WASHINGTON: 'Helicopter parenting' - which describes an overcontrolling behaviour of parents - can negatively affect children's ability to manage their emotions and deal with the challenging demands of growing up, a study has found.
Children need space to learn and grow on their own, without parents hovering over them, researchers said in a study published in the journal Developmental Psychology.
"Our research showed that children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with the challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment," said Nicole B Perry from the University of Minnesota in the US.
"Children who cannot regulate their emotions and behaviour effectively are more likely to act out in the classroom, to have a harder time making friends and to struggle in school," she added.
Children rely on caregivers for guidance.
They need parents who are sensitive to their needs, recognise when they are capable of managing a situation and will guide them when emotional situations become too challenging.
This helps children develop the ability to handle challenging situations on their own as they grow up, leads to better mental and physical health, healthier social relationships and academic success.
Managing emotions and behaviour are fundamental skills that all children need to learn and overcontrolling parenting can limits those opportunities, said Perry.
The researchers followed 422 children over the course of eight years and assessed them at ages 2, 5 and 10, as part of a study of social and emotional development.
Children in the study were predominantly white and African-American and from economically diverse backgrounds.
Data was collected from observations of parent-child interactions, teacher-reported responses and self-reports from the 10-year-olds.
During the observations, the research team asked the parents and children to play as they would at home.
"Helicopter parenting behaviour we saw included parents constantly guiding their child by telling him or her what to play with, how to play with a toy, how to clean up after playtime and being too strict or demanding," said Perry.
"The kids reacted in a variety of ways. Some became defiant, others were apathetic and some showed frustration," she said.
"Children who developed the ability to effectively calm themselves during distressing situations and to conduct themselves appropriately had an easier time adjusting to the increasingly difficult demands of preadolescent school environments," said Perry.
"Our findings underscore the importance of educating often well-intentioned parents about supporting children's autonomy with handling emotional challenges," she said.
Parents can help their children learn to control their emotions and behaviour by talking with them about how to understand their feelings and by explaining what behaviours may result from feeling certain emotions, as well as the consequences of different responses.
Then parents can help their children identify positive coping strategies, like deep breathing, listening to music, colouring or retreating to a quiet space.
"Parents can also set good examples for their children by using positive coping strategies to manage their own emotions and behaviour when upset," said Perry.