Have you ever heard of the term “helicopter parents”? It is the term used to describe the parents who are over-protecting their children. According to an adolescent and child development expert, Silverman (2010), helicopter parents are those who always hovering around their children as if they are helicopters. They will swoop in whenever they see their kids encounter any problems, or even just a little discomfort. It is bad to their kids. She, Silverman (2010), mentioned the following:
Our job as a parent is to protect. We are supposed to protect our children, but we also suppose to teach our children how to stay safe, how to protect themselves. And there is a line between protection and over-protection.
It meant that parents should be teaching their kids how to solve a problem instead of solving the problem for them. Children may lack independence due to helicopter parenting (Yau, 2013).
Besides, helicopter parents in Hong Kong are extremely pushy. They force their children to participate in a list of extracurricular activities even if they do not want to. They think that it would increase their kids’ chances of getting into the nice schools. Also, they monitor their kids all the time to keep them away from the computer, TV and other entertaining electronics. They think that children should spend most of their time on study. They want to know exactly what their children are doing every moment of their life since they think their children belong to them (Fung, 2010; Yau, 2013). It is not a rare phenomenon in Hong Kong. In fact, it is very common. “A recent survey by the Christian Family Service Centre showed 90 per cent of 186 parents interviewed shared some characteristics of helicopter parenting” (Yau, 2013). Helicopter parenting also causes harm to the children’s mental health. According to Hodgekiss (2013), a research, which was carried out by the University of Mary Washington in United States showed that “helicopter parenting behaviors were linked to higher levels of depression, decreased satisfaction with life and lower levels of perceived autonomy, competence, and ability to get along with people”. Children are not benefited form the helicopter parenting, it is just something what a parent need to feel good. Since helicopter parenting has so many harmful effects on children. It is necessary to find a solution to solve this problem.
The only way to solve this problem effectively is that helicopter parents need to change their mind. They should “land”. They need to be less anxious and more encouraging. They should allow their kids to try new things. Helicopter parenting is not the shortcut or only way for their children to be successful. Kids need to learn from their failure. Parents should be supporting their children when they fail instead of preventing them from falling. Parents should act as coaches, not the player in a sports game. They should teach them how to play. Teach them about brainstorming, negotiation, the idea of pros and cons. So they could learn about how to think (Silverman, 2010). Karen Levin Coburn, who was an Associate Dean at Washington University in St. Louis, has mentioned, “ I wonder how students will learn to deal and failure or even disappointment if their parents continue to intervene and every effort to protect them” (Coburn, 2006). She suggested that, the less the parents intervene inappropriately, the better and meaningful growth their children would have. Thus, it showed that allowing children to work and try things on their own could allow them to grow appropriately and be independent.
Parents being less anxious can also reduce children’s mental issues due to the pushy helicopter parenting. Research showed that the levels of the parents’ control on children are relative to children’s mental health. Thirlwall and Creswell’s (2010) study has investigated the following:
When mothers engaged in controlling parenting behaviors, children made more negative predictions about their performance prior to delivering their speech and reported feeling less happy about the task, and this was moderated by child trait anxiety. The pattern of results was maintained when differences in mothers’ levels of negativity and habitual levels of control were accounted for.
It implied that the less anxious the parents were, the more confident their children would be. Although it is no doubt that part of the children of pushy parents did quite good in school, helicopter parenting is not the only method for kids to get good results. Parents who are being encouraging and supportive can also help their kids to get a good result in school. Research showed that “kids with supportive parents more likely to succeed” (Anonymous, 2003). Parents should change their mind, in order to reduce the drawbacks caused by the helicopter parenting.
When most of the news articles, journals, and studies were talking how bad helicopter parenting was, some people defensed that helicopter parenting is actually good. For instance, according to Belkin (2009), she suggested that the world is too scary and complicated for kids and teenagers. Helicopter parenting before their kids go to colleges is acceptable. I cannot agree with her. In my opinion, the time before kids go to college is the perfect time for them to explore themselves. They should be trying things, finding their passions instead of following their parents’ footsteps, doing what their parents want them to do. Helicopter parents want their children to learn instruments like cello and violin so that they can get more certificates. It benefited them in school admissions (Yau, 2013). This is a very common, and yet, pathetic phenomenon in Hong Kong. Kids learn instruments just for the school admissions. It is like faking a religion to get in the faith school. It is just wrong. Children should have the rights to choose.
“Parents who try to encourage their children in every way they can and worry themselves sick about their future, which sounds pretty standard to me” (Ellen, 2009). She defensed that certain level of helicopter parenting is just necessary. I doubt that. I understand that parents worry about their kids all the time. Although it is cruel and tough for parents to watch their children fail and do nothing, sometimes they have to let go. For instance, some poor Chinese parents sent their children to ShaoLin to learn martial art so that they could teach martial art for a living when they grow up. It was very cruel to the parents, since they would not be seeing their kids for years and every one of them knew that the training in ShaoLin was really tough, but they let go. They believed that they have to put away their worries to allow their children to have a better future. Helicopter parents should learn to let go and be less anxious.
To sum up, the solution to solve the helicopter parents’ situation is that parents need to change their mind. Be supportive of their children. Do not spoil or over-protect them. Allow children to try different things. It sounds easy, but it is actually not. Parenting is the concept that bears in parent’s mind. Media, schools and family counseling organizations need to work together to help helicopter parents to “land”. For example, Hong Kong Institute of Family Education offers courses for over-controlling parents (Yau, 2013). It can work together with the family counseling organization, which the family counseling organization can introduce clients to join the courses and advertise the courses. Government can also offers grants for the parents who take these courses. Media plays an important role on solving this problem. Since the media affects people’s value easily. People spend a long time watching TV and browsing on the Internet everyday. Thus, shows, documentaries and News available on the TV and Internet can be used wisely to promote the good parenting methods. Schools can organize some talks and parents meetings, which provide platforms for parents to share and learn more about parenting. Schools can invite some experts on parenting psychologists to teach parents about how to relax and be less anxious. These methods can help helicopter parents to realize the truth about helicopter parenting. It can solve the problem effectively, which create a better environment for the children to grow.
Anonymous. (2008, fall). Research: Kids with Supportive Parents More. Likely to Succeed. University of Washington. College of Education E-News. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/alumni/partnerships/education news/200809/succeed.html
Belkin, L. (2009, March 4). In Defense of Helicopter Parents. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/in-defense-of-helicopter-parents/
Coburn, K. (2006). Organizing a Ground Crew For Today’s Helicopter Parents. About Campus, 11(3), 9-16.
Ellen, B. (2009, Jan 18). Opinion: Barbara Ellen: Pushy Parents Are Setting The Best Example. The Observer. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/250613083?accountid=10134
Fung, M. (2010). 全球化新勢力 誰是直升機父母？ [Who are the Helicopter parents?]. Hong Kong: Apple daily.
Hodgekiss, A. (2013, February 14). Children with Controlling ‘Helicopter Parents’ Are More Likely to Be Depressed. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2278596/Children-controlling-helicopter-parents-likely-depressed.html
Sliverman, R. (2010). Early Show, CBS News Video. Eye on Parenting: “Helicopter” Parents. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6783112n
Thirlwall, K., & Creswell, C. (2010). The Impact of Maternal Control On Children’s Anxious Cognitions, Behaviors And Affect: An Experimental Study. Behavior Research & Therapy, 48(10), 1041-1046. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2010.05.030
Yau, E. (2013, April 8). Dadzilla and Monster Mum. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from http://www.scmp.com/article/983995/dadzilla-and-monster-mum