How to Stop Helicopter Parenting (Even When You Really Love Your Kids)

Helicopter parenting comes from a place of really good intentions. Of course, you want what’s best for your child, and you inherently feel responsible for their care and safety. But taking on too much responsibility or exerting excess control in their everyday lives can impact their development. Likewise, it can negatively affect the relationship you share with your kids.

That said, it can be challenging to let your child make their own decisions and lead their own unique worlds. Here are some strategies that may help.

Recognize Your Separate Feelings

You and your child don’t share the same feelings! Even though that may seem like common sense, it’s an important reminder to tell yourself as you navigate parenting.

Therefore, what makes you feel angry, sad, or concerned may not apply to your child. Similarly, they may have their own feelings that you don’t understand fully. That’s okay- you two are entirely separate people, and it’s important to be mindful of meshing your identifies when encountering obstacles.

Separating your feelings can sound like this: I feel frustrated when you don’t do your homework. That owns responsibility for your state of mind, and it’s less likely to trigger a defensive reaction than if you said, You never listen or do your homework. You don’t care about your future! 

Ask How You Can Support

Instead of jumping in to fix the problem, take a moment and pause. What can your child do to solve the issue? What strengths and capabilities do they present?

Parents often swoop in and take over instead of really letting their child practice their skills. Unfortunately, this pattern often reinforces a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. The child tends to feel helpless or dependent on their parent to “fix things.” As a result, the parent may feel resentful that their child isn’t “stepping up” to try to solve problems.

Of course, asking how you can support a child depends on their age, development, and specific situation. You don’t want to leave them completely defensiveness! But you also want to cultivate a safe environment where they can grow and explore their independence.

Take Small Steps Towards Independence

Helicopter parenting doesn’t usually stop overnight. Embracing your child’s autonomy is a process, and it’s okay to start with small, reasonable steps.

Maybe you don’t feel ready to let your child attend a sleepover right now. But what about spending a few hours at someone else’s house? Or, maybe you don’t want your child to leave the house without shoes. But what about presenting two different shoe options they can choose from?

You’ll need to be mindful of your anxiety during this time. You probably will feel nervous and unsettled. You may even begin catastrophizing the worst-case scenario. Try to check in with yourself regularly, and review how it went after the event passes. You’ll probably notice the outcome wasn’t nearly as bad as you predicted!

Set Reasonable Boundaries

If you’ve been in a helicopter parenting role for a while, it may take time to change your ways. However, you can start by reflecting on your current boundaries with your children.

Boundaries will look different in every family situation, but some universal healthy limits include:

  • expressing clear expectations for how you expect your child to behave in a particular situation
  • enforcing consequences when a child crosses a boundary
  • modeling healthy, assertive communication
  • respecting your child’s needs for privacy
  • setting appropriate household rules for chores

Embrace a Curious Outlook

Whether they realize it or not, all parents have varying degrees of expectations for their children. These expectations can include anything, like hoping your daughter likes dance class, your adult son marries and has children, or your twins share a loving, tight bond.

It can be very distressing for parents to realize their children won’t necessarily live their lives following those expectations. For example, maybe your daughter prefers football over dance, your son enjoys being single, and your twins are relatively distant from one another.

These differences don’t mean that anyone has failed! It simply means that your child is a complex, unique human being.

As a parent, the best reaction you can have is staying open-minded and curious. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with your child’s preferences, you need to respect them. Failing to do so will likely exacerbate tension and result in your child either suppressing their desires or hiding them from you altogether. Neither of these scenarios is particularly optimal.

Recognize Your Fears (And Process Them)

Even though helicopter parenting comes from a loving place, the motives are often fear-driven. Maybe you worry about your child’s health. Perhaps you worry they won’t succeed or live up to certain expectations. You may even fear that they just won’t be able to do certain things without your guidance.

While these fears are a normal part of parenting, it isn’t fair to project all your anxieties onto your children. Doing so can inadvertently cause harm- both to your child and you!

If you can’t let go of your anxiety, seeking professional support can be invaluable. Therapy is a helpful starting point for understanding the triggers or past experiences that might be causing your fears.  Together, we can work on healthier ways to manage your emotions and strengthen your parenting.

You love your children, and you deserve to feel supported during this time. Contact me today to get started.

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Austin, TX 78759
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