Parenting via helicopters, lawn mowers and bulldozers

Helicopter parents are parents who pay extremely close attention to their kids' activities, school work, routines and habits in an effort to protect them from pain and disappointment.

Published: 20th October 2021 07:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th October 2021 07:46 AM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes

The other day, I came across the mother of a 29-year-old man. Her lament was, "My son’s girlfriend hates me, she says I haven’t taught him any life skills." All this while, she has been straightening her son's clothes, finger combing his hair, feeding him biscuits broken into bite-size pieces and pinching his cheeks.

She went on to tell me that he is incapable of mixing his own food or eating by himself and needs his food mixed and fed to him thrice a day. She calls him every hour and chats and constantly sends forwards.

Cringe? Well, welcome to the world of helicopter parenting. Helicopter parents are parents who pay extremely close attention to their kids' activities, school work, routines and habits in an effort to protect them from pain and disappointment, to help them succeed in life. They are called helicopter parents because they 'hover' over their children and become overly involved in anything and everything they do.

You also have bulldozer or snow plow or lawn mower parents, who try to mow down obstacles in their children's way (often in unhealthy ways) to help make their lives easier and help them succeed in life. Often, these parents are highly educated, well placed and have come up the hard way. So, they feel the need to protect their children from experiencing the same pain.

There are many other styles of parenting which I will deal with in future columns, but these two often damage children in many ways. You may ask, "What's wrong with being protective? It’s a hard world out there." There’s nothing wrong - but how much is too much?

Consequences of overparenting

  • Children become co-dependent on parents

  • They lack decision-making skills

  • Anxiety and depression become common, as these kids are constantly striving to please and can be depressed due to constant instructions

  • Such children grow up to be clueless, indecisive with low self-esteem, low ego growth and no direction in life

Signs of a helicopter/lawn mower parent:

  • Hovering around children rather than encourage autonomy and healthy separation

  • Fostering dependence and co-dependence

  • Excessive anxiety over children facing pain

  • Interfering in their decision making, infantilising and mollycoddling them

  • Being overly involved to the extent of wanting to know ‘everything’

  • Constantly correcting them, intolerant to mistakes

  • Emotional responses whenever the child tries to be independent

  • Not allowing children to face and resolve their own problems

  • Not allowing them to participate in activities, pick careers or partners of their choice

  • Not allowing them to do household chores, hovering around even when they are with friends

Let me reiterate that the intetions are not bad, but this style of parenting is often associated with negative outcomes, especially when the children reach adulthood. Helicopter/lawn mower parents are very likely to experience depression and anxiety themselves, and transfer low self-confidence and guilt to their children. This is more common in mothers than fathers. 

Avoid being a helicopter/lawn mower parent

  • Give your children space

  • Your problems don’t have to be theirs

  • Offer choices, willfully keep away and help them make independent choices

  • It is okay if they make mistakes. Help them deal with failure

  • Assign age-appropriate, gender-neutral responsibilities

  • Help them, but don’t take over

  • Cope with and take help if you yourself were brought up by a helicopter parent

  • Establish healthy boundaries

(The author is a mental health professional and psychotherapist at Dhrithi Wellness Clinic)


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