MOST parents want the best for their children — good grades, to be on the honour roll, to be well-rounded individuals. But an obsession with success, especially as parents try to help their children get an edge in this competitive world, can cause some parents to hover and micromanage their children's lives instead of being understanding and supportive.
And while their intentions may be good, clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell says that these “helicopter parents” are doing their children a great disservice.
“Helicopter parenting is just as the name suggests — a parent who hovers, who is over-involved in a child's life. This parenting style can cut across all developmental stages and can significantly impact a child's ability, even as he/she enters adulthood,” Dr Bell explained.
She pointed out that this is a very 'troubling' style of parenting for many reasons — chief among them being that the parent disables the child in very important developmental tasks and could create a very dependent, irresponsible adult.
“Helping your child to discern right from wrong, to make choices, to assess his/her safety, are among some of the fundamental lessons all parents should aim to teach their children. Helicopter parents often fail to achieve these and will go to extremes when making decisions, and can be quite controlling, which often causes children to miss out on a social life,” Dr Bell underscored.
She also reasoned that helicopter parenting results in children developing a sense of inadequacy and powerlessness that sometimes results in attention seeking. This, she pointed out, could ultimately lead to children developing a sense of entitlement, lack of coping skills because they are buffered by parents every step of the way, and being more likely to develop depression and anxiety and underdeveloped life skills.
And while she empathised with helicopter parents, noting that they usually have good intentions but are often influenced by factors such as having been neglected, feelings of anxiety, overcompensation, and pressure from other parents, she encouraged them to get help with addressing the issue, and focus on examining the consequences that their over-involvement may have on their adult child's life.
“A balanced, engaged parent fosters love, a sense of belonging and high sense of self-worth – fundamentals that children need to develop good character and to shape them into the product of the world that they wish to be. This is what you want for your child, and you must always try to remember that when you teach your children well they will grow into themselves, they will discover the best versions of themselves, and all you need to do is to guide them,” she advised.
Dr Bell said that parents should learn to trust that when they would have taught the children the basic fundamentals of life, that they should allow them to navigate life without constantly hovering over their shoulders.
She said that if you are going to stop micromanaging and resume your role as a parent, then you must first remember that you are raising a child who will one day have to deal with the challenges of adulthood; a child who will soon discover that the world isn't perfect even though you made it seem that way.
“You have to maximise on every lesson, on every opportunity to teach your child independence, to rise and confront the everyday tasks of life that include disappointments. Let them fail if they have to, guide them as they deal with it, and as they grow, give age-appropriate tasks, commend their efforts, and remember to encourage your children to try to solve problems on their own, as this will build confident, resilient children,” Dr Bell stressed.