We are now starting to publish brief essays on important topics. Today, we feature Changing Helicopter Parenting Patterns by Leah Macpherson. Read and tell us what you think, or what you have observed, or - better yet - what is one to do to make a change in other people's lives.
Overprotective, or helicopter parenting, often comes from a place of love: a desire to clear the way for our children, and protect them from life’s discomforts, disappointments, and harm. However, insulating our children from the realities of life’s challenges and setbacks can fuel the fires of inferiority and disallow our kids and teens from developing the skills and resiliencies required for a successfully navigating relationships and the world around us. Adler believed that pampering (or helicopter parenting, in our modern lexicon) leads to “extreme discouragement, oversensitivity, exaggerated emotion and retreat” (Ansbacher and Ansbacher, 1956, p. 242). When parents “hover” and manage every situation, interaction and relationship, children can be disallowed the opportunities to develop the necessary skills to meet life: courage, compassion, and social connection. The result can be discouragement and a sense of inadequacy.
A useful approach for helping parents reframe and reimagine the role of caregiver to one of cooperator and co-problem solver, and to create opportunities for children to develop independence, emotional resiliency and courage, is the metaphorical shift from pilot to co-pilot. When children are small and helpless, caregivers are the guardians of every waking and sleeping moment. As children develop, it’s important to shift to co-pilot mode, and provide age appropriate opportunities for exploration, trial, risk, and failure. Adlerian philosophy has encouragement at its heart—as do the most powerful parenting approaches—“aimed at giving the child a sense of self-respect and a sense of accomplishment” (Dreikurs, 1964).
Ansbacher, H. L. and Ansbacher, R.R. (Eds.) (1956) The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. New York: Basic Books.
Dreikurs, Rudolph with Soltz, Vicki. (1964). Children: The Challenge. Penguin Putnam Inc., New York, NY.