How to Stop Helicopter Parenting

If you track your child's every movement on the playground or oversee every aspect of his life 24/7, you might be considered a “helicopter parent.” And all that hovering isn't doing your child any favors. Mighty Mommy shares 5 tips on how to take the hover out of your parenting.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #253

When you hold your child in your arms for the very first time, time stands still as you dream about how perfect you want his world to be.  You may even secretly make a pact with yourself to do everything in your power to keep him safe, no matter what it takes because as a parent you want only the best for him.

That’s admirable and totally understandable. However, jump forward a few years from that precious moment and suddenly something interferes with these idyllic plans—your child grows and begins to exert his independence.

While this is completely normal and healthy, it’s not always easy for parents to accept. After all, what if he makes a mistake?  What if he gets hurt?  What if someone hurts his feelings? What if...?  

And therein lies the challenge.  How can we help our children have new experiences, achieve their goals, and take risks without hovering in their shadows 24/7 and undermining their sense of personal accountability? >

If you track your child's every movement on the playground, or run onto the baseball field when your son gets hit with a pitch, or worry about your child 25 hours a day, you might easily be considered a “helicopter parent.”

The term “helicopter parent” was first coined in a 1969 book titled Between Parent and Child, by Haim Ginott.  The teen featured in the book reported that his mother watched over him like a helicopter. Since then, many college administrators have used the term to refer to parents who continue to manage their children's lives from a distance after they have gone away to college. 

Today, that term is still going strong and is a common parenting style because parents are unsettled about all that is going on in this big world around us, so they hover and protect their kids from any and all adversity. 

But you can still keep your kids safe while letting them foster their own sense of self and independence.  Mighty Mommy shares 5 tips on how to take the hover out of your parenting:

Tip #1:  Equip Your Kids with Life Skills

The minute your child goes to daycare or pre-school for the first time, you need to resign yourself to the fact that you are no longer going to have as much control over his/her day-to-day life.  You can’t possibly be responsible for everything your kids do or should be doing. Instead, you have to trust that you’ve equipped them with the skills to do their job, and when you see that they’re struggling, step in and help them gain the skills they’re missing.

So instead of running your son’s library book over to school mid-day, teach him how to make a calendar to keep track of library day, gym day, etc. that also lists the supplies he’ll need on different days of the week. And if he forgets the necessary supplies, he will have to manage the repercussions. A good life lesson.

Tip #2: Teach Your Kids to Advocate for Themselves

If a child is used to his mother calling his teacher every time she gets a bad grade, or pulling the coach aside after the baseball game to question why he didn’t get to play all 9 innings like his friend did, the child will not learn the tools to advocate for himself.  

It’s important for kids to be able to ask questions, gain clarification, and speak up when they need something. In the workforce, these kids won’t have Mom or Dad available to help them deal with a mean boss or challenging policy, so take a situation like your child receiving a poor grade and use it as a teaching moment. 

You can role play and say something like “I know you’re really not happy with this C-minus because you worked extra hard on that science project.  Why don’t you ask your teacher if she’ll go over how she graded it so you can then explain why you thought it should have been a different grade based on how you worked on the project?”


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.