4 Ways 'Over-Parenting' Is Damaging For Kids

by Joanna McClanahan
Originally Published: 
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The desire to protect and provide for our kids is something that all good parents have in common. But it turns out over-parenting could be doing your child more harm than good.

There are always parents hovering over their children at the park. They’re within an arm’s radius at all times. They rush to comfort their child at the first sign of frustration or disappointment. They often prevent the child from trying new things.

These parents typically have one child with them (mainly because it’s tougher to over-parent when you have two running in separate directions or just don’t have the time to be), and I find myself thinking, It’s just a slide. Your kid will be fine!

This is a common symptom of what most consider to be over-parenting, also commonly referred to as “helicopter parenting.” It refers to the excessive involvement and control that some parents have in their children’s everyday activities. And studies show that it can have some devastating effects:

1. Helicopter parenting increases dependence in children and leads to diminished decision-making ability and coping skills.

By solving all their children’s problems and making all their important decisions for them, helicopter parents are actually compromising their child’s autonomy and personal growth. Instead of learning to cope with conflict and failure, children are learning to be dependent on their parents to help them. Constant interference in a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual space takes away from the development of their ability to think for themselves.

2. Many children of helicopter parents struggle with low self-esteem and fear of failure.

When children are unable to develop their own problem-solving abilities, they’re less confident in their abilities, which can lead to low levels of self-esteem. When children are sheltered from experiencing failure, the fear of failure and disappointing others can become increasingly intense and stressful.

3. Children of helicopter parents are more likely to have higher levels of depression and anxiety.

Children with more intrusive parents are more likely to be highly self-critical and develop perfectionism. This, combined with constantly worrying about disappointing others, can be detrimental to a child’s well-being and lead to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and even suicide in some very serious cases.

4. Students with helicopter parents have a harder time finding employment after graduation.

The uncertainty of future job prospects, and overblown expectations of success, is leading many students back home after graduation. Students haven’t learned to deal with obstacles on their own and have been told they can do anything they want. So when the “perfect job” doesn’t present itself immediately, students with helicopter parents are more likely to move back home, where they feel more secure and comfortable.

I’m sure that helicopter parents have good intentions. And I am fully aware that not every parent who hovers over their child at the park is guilty of over-parenting. But when parents do become overly intrusive in every aspect of their child’s life, they’re robbing their child of coping skills that will directly affect their quality of life.

Children should be given a safe environment to learn. I don’t think anyone disputes that. But an important part of learning includes making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. Children develop the best coping skills when they deal with those obstacles, failures, and consequences themselves.

The best thing that parents can do is educate, support, and empower children to make the best decisions for themselves. And that means letting our kids learn through trial and error, as tough as that can be.

Plus, they’re less likely to move back in with you that way. Win-win.

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