Opinion: Are You a Helicopter Parent?

by Jadwiga O'Brien on April 29, 2011

Parents and happy child

Helicopter Parenting: From the tendency (of parents) to hover over their children’s lives, like a helicopter – Wiktionary

A helicopter parent is someone who hovers over their children, constantly fussing over the details of their everyday lives.

Do they have enough pencils for school? Are they using their antibacterial hand gel? Are they getting along with their friends?

Some might call helicopter parents controlling, some might call them overprotective. However, whatever reason parents have for hovering, there are usually only good intentions behind their fussing.

As we’ve mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with careful supervision. However, it really pays to let your kids do their own thing sometimes.

A recent study carried out by the Irish Heritage Council has found that Irish children are spending less time playing in “wild” areas than their parents did.

The study found that while most parents believed that playing outdoors was important, many children played within their homes or the homes of their friends. The number of children playing in indoor activity centres and playgrounds also increased. However, the number of children spending time playing in fields, woods and wild spaces has decreased by up to 23%.

One of the bigger issues that came to light through the study were the increases in the levels of supervision. While the Heritage Council is “…concern(ed) that supervised areas such as playgrounds or indoor centres do not provide the same learning opportunities as the natural world”, there are also other benefits to unsupervised play. Studies have shown that play can help to:

  • Improve social skills
  • Cope with stress
  • Allow creative thinking
  • Encourage co-operation and compromise
  • Improve mood

Although many parents often deal with children’s constant complaints of boredom, author Carl Honore claims that:

“What boredom does is take away the noise … and leave them with space to think deeply, invent their own game, create their own distraction. It’s a useful trampoline for children to learn how to get by.”

Granted, you don’t want to send your children out with no clue about how to manage themselves or their time, but you do want to build trust with them. Give them freedom step by step. Yes, some days they’ll come in with injuries, tears, and horror stories, but that’s all part of growing up. It allows them to cope better with the injuries, tears and horror stories they’ll eventually face as grown ups!

Do you feel parents are too controlling these days? How can we let our children play safely and still maintain some level of supervision? We would love to hear your views on this sensitive issue please leave your comments in the box below.

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