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Helicopter Parents: How to Let Kids Fail and Learn Independence Thumbnail

Helicopter Parents: How to Let Kids Fail and Learn Independence

Newborns can be a little frightening until you catch your parenting groove. After all, parenting is the only job that comes with a lifetime contract and no manual. While each set of parents approaches their new gig a little differently, many new moms and dads will go to great lengths to be wonderful providers and protectors. As children grow up, parenting becomes a delicate balance between trying to stay engaged with their children and lives, but not so enmeshed that they lose perspective on what their kids really need.

The line becomes a little more blurred when helicopter parenting comes into play. If you are unaware of what a helicopter parent is, it's typically a parent who is overly involved in the life of their child. They tend to:

  • Excessively hover
  • Take control of simple tasks
  • Assume too much responsibility for their children's experiences

Usually, this somewhat-accidental parenting style (after all, who wants to be described as a "helicopter parent"?) is based from good, if not a bit extreme, intentions.

Helicopter parents have good intentions, but what are the effects?

After being around friends who are helicopter parents themselves, I have observed that although they think they are helping their kids, they are actually having a negative effect on their children's development. Without question, the source of helicopter parenting comes from anxiety about the future success of their kids.

If they can clear every path for them, including completely taking over certain tasks, it must help smooth their way to achievement, right? But, since they are used to doing everything for their children, their kids often grow up lacking a sense of self-sufficiency and independence, especially when dealing with financial issues.

If this is ringing close to home, fear not. It's understandable to want to feel the same type of connection with your children as when they were helpless babies who relied on you for everything.

Read on for tips on how a parent can love and care for their children without inhibiting their ability to learn important life skills.

Children should experience failure

1. Everyone Needs to Experience Failure

Nope, it isn't pretty – in fact, failure can be downright humiliating, painful, and embarrassing. But experiencing failure helps you learn not to make that mistake again. Whether it's learning to walk or not getting on the sports team your child wanted to, a good parent is one that can help their children succeed while also letting them fail, so that they can learn to dust themselves off, bounce back, and try again.

Listening to your kids is important

2. Learn to Listen

Although you might want your child to be the next ballet progeny, if they don't like to do ballet, it will only cause misery for you both. Learn how to not push your own agenda and desires on your kids. Instead, ask lots of questions to try to understand who they are, what they want, and then help them to achieve it.

Failures are lessons

3. Consequences are Teaching Tools

Your children should not go through life in a bubble. Unless the choice that your child is making is unsafe or life-altering, using healthy consequences is a great way to teach children the cause-and-effect of their actions.

Challenges help you grow

4. Challenges are Not a Threat

Again, even if it's tempting, resist the urge to make life easier for your kid every step of the way. Although you don't want to see your children fail, sometimes you have to think of what "success" truly means for them. Teach a kid that challenges help inspire creativity while overcoming adversity.

Coddling your children all of the time can have adverse effects

5. Your Child Shouldn't be Treated Differently than Other Children

In my opinion, the only thing worse that helicopter parenting is being a lawn mower parent. A lawn mower parent is one step above a helicopter parent – they manicure everything in a child's path so that they don't even have little bumps to navigate on their own. Hence, the recent college admissions scandal where parents literally bought their kid's way into colleges and elite sports teams. Not cool.


The problem is not a parent's willingness to help a child succeed – that is admirable and understandable, and one of the ways to be a great parent. The trick is to learn to let go of the fear and anxiety with wanting your kids to be everything you wish for them. Right now, American culture asks us to raise skilled children in a fast-paced and hyper-competitive culture that is much more complicated than that of our parents. Parenting is a job that can feel unforgiving at times, relentless, and causes us to feel stretched thin and overtaxed.

The important thing is that kids feel heard and have the space to make individualistic choices. Keep in mind that life is more pressure-filled for children today than it was for us growing up. To be a good parent, sometimes you have to coach your kids and then let them try it themselves, therefore:

  • Relax
  • Take a deep breath
  • Your kids are going to turn out just fine

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Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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