Helicopter parenting is harmful to children
Recently, there was an interesting topic on Classic FM’s breakfast show. A mother called in and reported being ‘manned’ by her 11-year-old son who monitors all her movements, will not let her see anyone and scrolls through her phone at whim. Another caller spoke about her 10-year-old son who beats her up when she does not give or buy for him what he wants while yet another said that her seven-year-old son is so protective he will not let anyone near his mum and calls her his ‘queen’.
As the conversation progressed and different opinions were aired, I found myself wondering whether or not these women understand that by allowing this behaviour, they are doing more harm than good to their child. As a counsellor, I can already foresee the possible repercussions that will come about as a result of this 'laissez faire' style of parenting and none of it will be good. This kind of parenting relationship whereby a parent becomes more of a peer or a friend is one that is fraught by blurred or none existent personal boundaries between parent and child. The fact is that a child needs limits; he/she needs to know how far is too far and who is in-charge.
Yet another form of troubled parenting style that leads to no good is what is commonly referred to as helicopter parenting. In this style, the parents hover closely over their children, butting their heads into their children’s business whether or not those children need them to. As a result, enmeshment takes place whereby the child is not able to individuate and become an autonomous being able to stand on his/her own feet.
This kind of smothering starts at an early age: a parent rushes to prevent any harm from befalling their precious child, fighting his/her battles and mostly keeping them locked up in the house, safe from harm. This habit carries on to when the child starts school; if the parent can bear to have the child attend regular classes, they will offer unsolicited advice to the teacher and dare the child come home with a scratch. They will also be breathing fire down the teacher’s throat.
It progresses onto the high school and college years; this parent will not allow their child to go to a boarding school even if this is what the child wants. If they are convinced to do so, you will find them visiting their child every other day or calling them relentlessly. Friends and members of the opposite sex will be frowned upon and the parent will want to be the one who chooses them.
As the child gets into the job market, the parent will stick their nose into job applications, some even insist on accompanying their ‘child’ to the job interview and in such cases, they are the ones who will negotiate the appropriate salary.
Unless a person has a very strong will, or a very strong personality, surviving a helicopter parent and actually morphing into an independent, secure adult is next to impossible. Most of these children become spineless adults who cannot make a single decision for themselves without seeking approval from ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’.
In the long run, all that ‘loving’, ‘care’ that you pour on you child actually ends up suffocating their individuality. It ends up crippling them to such an extent that they become your clone – totally unable to fend for themselves and in most cases once the parent passes on, the 'child' just cannot hack it on its own and ends up making a complete mess of their lives.
As parents we need to remember that our job is to prepare our children to face life. Children are given to us only for a short while and we are supposed to be their guardians not their owners. Success in parenting comes when you allow your child’s true self to emerge, when you teach that child to be comfortable and confident in who they are in spite of their weaknesses and as they mature, give them the space, the right and the freedom to explore their world on their own and in their terms.
CAROLE KIAMAH'S 'DIARY OF A MUM' COLUMN RESUMES NEXT WEEK