Sophomore Devin Jellish sits down at her desk to start her math homework. She starts the first problem when she hears her mom yell from upstairs asking if she’s started her work yet. Devin sighs and replies with a yes and starts again on her work. Fifteen minutes later her dad comes down to see how she’s doing. Her parents trust her and leave her alone after that.
Put it in your perspective. Do you think this is appropriate parenting, or is it too much? What kind of parent would you want to be? What’s a helicopter parent in the first place?
According to Merriam-Webster, a helicopter parent is a parent who is “overly involved” in the life of his or her child. When it comes to parenting, each family has their own method. “Overly involved” parenting could have both pros and cons, based on how the child responds to the situation. It could create a beneficial environment for the child, or be detrimental and create a need for dependency on others. So, the question is posed, how much parenting is too much?
“I was probably a classic helicopter parent in the making ,” said Susan Davis-Ali, parent of sophomore Kate Ali, and founder of Leadhership1, a business targeted toward women in a business environment to help them boost their careers. This even happened as early as kindergarten.
“I thought that’s what parents should do,” said Davis-Ali, “I’d check Kate’s homework, and I would quiz Kate every night before she’d take a kindergarten test or reading test because I just thought that’s what being a good and involved parent meant. However, [Linnea Hanschen, Kate’s kindergarten teacher], sat me down and said to let Kate figure out what Kate could do. If she did well, it’s because she was glued to my side, and we didn’t actually know what she was capable of. If she needed help, I should help her, but I should let her figure things out herself. I thought that was a great approach and it really stuck with me and became a parenting philosophy.”
The idea of being a helicopter parent may appeal to a stressed new parent, but as Davis-Ali discovered, it’s not necessarily good to watch over your children nonstop or just do everything for them. To Davis-Ali, “overly-involved” means that a parent doesn’t leave any room for their children to make their own mistakes.
“An overly involved parent checks to make sure the homework is done every night,” she said. “That doesn’t give the children an opportunity to not do their homework and make a mistake and learn from it. I think in general it’s parents that think what they’re doing is right, but their need for control is really high.”
You might think that it would be odd to just let a child be and make their own mistakes, but if a child grows up completely sheltered, they will not know how to deal with anything on their own.
“A kid with super strict parents would be more likely to do things that their parents wouldn’t want them to do,” said Ali. “I think that it is good for a parent to check in every once in a while, because if the kid is falling behind they could help them.”
As far as Ali’s relationship with her parents, she thinks it’s healthy. “Personally, I don’t try to hide things from my parents,” she said. “So, they don’t feel the need to watch too closely over me. I think there’s a perfect balance.”
Sophomore Grace Diersen’s relationship is described a little differently than Ali’s.
“My parents keep a pretty close watch over me, but they still give me enough space that I can also learn from my own experiences,” she said.
A helicopter parent would ruin the children problem-solving skills, teach dependence on others rather than independence, shelter children from real problems and not teach children how to advocate for themselves, according to article written about helicopter parents by Amy Morin, discipline expert and writer for the About Parenting website.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean a parent should completely let loose of the reigns in their child’s life. An under-involved parent is just as detrimental as an over-involved parent is.
“An under-involved parent is a parent who thinks that from a very little age, their child is capable of everything,” Davis-Ali said. “An under-involved parent would not even be talking to their high school student about college.”
It would be as if they would just pat the kid on the back and wish them the best of luck on their journey. Both types of parenting are not exactly beneficial to the child. So, the key is to find the perfect balance in-between.
“I think that if you allow children to fail then they learn how to cope with life’s difficulties,” college counselor Lauren Bae said. “Failure is not bad. There is not a single person who has never failed in life. It’s through failure that we figure out what direction we want to go, and what our strengths are. I think involved parents are really important. I think an involved parent should definitely know what’s going on in a student’s social life, academic life, and how they’re doing in their struggles. But, a parent’s main role is to inform, guide and support. Let the student figure things out.”
Positive parenting is the key, according to the Parent Further organization. “Research tells us that parents are most effective when they adopt the loving, firm authoritative style of parenting,” they said.
A parent might be trying to do their best, but what really matters is what benefits the children. Some students already have some sort of idea of what kind of parent they think they’d be.
“I think a relationship with a parent should be an adult that you can trust to confide in,” Diersen said.” “One that helps you become independent by the time you’re living on your own as well as being someone who will always love and care for you.”