Are You A Helicopter Parent?

Here are five early warning signs that you are becoming the parent who micromanages your toddler’s life, says DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Here are five early warning signs that you are becoming the parent who micromanages your toddler’s life, says DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON.

"Don’t be afraid to let your tot work things out for himself. Give him a chance to learn."

“Helicopter parenting” – first identified almost 50 years ago by an Israeli psychologist – is the term applied to the parent who micromanages, takes over and control’s their child’s life, no matter their kid’s age.

Helicopter parenting can start to show through even with one-year-olds. If you want to avoid becoming one, here are some of the early warning signals:

You jump in to solve all your little one’s problems

He has a new puzzle toy, and as soon as you see him struggle to play with it, you either show him exactly what to do or you take it away from him altogether.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD Trial and error is one of the ways your toddler learns. Through hands-on experiences, he steadily improves his knowledge and understanding. So, don’t be afraid to let him work things out for himself. No psychological harm will come to him from those opportunities to learn.

Once your toddler is on his feet, you walk everywhere with him

Your one-year-old enjoys strutting about, although he is not entirely steady. You take his hand every time, walking alongside to protect him in case he falls.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD Quite rightly, you want to save him from injury, and you are afraid he will hurt himself if he falls. But he can only improve his gait by practice. You can still keep him safe while letting him toddle about on his own. For example, place him on a carpeted area instead of a hard, wooden floor, and make sure table corners are padded.

You make all your child’s choices for him to avoid him making any mistakes

When it’s time for him to play, you choose every single toy he plays with because you don’t want him to waste time on those that aren’t “educational”.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD Every parent buys toys for their one-year-old. But once you have done that, allow him to choose which individual one to play with at least as often as you make the choice for him.

Every toy is “educational” and therefore he learns from whatever toy he plays with. You just need to make sure he doesn’t with the same toy all the time.

You protect your child from any form of sibling or peer conflict.

Your toddler occasionally fights with his big sister every day, and each time you take his side, without giving your older child a chance to explain.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD Toddlers can be very annoying because they usually like to play with their older sibling’s toys and take their possessions, too. Your one-year-old must learn to respect other people’s property and privacy.

Instead of assuming your older child is in the wrong, encourage your toddler to behave properly and to think of others.

You frequently tell your child’s teachers what they are doing wrong

While your child is at playgroup and most of the other parents have left, you stay on to watch the teachers and to tell them how to improve their interaction with the kids.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD If you don’t think the teachers are good enough, then don’t take your child to that playgroup.

And if you do think they are good enough, either drop your child off there and go (if that’s the usual practice) or sit with your child and support him without criticising them – it’s their job to stimulate the children, not yours.