Studies have shown that an excessively protective parenting approach has a detrimental effect on a child’s emotional development.
But we already knew that.
In fact, we really did not need a mental health expert to conduct a study and put into writing something that is so logically obvious, did we? Yet, while we all know that helicopter parenting is generally to be frowned upon, most of us do not know what helicopter parenting really means, choosing instead to uniquely define the concept as convenience suits us, usually in a way that always exonerates our own parenting approach.
For parents wishing to re-evaluate their parenting style, we have put together a list of 6 telltale signs to get you thinking about what helicopter parenting really means.
1. Excessively baby proofing the house.
Every sharp corner and edge in the house does not have to be wrapped in plastic. Every door and opening does not need a baby proof latch. For example, some companies sell oven door locks, specifically to prevent curious children from opening hot oven doors to see what’s baking. However, this misses the point that a young child really should not be near a hot oven in the first place. Yet another company sells a speciality cable to prevent floor to ceiling cabinets from toppling when children use them as ladders, as if that is a normal thing for children to do or for parents to allow.
Many “cutting edge safety” devices have no real use at all and prey upon a parent’s insecurities to sound useful. A significantly more practical approach may be to simply keep certain areas of the house off limits.
Frankly speaking, it is really alright if a child bumps their head against a rounded edge of a table leg or falls off a short stool every once in a while.
2. Seeking medical attention.
Bringing a child to the doctor at the first sneeze or cough usually works out well for the doctor, not the child. Think about it, how often have you heard a doctor say “Come back in a few days if it gets worse?” Doctors are not shamans; they usually only make a diagnosis if a patient turns up with actual and clearly identifiable symptoms. So what do you think any doctor is going to do if you bring a child that may or may not be sick for a consult? A good doctor will say “Come back in a few days if it gets worse” and then write you a bill for the consult. Some other doctors may say the same thing, but also add a low dosage prescription to address the immediate complaint and then write you a larger bill.
Look around you, everybody sneezes, coughs or even throws up once in a while.
You would have seen them in stores; vitamins packaged in bottles to attract a child’s attention, almost made to look like sweets. Well-meaning parents purchase these supplements thinking they will boost their child’s immunity, intelligence or overall health. The fact is, unless a child has an actual vitamin or mineral deficiency that they cannot make up for with appropriate changes in food intake, supplements are useless and in some cases even harmful, impairing the child’s natural ability to produce these vitamins in the body.
Parents who feel a need to give supplements to their child should first seek doctor’s advice and ask the specific question “Does my child need vitamin supplements?” and make an informed decision based on evidence not emotion.
4. Culturing risk aversion.
Child is running around a playground.
Child slips, falls and scraps both knees.
Parent from a nearby bench runs screams “Oh my god! Are you ok?”
After the wailing stops, the parent advises the child, “I told you not to run around.”
Parents who overreact to accidents and then tell their children to stop doing something because they messed up once are culturing a sense of risk aversion in their children that will haunt the child’s decision-making abilities in their adult years. There also exist absurd parents who hurriedly crawl behind their children to catch them in case they trip while crawling. The only reason these parents do not make their toddlers wear helmets is because helmets do not come in small enough sizes.
It is completely natural for children to play, fall, cry, stop crying and play again. On the other hand, it is completely unnatural for children to not run around or for them to hold themselves back excessively when they play.
5. Banning media and television
Some parents have come to a conclusion that any exposure to digital media will do their children harm, so they shield their children from coming into any contact with television or a mobile device, ever ready to rebuke visiting friends and relatives who try to get their child’s attention by showing them funny videos on their phones.
Some parents tout it as a badge of pride that they have successfully shielded their children from such perceived “harmful influences” while every other ill-disciplined parent around them has given up their children to the evil charms of digital media distraction.
In reality, these protective parents are putting their children at a severe disadvantage by setting the stage for them to be socially awkward since they will be unable to relate to children of their age. These children also miss out on e-learning opportunities that are becoming a common curriculum component in almost every school today.
These children will also be deprived of exposure to the wider world at large and a whole host of new age cartoons that actually do a fantastic job of encouraging children to think and learn. Instead, these children only have the opportunity to learn what the adults in their immediate social setting bother to teach them.
While the Internet has its evils, there are many ways for parents to censor or control content without implementing an all-out ban. Supervising a child’s activities on any device is also a basic part of parenting in the modern world.
6. Emotional insulation
Some parents out there believe children should never cry or experience the psychological burn of failure upon their chubby rosy cheeks. To these parents, everything is alright, bad tantrums are always just a phase and fulfilling their child’s every desire becomes a life mission. Needless to say, this parenting approach will lead to all sorts of issues for the child.
Children need to understand that it is perfectly acceptable to come in second or third, or to not place at all. Children need to feel the sense of disappointment when they do not achieve something they really wanted to because they did not try hard enough, prepare sufficiently for, or simply were not able to accomplish due to factors outside their control. Children also need to understand from a young age that simply crying hard for something will not result in them getting their way; they need to learn to accept unfavorable outcomes. These small defeats will help them grow into emotionally well-adjusted adults, capable of gracefully handling losses and failures.
Overprotective parents run the risk of raising a generation of emotionally unstable adults who carry with them a strong aversion to risk, near absolute fear of failure and inability to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. The prospect of such a future lends itself well to a dark novel, complete with a psychotic antagonist suffering from an extreme multiple personality disorder. But it hardly bids well for the future of the individual child or the peace of mind of the doting parent, who eventually will have to sit back and watch helplessly as their child grows older and is unable to function in an emotionally demanding world with its own set of evolving challenges.