The dangers of Helicopter Parenting

A helicopter with a toy figure dangling below
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

As parents, we want to protect our children and create a loving and happy environment to grow up in. However, sometimes parents can be too protective and supportive and, in these cases, can have a negative impact on the child’s development as they get older.

When your child is a baby, we are of course highly responsive to ensure that all their needs are met and that we are giving a high level of safety and security. However, as babies grow into toddlers, this is the time parents sometimes need to take a step back to allow more freedom and independence.

“Helicopter Parents” will do everything they can to prevent the risk of a child feeling hurt, in pain or disappointed. The term was first used in 1969 by Dr Haim Ginott (in his work Between Parent and Teenager). He showed that Helicopter Parenting with young children can later lead to poor self esteem, anxiety, depression, low confidence and even a sense of being better than everyone else.

Here are a few tips to help recognise when you may be parenting this way:


  1. Trying to prevent any minor fall or accident.
  2. Preventing the child from taking age-appropriate risks.
  3. Not allowing time and space for the child to play on their own (although, naturally, this will not be all the time).
  4. Not encouraging age-appropriate independence.


  1. Choosing your child’s friends for them.
  2. Registering for activities without involving your child in that decision making.
  3. Completing homework practical tasks for your child.
  4. Solving all your child’s problems for them.

Reasons why you may have chosen to parent this way

  1. Experiencing anxiety yourself
    When you see your child is hurt or struggling, this can trigger our own anxieties, which is totally understandable. However, by allowing the child to experience challenges within a supportive, encouraging, loving environment this will build up their resilience. Children need a secure base and this is learned from infanthood. This means that they have a loving, caring parent ready to respond when they reach out. This secure base allows infants/toddlers/children to explore and experience things on their own, knowing they always have someone ready for them when they need it.
  2. Overcompensating because of your own trauma
    If you didn’t experience having a secure and loving childhood yourself, you may find yourself overcompensating. This is totally understandable. However, constant involvement can make it harder for children to grow in confidence and independence. As your child becomes able to, they need to see you trust in their own decision making (where possible) rather than always making decisions for them, even when you feel their decision is not going to bring the outcome they are expecting. On these occasions, you can be ready to reassure and support them in looking at other possibilities. If we don’t allow children to be involved in decisions affecting them, this can lead to low self-esteem, poor self-identity, lack of confidence and create anxiety within.

Some suggestions to avoid Helicopter Parenting

  1. Reflect on yourself as a parent. Ask yourself, ‘do you want to fix things?’ or do you want to give ‘life skills’ to your child?
  2. Develop your child’s independence and self-care skills. Yes, tasks may take longer but giving children the time, space and opportunity to do things for themselves brings so many benefits and allows children to see they are self-sufficient and experience the feeling of achievement. Allow your child to choose their own clothes in the morning, get them to put their own shoes on and get themselves dressed (depending on the development level of your child), ask them to help lay the table, make their bed and get themselves a drink.

At times it may be that you need to help ‘fix’ things, but just stop yourself for a moment and think ‘Is this a situation I need to fix?’; ‘Can I explore options with my child on how to manage the situation?’

Connect with your child on an emotional level, have a hug or some 1-1 time to validate their feelings and give them space to express themselves.