achieving this goal. Lower life satisfaction can result from difficulties in building relationships, a lack of independence, and struggles with decision-making and emotional regulation.

Possible Positives of Helicopter Parenting

No style of parenting is perfect. While an excessive amount of control over a child’s life has well-documented negatives, there are a few positive aspects of this type of parenting. Children of helicopter parents may have increased safety due to the fact that their parents are likely to know exactly where they are and who they’re with since they’re keeping tabs on them. They’re also likely to complete their homework on time. Parents ensure they don’t suffer from bullying for long periods of time, and in some cases, the children are likely to feel loved and protected by their parents.

Moving Beyond Helicopter Parenting

It’s essential to remember that the intent behind helicopter parenting is often rooted in love and concern for the child’s well-being. Parents want the best for their children and strive to protect them from harm. However, as the research shows, the impacts of helicopter parenting can be counterproductive.

So, what can parents do to avoid hovering too closely? Here are some tips for striking a balance between nurturing and allowing independence to flourish:

1. Promote independence.

Encourage your child to make decisions and solve problems independently. Offer advice, but then let them make the decision. Allow them to experience the consequences of their choices, both good and bad.

Independence is a fundamental skill that children need to develop as they grow. By allowing children to make choices and face the consequences of their actions, parents can empower them to become confident, self-reliant individuals. It also ensures that they do not repeat unsafe or poor decisions again.

2. Communicate openly.

Maintain open lines of communication with your child. Encourage them to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns without fear of judgment. Act as a guide and source of support rather than an imposing figure.

Communication is the key to understanding your child’s needs and concerns. While in many cases the ultimate decision will be yours (your child’s safety and security are your responsibility), by allowing your child to express their concerns and reasoning, you give them some control over their own lives. This communication also enhances their perception of your relationship, showing that you care about their opinion and value their input.

3. Set boundaries.

Establish clear boundaries that provide a framework for your child’s actions and decisions. This allows them to explore within a safe and structured environment while still fostering independence. Boundaries are essential for providing structure and guidance while allowing children the freedom to explore their world. These boundaries should be fluid and adjust as the child grows and matures.

4. Foster resilience.

Help your child build resilience by allowing them to face and overcome challenges on their own. Support them in developing the ability to bounce back from setbacks and adapt to change. Resilience is a valuable life skill. If you wait until your child is out of your house to develop these skills, they will struggle unnecessarily through college and the early years of their career. Parents should be there to provide support and guidance, but they should also allow their children the space to figure out some things on their own.

5. Teach life skills.

Teach your child practical life skills that will help them become self-reliant. From cooking to managing finances, these skills will set them on a path to independence and adulthood. Children will not learn these things in school, and they are just as valuable as a traditional scholarly education.

6. Practice self-awareness.

Recognize when you’re overstepping and overparenting. Step back when necessary, allowing your child room to grow, make mistakes, and learn from them. Recognizing the fine line between offering support and overparenting is essential. Parents should be aware of when their intervention is no longer helpful and instead hinders their child’s development. Stepping back when necessary can be a challenging but crucial aspect of parenting.

Final Thoughts

In our journey through the world of helicopter parenting, we’ve seen that while well-intentioned, this parenting style can have significant and long-lasting impacts on children’s lives. It can affect their academic achievement, emotional well-being, independence, and ability to form meaningful relationships. However, it’s crucial to remember that these impacts are not set in stone, and parents can make changes to foster a healthier, more balanced approach to raising their children.

Ultimately, the key to successful parenting is striking a harmonious balance between providing support and granting independence. In this way, parents can ensure that their children have the space and guidance they need to grow into confident, self-reliant individuals who are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities that life presents.

If you’re stuck in a cycle of overparenting, take a look at “Empowering Children to Be More Independent” and “24 Life Skills to Teach Kids (And Fun Ways to Teach Them!).” These articles give easy-to-follow and practical ways to take a step back and let your child explore in a safe way.


Schiffrin, H.H., Liss, M. The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Academic Motivation. J Child Fam Stud 26, 1472–1480 (2017).

Schiffrin, H.H., Liss, M., Miles-McLean, H. et al. Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being. J Child Fam Stud 23, 548–557 (2014).

Ulutas, Ilkay. (2014). The Impact of Helicopter Parenting on the Social Connectedness and Anxiety Level of University Students.

van Ingen, D.J., Freiheit, S.R., Steinfeldt, J.A., Moore, L.L., Wimer, D.J., Knutt, A.D., Scapinello, S. and Roberts, A. (2015). Helicopter Parenting: The Effect of an Overbearing Caregiving Style on Peer Attachment and Self-Efficacy. Journal of College Counseling, 18: 7-20.

Segrin, C., Woszidlo, A., Givertz, M., & Montgomery, N. (2013). Parent and child traits associated with overparenting. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 32(6), 569–595.

Wen, B., Zhang, M., Zhang, L. et al. How over-parenting impedes individual career exploration: a goal disengagement perspective. BMC Psychol 11, 109 (2023).

Bradley-Geist, Jill & Olson-Buchanan, Julie. (2014). Helicopter parents: An examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students. Education + Training. 56. 10.1108/ET-10-2012-0096.

Dickerson, Darby, Risk Management and the Millennial Generation. Campus Activities Programming, January/February 2007, Available at SSRN:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is helicopter parenting?

Helicopter is a style of parenting characterized by overactivity in a child’s life. These parents “hover” over their children, frequently intervening in school and social interactions.

Is helicopter parenting healthy?

Helicopter parenting is generally considered to have negative effects on children, including stunted problem-solving ability, increased anxiety, and a sense of entitlement.

What are the symptoms of a helicopter parent?

Helicopter parents are known for excessive involvement in their child’s life. They’re often overbearing and overprotective, preventing children from achieving autonomy instead of empowering them.

What happens to kids of helicopter moms?

Children of helicopter moms often have trouble functioning in the workforce. They suffer from a lack of resilience, decreased emotional regulation capabilities, and low self-esteem.

How do you stop being a helicopter parent?

If you feel you’re overparenting, focus on promoting independence in your child. Give advice, but allow them to fail. Set appropriate boundaries. Consider your child’s opinion, and teach life skills!

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