WHEN it comes to parenting everyone has different styles.

One parenting style in particular is known as helicopter parenting – but what is it and how do you know if you’re a helicopter parent? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is helicopter parenting?

A Helicopter parent is defined as someone who pays extremely close attention to their children’s experiences and problems, often as a way to protect them.

Like helicopters, they "hover overhead", constantly overseeing every aspect of their child's life.

According to parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith: ‘’Usually a parent is like this because of something that happened in their own upbringing where they learned that children couldn’t be trusted (ie their parents didn’t trust them).

‘’Their expectations of their children are usually too low – like permissive parents and they don't trust the child to make good decisions alone. Their intentions are usually well-meant, just misguided.’’

The “helicopter parent” phrase was coined in 1990 by Foster Cline and Jim Fay.

How to know if you are a helicopter parent

According to educator and author Jenny Grant Rankin, Ph.D there are common characteristics to identify helicopter parenting.

Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin explained: ‘’Common characteristics of helicopter parents are incessant worry about safety, giving a child more restrictions than his or her peers, and feeling more anxious about the child's matters — like an upcoming test — than the child does.’’

Is being a helicopter parent good for your children?

As mentioned above, parenting is personal – and everyone has different parenting styles when it comes to their children.

In September 2023, research found that children allowed to take risks when they play may be more likely to hit exercise targets and stay in shape.

Lead author Alethea Jerebine, from Coventry University, said: “It’s understandable that parents want to protect their child, but the balance can tip too far.

“Adventurous play can help improve a child’s fitness, cognitive function and mental wellbeing – and it’s also more fun.

“This study shows that parents with a relaxed attitude to risky play have children who are more likely to be getting the recommended amount of daily exercise.”

The study, in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, found most parents were nervous, with 78 per cent saying they were “risk averse”.

Mothers were more likely to control their child’s behaviour than fathers.

However, in certain circumstances, helicopter parenting can be incredibly positive when it comes to school life, says one primary school teacher.

Amanda says: “It really depends on the parent’s relationship with the child and the parent’s relationship with the teacher. If they all marry up, then it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

“If you [the teacher] have a positive relationship with the parent, you can do lots of things to make a real impact to that child and they’re happy as well.

“I have definitely experienced that really positively.”

However, if either of those relationships are broken, things quickly take a turn for the worse.

Amanda explains: “Their parent might be very over-protective, but if they don’t have a good relationship with the teacher, then that’s a problem.

“The child can see that and then they might not have any respect for that teacher and you’ll see that behaviour in school, that kind of entitled behaviour.

“Equally, if the parent doesn’t have a good relationship with the child, they might come across as pushing towards lots of academics rather than wellbeing and really understanding the child.

“They [the child] would be drawn more towards the teacher and it would become more of a wellbeing issue.”

If you have ever wondered what you're parenting style is – you can find try Claire Dunwell’s quiz to find out.

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