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Study Finds What Happens To Children Of Helicopter Parents When They're Adults

Helicopter parenting is the instinctual behaviour that can include the literal act of ‘hovering’ over your children.

Most mums and dads either cringe over it, or they embrace it. In my family, we do both. That's because my husband is an in-denial helicopter parent.

He calls it 'sensible and responsible parenting', I call it hyper-involvement. I am what he would call an ‘overly casual’ parent. I don’t helicopter, I’m all about ‘free range’ parenting -- running up slides and all.

The truth is, my husband’s rotor blades spin around in full force when he is parenting, especially anywhere which involves our kids and the playground, skate park, swimming pool... well, them and any location really.

While he is busy 'supervising' as he calls it, I sit back on a bench seat enjoying the sunshine, a book and child free silence (while also ensuring they are still alive -- from time to time.)

Shona and her husband. Image: Supplied

To paint a picture, recently while my two daughters (five and six) headed to the skate park. Upon arrival and realising that we had left their wrist pads and elbow pads at home (but had knee pads and helmets) my husband decided they couldn’t scooter because it’s unsafe.

“Mum let us do it after school without them yesterday,” my kids replied.

“Did she?” He asked, shooting me a look of disapproval and condemnation, as if I have thrown my kids into shark infested waters.

Shona with her two daughters. Image: Supplied

But you can imagine my delight when recently, my non-chopper ways were in fact declared by actual researchers to be setting my kids up for the real world, while his ‘propelling’ parenting, is said to be doing the opposite.

Yep, an A+ for the free range mum.

Florida State University has found that helicopter parenting or ‘overparenting’ can contribute to burnout once children enter the workforce. In fact, it found that these parents are actually limiting their children the opportunity to develop emotional and behavioural skills that they require.

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The research, which surveyed more than 400 college students between ages 18 to 29, looked into how they were raised and their feelings about their time at school.

Participants were asked questions which specifically focused on over-parenting -- AKA helicopter parenting -- and the responses indicated that this parenting style was more associated with burnout. And the clincher, it is even more prevalent when a father is helicoptering.

The impact of this, according to one Florida State University professor, is creating a “helpless, hopeless and resentful” effort toward schooling.

Burnout is a response to ongoing stress that is important because it saps the student’s energy, reduces their productivity and leaves them with a diminished sense of accomplishment.

Professor Frank Fincham, director of the FSU Family Institute said in a statement: “They feel increasingly helpless, hopeless and resentful, exerting less effort on their studies, which leads to lower grades. In some cases, students end up dropping out of college.”

Hayley Love, the study’s author, told CNBC that this type of burnout could reach beyond school. “This research really highlights the salience of parenting even as children move out of the home,” Love said.

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While this study looked at the impact of helicopter parenting for an extended time in young adults, its findings were enough to a.) make me feel validated in the parenting realm and b.) to pass this information on to my husband to ensure our kids aren’t feeling similar things or burnt out in 20 years’ time.

Oh. And I will also be sure to remind him of these findings next time I hear that overprotective engine starting up or that familiar buzzing from overhead...

Featured image: Getty