Is Helicopter Parenting Actually Abuse?

Hi Readers! A couple of you sent in this provocative piece,  “Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids…And How to Correct Them.” It’s  by Tim Elmore,  a writer/speaker specializing in leadership. His philosophy about what kids require to become confident, competent and, well, leaders dovetails remarkably with Free-Range Kids’. After warning parents that children need more risk and less mindless reward (like constantly being told they’re great for doing ordinary things), he writes:

This may sound harsh, but rescuing and over-indulging our children is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse. It’s “parenting for the short-term” and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Just like muscles atrophy inside of a cast due to disuse, their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can shrink because they’re not exercised. For example, I remember when and where I learned the art of conflict resolution. I was eleven years old, and everyday about fifteen boys would gather after school to play baseball. We would choose sides and umpire our games. Through that consistent exercise, I learned to resolve conflict. I had to. Today, if the kids are outside at all, there are likely four mothers present doing the conflict resolution for them.

While I totally do not think that parents all of a sudden became neurotic child-obsessers — it’s the culture we live in that pretty much demands that type of involvement — I agree that when we give kids time on their own, unsupervised and unscheduled, they learn all sorts of lessons…most of them good. In fact, most of them great. It’s not “abuse” to hover and helicopter, but it sure isn’t helping our kids. – L

Where are their parents? Luckily, not there.

Where are their parents? Luckily, not around.

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81 Responses to Is Helicopter Parenting Actually Abuse?

  1. pentamom February 22, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I think it *might* be okay to call it abuse, as long as we’re clear that we’re talking about an existential, not a legal, definition. I’m not sure, though, whether we should go that far.

  2. Farrar February 22, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    I agree that it’s not abuse (outside of unusual cases like that poor college girl who finally had to get a restraining order against her parents). In fact, I would say that pointing the finger of blame and crying abuse is yet another example of how our society is too quick to judge, especially when it comes to parents. It’s that sort of thinking and finger pointing that makes parents second guess everything and become helicopter parents in the first place.

  3. Jennifer February 22, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Farrar you hit the nail on the head! I grow so weary of all this judgement and finger pointing, as if you can only feel like you are a good parent if you can prove someone else is a bad one. No, helicopter parenting is not abuse. Beating your child until they are covered in bruises is abuse. Belittling your child over and over so they feel worthless is abuse. Being overprotective is likely to result in a fearful, clingy child who has trouble fending for themselves but it is not in the same category as abuse. IMO.

  4. Orange Roughy February 22, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    My daughter needed to print a school assignment. We were out of ink. So my 11 yr old put on her roller skates and I gave her a $20. About 30 minutes later she returned with the ink cartridge. I didn’t have to pack up the car with 4 kids to handle such a simple task. Yet none of my friends would dream of letting their same age children run such an errand.

    I wish there were more parents that didn’t over schedule their kids’ lives and smother them. It makes it hard for my daughter to have play mates, as no parents want their kids playing with a free-range child who is allowed to ride her bike to the library

  5. Captain America February 22, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I’ll tell ya; in retrospect I think one of the reasons I liked scouts was finally getting free of the folks on weekends!

    That and a hilarious, older brother/young uncle kind of scoutmaster; always funny for us all.

  6. George February 22, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    This reminds me of this classic piece about playgrounds:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/science/19tierney.html?_r=0

  7. Nancy February 22, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    It’s a serious problem that so many people want to make parents the bad guys in all this. Parents are like people trying to keep their balance in ship in the middle of a storm. We are unconsciously adjusting all the time. And one of the main things rocking the boat at the moment is this idea that parents are responsible for absolutely everything good or bad in their children’s lives. And by extension everything else. We’re even responsible for accidents (shoulda anticipated the falling piano) and natural disasters (why would you even visit the beach when you knew a tsunami was a possibility).

    Yes, parents do insane things (and we have ALL done something nuttso – it’s the nature of the beast right now) but if we really want things to get better, we have to take the focus off what parents do, and question our culture’s “worst first” assumptions (thank you Lenore!) . And as for calling helicopter parenting abuse, does anyone really think that will make things better?

  8. Rachel February 22, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    I agree with the message that it benefits kids to be given the freedom to explore the world and solve problems on their own. When my oldest was a baby, my mom gave me a wonderful and simple piece of advice: “If you love and trust your kids, everything will turn out fine.” All parents love their kids, but our culture today encourages us not to trust them, and not to trust the world we live in. Kids need both our love and trust.

    I think kids have a fuller happier childhood when there is no helicopter hovering over them. From what I have seen, these kids tend to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them and a greater sense of confidence.

    Yet, “abuse” seems like too harsh a word for helicopter parenting. No family is perfect. I have seen kids grow up who have helicopter parents, and they seem to find their independence eventually. I don’t think it is the end of the world when parents make mistakes.

  9. Ravana February 22, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Poor choice of photo to illustrate your point. There IS an adult in the picture. He is off to the left. It is a photo of boys playing basketball at the JCC, which would mean it was an adult organized and supervised game, probably played by boys who were part of a day camp, which the JCC ran to keep the boys off the street.

  10. Rachel February 22, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    Since it is relevant to today’s discussion, I’ll share a conversation I had with my 6th grade son this morning.

    His class is having major difficulty with the gym teacher…the kids are told to sit and be quiet during every single gym class. So gym is now mass detention…every time! I sent an email to the gym teacher with my concerns, and he blew me off.

    I was thinking to speak with the principal at this point, but was so proud when my son said he’d grab a couple of kids today and ask to meet with the guidance counselor and principal about their problems in gym class. My 11-year old said that if the kids were not able to resolve the problem, then I should step in. Go kids!!

  11. Arlington Mom February 22, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    My sister in law is a MAX helicopter parent and I do believe its abuse. Her kids SCREAM at her because she doesn’t listen to them. Now you will do Legos. Now we are going to the museum. Now we are going to the playground. Its truly painful to be around. They are literally falling asleep being dragged to see a Christmas lights display. Every minute of the day MUST be filled with a supervised activity. When they do break away from her, they go nutty. They bully other kids and destroy property because they have no practice being on their own. Constantly supervising the kids and making choices for them stunts their emotional growth. All that’s missing is the balls and chains around the legs.

  12. Emily February 22, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    You know, I think helicopter parenting, while not as heinous as physical or sexual abuse, could possibly be a form of emotional abuse, because every time you (general you) hover over a child, or try to prevent them from doing developmentally appropriate things, such as playing outside unsupervised, or walking to school alone, then you’re essentially telling that child, “I don’t trust you.” My parents jumped on the bubble-wrap bandwagon before most parents did, and my brother and I spent a good portion of our youth wondering why, as good kids, and basically straight-A students (except for gym, in my case), we couldn’t be trusted to ride our bikes around the neighbourhood, or do our Christmas shopping without our parents hovering, for example. When we asked our parents about it, they said that “just because other kids are allowed to run wild, doesn’t mean we’ll let you,” and then they’d possibly cite a recent child abduction case they’d read about in the newspaper. Well, we saw our peers out and having fun, just living life, and the “child abductions” were much fewer and further between than just the normal moments of childhood fun. The rules weren’t even enforced consistently; if one of us asked, “Can I go to the park,” when my parents were in a good mood, they’d say yes, but if they weren’t, we’d either get a “no,” or a “no” followed by a lecture. Anyway, as I’ve said before, it got better for me once I was in high school, and involved in multiple extra-curricular activities that kept me away from home (freedom in the short run, gained parents’ trust in the long run), but I have to wonder if my parents knew what kind of message my brother and I got from their hovering. It’s much more subtle than standing over a child and yelling “you’re worthless” or similar, but that might be part of the problem–if a child grows up in an environment where he or she is not trusted, then that child will think that’s normal, and it could do some real long-term damage. I don’t know if it did for me, because I got a lot more freedom once I got to high school, and got involved in multiple extra-curricular activities, but my brother was kept on a short leash, and my mom continued helping him with/practically ghost-writing his homework, right through university.

  13. Alec from Child's Play Music February 22, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Just as abuse is a continuum, that shades from the relatively mild into the the blatantly abusive, so too is helicopter parenting a continuum. And at the extreme end of the continuum, I think it is perfectly reasonable to call it “abuse”.

    That is not to trivialise other forms of abuse, but helicopter parenting can quite readily become a form of hyper-control of every facet of a child’s life, where a child has zero autonomy, and every decision is made for them by the parent, even when they are at an age when such control would normally be being relaxed. Sometimes this hyper-control continues well into adulthood.

    Such hyper-control is already recognised in the scholarly literature as being a form of child abuse, and increasingly it is being perceived as abusive by agencies that work for children’s rights, and in some countries, by the courts.

    The question is not whether helicopter parenting can be abuse: it is “at what point in the continuum does it stop being merely a parenting style and become child abuse?” And that is not an easy question to answer.

  14. Emily February 22, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    @Arlington Mom–Wow, your SIL sounds well-intentioned, but just a bit misguided (and, okay, I’m being polite). Do you live close enough to offer to take the kids on a fun “Auntie Day,” where they could choose what they want to do, and you’d be there, but not hovering?

  15. lollipoplover February 22, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I don’t think overparenting is abuse but may be an abusive behavior when left unchecked. But we need to stop this overanalyizing of parenting in general- less thinking and more doing. We also need to stop thinking that we (parents) can control outcomes.

    Also, children should have basic human rights and freedoms that parents cannot infringe upon. Kids playing outside freely is a basic right, especially if it’s on your property. But they also should be held accountable for their actions when they make mistakes. Because they will break things and have accidents that no style of parenting can stop. Most helicopters think that every accident can be avoided and they can’t. But whenever anyting goes wrong, the parents are to blame. We need to stop this blame game that no one wins. Children need to learn that THEIR choices have consequences not their parents.

  16. zozimus February 22, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Depending on the severity and especially on the effects, I would agree with the diagnosis. If it results in the crushing of the child’s autonomy or self-efficacy, then yes. I live in a country where there is a specific law that allows only one single identifiable group to be physically struck: children. Our attitudes are profoundly neurotic and … well… childist, to use a phrase created by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, the scholar of Prejudice Studies and author of the book “Childism: Confronting Prejudice against Children”.

    Everywhere these attitudes exist, we see a strong correlation of childhood health issues, such as a skyrocketing rate of childhood depression. This is a form of abuse that leaves psychological, not physical, scars.

    The U.N. Rights of the Child include Participation as autonomous entities in the the mechanisms of society, and isolating your kid, for whatever anxious reasoning, from becoming full members of that society as they become able and willing, is abuse. How is crippling children, either socially or psychologically, not abuse?

    I think only our deeply ingrained childist attitudes in our societies allow this to be a question at all. To me, it’s as obvious as the former debates in slaveowning states over whether it was right for one group of people to have total physical and psychological control over another group. (Hint: it’s not!)

  17. Peter Armenia February 22, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Abuse is a strong word, how about psychological stunting and smothering.
    Maybe Sting said it best: if you love someone set them free!

  18. Suze February 22, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    I have a question here and I would like some feedback; good, bad or indifferent. I won’t argue or defend my points because I’m trying to gauge whether or not you fine, intelligent folks think my theory is valid or not.

    Is raising children by spoiling, entitling and indulging them maybe not in itself a form of helicopter parenting? I’ve seen kids that by all other rights aren’t “helicoptered” but in these instances are. They are handed everything and nothing is ever taught to them that you must work for what you have. They are chauffeured around like a dignitary to school when they very well are capable of walking but its the expectation by the parents. And its not for fear of bullies, traffic or being kidnapped… its just laziness. What kind of adults are these kids going to become? My husband works in a large retail department chain…. he sees these kids. They have no respect for time but they’ve NEVER been taught to by their parents. They call in and can’t come to work because they “broke up with their gf/bf and they are “too upset”. They think this is a valid reason to miss work. I could go on and on…. So, I was just wondering if it just is what it is… or is this its own form or off-branch of helicoptering?

  19. Emily February 22, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    @Lollipoplover–That’s a good point about rights and reciprocal responsibilities–my mom would use that line of reasoning a lot, except it always seemed to tilt towards the “responsibilities” side of things, and I never could figure out what I needed to do to earn, say, the privilege of shopping at the mall without a parent–until I got to high school, and the issue began to resolve itself. However, how good are adults nowadays, about allowing kids to take responsibility, and do the right thing, and make amends when they mess up?

    For example, a few months ago, on Halloween night, I was heading home after participating in a charity haunted house event in a neighbourhood I wasn’t familiar with. Since it was raining, and my feet were cold, and both pairs of extra socks I’d packed were wet, I stopped at a little “mom and pop” dollar store/variety mart/low end general store in a smallish plaza, to see if they had socks there, that I could buy. They did, and the lady there even had a stool I could sit on, to put on my new socks right after I’d paid for them.

    Anyway, while I was putting on the socks, a non-costumed, and very subdued-looking pre-teen boy came in, accompanied by his mother. The mother told the cashier, “Son has something to say,” and the son proceeded to tell the cashier, “I stole this chocolate bar yesterday. I’m sorry.” Then, he returned the chocolate bar. The cashier explained to the boy that shoplifting was wrong, and when people shoplift, the people who run the store have to raise the prices on everything to cover it.” She then went on to add that, although he was wrong to steal, he did the right thing by coming back and admitting it, and she was sure he’d grow up to be a fine young man, and he was welcome back in the store; however, it was a good thing he hadn’t stolen the chocolate bar from Big Chain Convenience Store next door, because they would have called the police. After they left, I told the lady, “Wow, this place has everything–candy, socks, AND lessons in humanity.”

    Anyway, to make my point a bit clearer, what I saw in that store on Halloween night isn’t the norm anymore. Stores now prosecute shoplifters (even child shoplifters) to the full extent of the law, and neighbours might not have the time or the willingness to, say, oversee a child doing chores for them to compensate for breaking a window while playing baseball in their yard, so they’ll either take the kids’ parents to small claims court, or just act hostile towards the whole family for an indefinite period of time. Either way, it contributes to parents being nervous about their kids doing things like playing an ad-hoc game of baseball, because someone could get hurt, something could get broken, and someone could overreact to the point that a child WOULDN’T be able to “make it better.” I’m not saying that neighbours should take responsibility for parenting other people’s kids, but there needs to be a certain amount of “live and let live.” Some people have kids who play sports outside, or draw with water-soluble kids’ chalk on communal sidewalks, some people like to have parties on weekend evenings, some people have dogs that run around outside in their yards, and sometimes bark, some people have babies who cry from teething, etc., but if all these people live in the same neighbourhood together, then a little patience (and possibly getting to know each other), goes a long way.

  20. SP February 22, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Well, abuse is a loaded word but helicopter parenting is often a misguided approach which stifles the child and damages her/him.
    My experience as a child had a lot in common with helicopter parenting, although it was for different reasons. My mother has mental health issues (NPD) and saw me as an extension of herself. I was engulfed and not trusted to be able to do things on my own. The craziness didn’t really begin until I began to become my own person, about 8-10 years old. It was hell as a teenager and young adult. And now I’m in therapy to understand why I lack confidence and have had to struggle so much.
    So, given that I had an engulfing mother and helicopter parenting is a form of engulfing a child, I can say it does harm. It stifles. As I approach mid-life I wonder, “Who am I? What do I want? Why has it been so difficult for me?” If only I had been given the space and support to be my own person and not have my mother involved in every aspect of my life. It could have been different. Engulfing a child and directing his or her life is never helpful.

  21. Michelle February 22, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    I think there can be some crossover, because emotional abuse can often include behavior that would look like extreme helicopter parenting. Being controlling about where someone goes, who they speak to, what they do, etc. can all be part of emotional abuse. A guy I used to know used to try to cut off his girlfriends from their friends and family by claiming, “they’re trying to hurt you, I want to protect you.”

    But to call the standard helicopter parenting that has become rampant in our culture “abusive” is something of an insult to people who have suffered real, actual emotional abuse. I really can’t see putting parents who think it’s dangerous to let their 9yo walk to school on the same plane as the guy who faked a suicide attempt — including cutting himself to produce real blood — to keep his girlfriend from leaving.

  22. Michelle February 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    PS, off topic but yesterday I got a frantic phone call from a neighbor whose daughter is friends with my daughters. She had called the school to say she was stuck in traffic and would be late picking her daughter up from the bus stop, and was told, “We can’t contact the bus driver to let him know. If you aren’t there when they get to your stop, he will take your daughter to the police station.” Apparently that’s standard policy.

    We’re talking about a 9 year old girl who, for the past three years, has taken the bus home from school every day, and previously walked home from the bus stop all by herself. On days that her mother wasn’t home, she walked another block to my house and played with my kids. After she finishes her homework, she’s allowed to run all over the neighborhood (often with my kids), visiting friends and going to the park. But suddenly, this year, she can’t walk one block from the bus stop to her house by herself.

    We’re also talking about a school that is situated *in our neighborhood*, maybe half a mile from her house. The entire walk from the school to her house is through a safe, suburban neighborhood, never crossing any major streets, with a sidewalk the whole way. I often let my 6, 8, and 9 year olds walk up to the school to play on the playground all by themselves. It’s ridiculously safe. But the school won’t allow a 9 year old to walk one block from the bus stop to her house by herself.

    They also won’t allow my teenaged daughter to pick her up from the bus stop, which I learned when she told me that the driver yelled at her for “not being an adult.” A 9 year old can’t even walk one block through a safe neighborhood with a 15 year old supervising her!

    The result is that my poor neighbor, a single mom who runs a business out of her home so that she can be home with her daughter, had to run all over town to two different police stations (the first place they told her to go was apparently not the right place) to pick up her daughter, just because she was ten minutes late getting home. How humiliating and infuriating that had to be for her! :(

  23. Donna February 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    As someone above said, parenting is a continuum. Just like freedom can move to neglect in the lower end of the continuum, so can helicopter parenting move to abuse at the upper end of the continuum.

  24. mollie February 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Any label is a shorthand way of expressing that something we value isn’t being supported the way we’d like. Take “control freak.” When you call someone that, there are probably many things that you value “wrapped up” in your label of that person. Could be things like choice and autonomy, harmony, ease, respect, trust, shared reality, or just plain old peace.

    So. When we call something “abuse,” what is it that we value so much? Well-being and safety, I would guess. In my own life, I shy away from labelling anyone or their behaviour, but speak as clearly as I can from a place of connection to what I value.

    “She’s a control freak helicopter parent who is abusing her child,” becomes something like this:

    “When I hear Susan say to her son, ‘You can’t ride your bike to the park — what if a bad person knocks you off your bike and abducts you? That happens all the time, you know,’ and then see her son’s face afterward, which looks to me like discouragement and frustration, I feel overwhelmed with an urgent, itchy feeling inside, I guess because I care so much about kids learning and growing through their experiences away from their parents, and I have a lot of concern for this child’s short and long-term well-being. I wonder if there’s a way for me to speak to Susan about this without judging or blaming her, but simply telling her what I am seeing and what I care about?”

  25. Molly Wingate February 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    For those of us who have seen real abuse — this isn’t it. That doesn’t mean that helicopter parenting is a good idea. It isn’t. Helicoptering is parenting without thinking about the individual kid; it is parenting to take care of the parent’s fears. Every kid needs nurturing, every kid needs support,every kid needs to be listened to and respected every day. So parenting should look different for every kid. There is no default parenting mode that results in a healthy relationship and a healthy kid. Not only that, the parent is exhausted!

  26. JJ February 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Michelle, wow. The POLICE station? That whole thing absolutely stinks and hits home the idea of not only infantalizing our kids but how schools overreach their authority. This has been brought up before but shouldn’t rhe school’s responsibility end when the kid makes it to the curb? It also bothers my sense of social justice–it iis almost as if the district requires families to have the luxury of one parent staying home or an everyday babysitter.

  27. Puzzled February 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    The mix of comments is interesting, and brings up what I see as an interesting issue. We have some comments pointing to infantalization and its close cousin, entitlement, and others (at least one) pointing to the opposite: the criminal justice system being used for kid problems.

    How can these two coexist? In law there’s the idea of “being tried as an adult.” I often wonder at this – why do we reserve the right to treat a child as capable of making adult decisions only when it allows us to punish the child more? Why not ask the tough-on-crime prosecutor to try the child on trial for underage drinking as an adult – which would mean he’d be released?

    But, no – the only evidence we accept that a child is capable of making informed decisions is a hideous crime. Or, increasingly, a minor crime, like shoplifting or talking back to the teacher.

    It’s a bizarre sociological mix, certainly. Understanding how society now treats children cannot stop with helicopter parents, it has to also include SROs arresting kids.

  28. socalledauthor February 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    I don’t like the use of the word ‘abuse’ in this context (because it’s too easy for the other side to equate free-range parenting with neglect– kick the kids out the door and ignore them in the alleged name of ‘autonomy’ are the charges.) In the extreme, the level of control and subtle- belittling, along with instilling fear, can be abusive– like someone else mentioned, if the party being controlled and restricted in the extreme was an adult boyfriend or girlfriend, it would be consider an abusive relationship. (Again, that’s in the extreme. Children are still children and need guidance and rules that are not appropriate for adults.)

    I see some of the damage done by helicopter parenting, actually, working in an alternative high school. We get- the helicopter parents who want to protect their child from all wrongs, including those that the child brought on themselves– these parents demand to know what the SCHOOL is doing about little Billy skipping class. Or how else the SCHOOL will make little Susie actually complete her homework. These students are the ones who struggle with following rules, with self-reliance, and with personal accountability. They are often rudderless in life. Some even sabotage their graduation so they don’t have to move on in the big scary world (especially if our school is the first time they felt safe and comfortable.)

    I think one of the more insidious types of helicoptering is the refusal of parents to put responsibility on their children– it’s always someone else’s fault. These parents teach their kids to find someone else to blame, especially the teacher. If you cannot accept your own culpability, you cannot change the behavior! The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, as the saying goes. These children are being short-changed by their parents attempts to save them. Is it abusive– not likely, but it does suck for the kids, and anyone who has to deal with them!

  29. Emily February 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    @Michelle–That story is crazy on many levels, but I couldn’t help but crack up a bit at the idea of a bus driver yelling at a 15-year-old for “not being an adult.” I mean, what’s she supposed to do? Say, “Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Bus Driver,” and magically age another three years on the spot?

  30. NicoleK February 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    It’s annoying, it’s obnoxious, but no, it’s not abuse. Can we stop calling every parenting style we disagree with abuse?

  31. Mae Kiernan February 22, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    @Michelle, Wow. I find that scary. On a lot of levels. How is it good for a 9 year old to be taken to a police station? I know she wasn’t booked or anything, but still… I think it would be normal for a 9 year old to be terrified. And how long before you’re late for pick up, and they take away your kid?

    Also, 100 years ago it wasn’t unheard of for 15 or 16 year old “kids” to get legally married, start families, and run their own households. Have we devolved as a species?

  32. missjanenc February 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    I wonder if any of you saw Dr. Phil yesterday about a helocopter mom who does her kids’ homework, performs background checks on friends’ parents and ensures there are smoke detectors before she lets them sleep over. When her son played baseball and he didn’t get enough play time she called the league president to raise hell. When one kid got beat up she sent her other kid to beat up the perpetrator. But worst of all was watching this psycho floss her 15 year-old’s teeth.

  33. Fear less February 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    I agree with Jennifer and others. Calling hover parenting abuse is just more of the same problem. Hover parenting is not ideal for our children. It is not best, but it is not abuse. Our kids aren’t being abused just because they aren’t getting the best of everything. As parents, we are all going to screw up at least sometimes and in at least some ways, and yet our kids will be fine. This is the spirit behind free range.

  34. lollipoplover February 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    @Emily and Michelle- that is a horrifically crazy story. The 15 yo could be a mother herself. I babysat myself at age 9.

    As for parents overdoing it and getting overinvolved- they just can’t take it when someone else criticizes or punishes their child. I truly mean this- the sooner we teach our children to start taking responsibility for their actions (and consequences) the sooner they mature into responsible adults. But these parents have so much vested in these young proteges that they take it as a personal attack when the children are held accountable.

    My favorite “How Dare You!” parenting moment came when my son was smashed in the face with a baseball bat. I wasn’t at that game (yes, bad mom) but heard there was a lot of blood. But my boy just spit out his busted front tooth, no big deal. The offending boy who swung the bat (against the rules, no swinging bats in the dugout) was yelled at- he broke a rule.
    My husband took my son to get fixed up (he had to get his permanent tooth rebonded and stitches in his lip). The helicopter mom called the coach up to reprimand him for yelling at her son. She said it was an accident and not his fault and even complained that she felt her son was punished by not being playing as much as the other players. The coach was incredulous- she had not a concern for my son nor did allow her son to accept any responsibility for his actions. He wrote HER up.
    Life lessons come when we allow our kids to accept the consequences of bad decisions. How else will they learn?

  35. Emily February 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    @Jennifer and Fear Less–It sounds like that’s the crux of this debate. Some people say that we can’t just call “kids not getting the best of everything” abuse, but the paradox is, some parents do the helicopter/bubble-wrap thing, precisely BECAUSE they want their kids to have the best. They want them to be 100% safe, play with only the best, safest, most educational toys (One Step Ahead, anyone?), get perfect grades in school, associate only with the “right” kids, from the “right” families, attend activities supervised by perfect, background-checked adults, and go off to the best colleges and universities, and choose the “best” (i.e. most lucrative) majors.

    The only problem with that is, by trying to ensure your kids get the “best” of everything, it’s easy to rob them of independence, which is also an important skill to learn. Free-range parenting is the opposite of that, because it begins from the idea that kids don’t have to have the best of everything all the time, that if they love and care about their kids and do their best, everything will more or less work out in the end, and that kids should be given some autonomy, even if it means letting them make mistakes. Anyway, my parents are both lawyers, and my mom told me that “failing to provide the necessities of life” is a form of child abuse, and grounds for taking the kids away. In a way, helicopter parenting is failing to provide kids with independence, which could arguably be construed as a “necessity of life.” However, this is a somewhat amorphous ground, because it’s not as obvious as seeing a child being denied food, or warm clothing in the winter. That’s why we even have forums like this one, because the free-range issue isn’t a hard-and-fast set of rules; it’s an ongoing discussion.

  36. hineata February 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    @missjaneinnyc – I laughed at your comment on the 15 year old having her teeth flossed by her mother. While I wouldn’t go that far – yet – I have resorted to sniffing my 12 year old’s breath morning and evening, because the little darling has a terrible habit of forgetting to brush her teeth. I don’t know, maybe that is helicoptering, but in my mind it’s more about not wanting to waste the thousands we have already had to spend on her mouth, and the more that’s likely to come (Asian jaw issues – think hard before you crossbreed, the dental bills can be astonishing, LOL!).

    Still, she trained into town and bought the Christmas presents last year for me, so things aren’t too bad…

  37. Emily February 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    @Hineata–How did you manage to send your daughter to buy the Christmas gifts, while still keeping your gifts to her a surprise until the big day? Also, as for the teeth-brushing issue, have you thought about, instead of doing breath checks, taking your daughter to pick out a really cool toothbrush, so she’ll WANT to brush her teeth? I remember having a Crest Spinbrush shaped like a mermaid, and it was the COOLEST THING EVER. The only problem was, one time, I was sitting in the library at school, and I had the toothbrush in my purse, and it must have bumped up against something by accident, because it started spinning, and making its buzzing noise, and everyone around me thought it was a vibrator, until I pulled out the toothbrush and showed it to them.

  38. hineata February 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    @Suze – I think maybe not. Also that it is hard to parent and easy to make mistakes, and that your kids are likely to whine and be self-indulgent occasionally whether you helicopter or not, because most everyone is at times.

    As an example, my sixteen year old boy is off at his sisters’ Guide Camp this weekend, doing the cooking with my husband because my leg is still not up to camping, and we had agreed to be quartermasters months ago. It was good of him to do it, but he is not exactly thrilled about it all, and while he is doing the work I have already had one moaning phone call about how ‘bored’ he is (hard to imagine, since he’s been up from dawn cooking toast etc over a fire, where he found the time to be bored.)

    Oh, thank goodness, something funny even as I typed this – he just rang to say that he’s having a laugh now, watching his supposedly high-IQ sister and her group attempting to throw (!) a marble in an open-ended tube from the campground down to the river. (All the other groups, composed of normal IQ, hence far more commonsense individuals, had connected all the tubes available together, so the marble run carried said marble straight down to the river). So at least now maybe I won’t hear about how he was ‘forced’ to go on camp for the next month!

    BTW, he’s allowed his phone because he’s one of the ‘adult’ helpers (whether he’s acting like one or not!) – a no-no for the girls.

  39. hineata February 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Also, anyone want two reasonably attractive girls and quite a good-looking boy (well, once the braces come off and the pimples stop!) as marriage partners for their kids? We could set them up independently in their own homes. Mine can all cook, sew, clean etc – they just can’t, currently, get along with each other!

    Am heartily sick, this week, of teenage hormones, LOL!

  40. Donald February 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    This article is AMAZING! It’s saying what I have felt for a long time but couldn’t explain it.

    I don’t think abuse is the correct word. Although helicopter parents have no intention of causing harm to their children, they certainly are stunting their growth and causing them to be dependent on them. I’m glad this ‘damage’ is being investigated and it should be without judgement.

    I love some of the comments on this page. Finger pointing is what brought this mess on in the first place. Let’s not join the bandwagon and blame helicopter parents. They are only trying to what’s what they think is best. These comments are also a good wake up call. I sometimes get too judgmental even though I don’t intent to be.

  41. hineata February 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    @Emily – easy, I just gave her money for her present :-). Which she wanted anyway, so I guess it wasn’t a surprise.

    Hadn’t thought about the cool toothbrush idea, but the selection isn’t that amazing down here, though we do have those expensive Braun ones. Might look into it….Alternatively I could threaten to extract her teeth myself with my husband’s socket wrench, but that might actually be classified as abuse….

    And the vibrator thing is hilarious!

  42. Emily February 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    @Hineata–That’s awesome about your son, both that he’s nice enough to step in and help your daughter at Guides (even though I have a feeling that you might have influenced that decision somewhat), and the fact that the Girl Guides in wherever you’re from, are willing to allow that. Here in Canada, they have very strict rules about “supervision ratios.” They have different ratios for different age groups, for different categories of activities–green for “completely safe,” yellow for “moderate risk,” and red for “most risk.” However, besides the fact that they don’t recognize that the colour levels are subjective (for example, I wouldn’t trust Sparks* with glue guns, but Pathfinders would be no problem), they DON’T COUNT MALES as “supervising adults.” That’s right–in order for an adult to be counted in the “supervision ratio,” that adult must be female.

    I don’t think the Girl Guides in Australia have any such rule (or, if they do, they never mentioned it while I was there), but all I can think is, that’d be a pretty “interesting” conversation to have at Brownies–“Hey, kids, whose mother can come with us on the field trip to the zoo?”; “My father can come.” “Okay Suzie, that’s great, but we’re looking for MOTHERS.” “Why?” Then, all of a sudden, you have a room full of seven-and-eight-year-olds wondering the same thing, and how do you explain it? To be fair, fathers, uncles, older brothers, and other adult males are allowed to participate in Girl Guide outings, etc., but they still aren’t counted in the supervision ratio, so I think that sets a message to young girls, that males are second-class citizens who can’t be trusted. That’s a horrible message to send to a little girl with no mother, or a child who lives with her dad on the weekends, or even just a kid in an intact family whose mother has a prior engagement on the day of the big Brownie field trip, and an even worse message to the father/uncle/older brother/whatever who wants to step up to the plate and help.

    P.S., For the uninitiated, Sparks are the pre-Brownie level in Canada, so they’re five and six years old, and Pathfinders come after Guides, but before Rangers, so they’re between 12 and 14.

  43. hineata February 22, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    @Emily – that’s terrible! About the males, I mean. Actually, if we’d had similar rules this particular camp would have had to be cancelled, as on top of me being out, our ‘chief’ managed to fall over on playground duty last week and snap her kneecap in half, so she’s out too. Half the adults on this camp now are men. Though because of his age, my boy is not actually allowed to directly supervise the girls – he’s there chiefly to do the donkey work!

    And you’re right about the ‘influence’, though it was more from hubby. Without sparking another debate about culture, as I know plenty of white kids who are very helpful and family-oriented, for Chinese kids there is most always that expectation that you will help out when needed, your personal thoughts on the matter being not terribly important. Very true for my hubby, and it hasn’t hurt the kids….Right at this moment, Boy appears to be actually enjoying himself. Amazing what a change in attitude and a little morning tea can do!

  44. Eliza February 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    @Michelle, I can kind of understand the school’s policy. Unfortunatly schools have had to become responsible for students outside of school. For instance, my daughter went to a birthday party for a girl at her school on a Saturday night. There was a fight and one of the girl ended up with scratch marks up her arm. The parent made a complaint at the school asking them what they were going to do about it, and was very upset when the school had not heard of the incident until then. Because of new school department guidelines, the school had to take on the responsibility. This is also the case if a child is being threatend over social media, in their bedroom. Unfortunatly these rules effect you and me, who would not make a complaint if anything happened to their child, like when my daughter sprained her ankle while walking home from school. The problem with helicoptering parenting is not only is it causing issues with their child, it is also affecting how my daughter and your children decision making in everyday situations.

  45. Eliza February 22, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    Just read my comment. I did not mean that the party was on school grounds. The party was at the girl’s home.

  46. Emily February 22, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    @Hineata–You’re from China? I had no idea; I thought you were from the U.K. or some other Commonwealth country, because of the way you talk/write. Anyway, if your son helped out with the Girl Guide camp even partially willingly, then good for him–give him props for me…..and to yourself as well, for being so perfectly bilingual that I thought you were from an English-speaking country.

    Anyway, about the rules of Girl Guides in Canada, the “males don’t count as supervising adults” thing started because some man, somewhere, at some point, sexually assaulted someone’s sister’s friend’s cousin’s college roommate’s kid, at a Guide event. Nobody remembers which kid, and some people aren’t even sure if it actually happened, but since it COULD happen, and it’d be terrible, then all supervising adults must be female, no ifs, ands, or buts.

    As for the “supervision ratio” rule, I actually asked about that during my phone screening, not to be argumentative, but just so I could understand better. Like I said before, even the colour levels are subjective (i.e., some things that are safe for twelve-year-olds, aren’t safe for five-year-olds), but also, they have a rule that the kids can NEVER be unsupervised, until the age of TWELVE. So, I asked what exactly constitutes “supervision” in their eyes. Does it mean standing over the kids and watching their every move, or would it be okay to send the kids, in pairs or small groups, on a scavenger hunt in a safe public park, with adults at a checkpoint within shouting/running distance, in case someone needs first aid, etc.? Do the rules about supervision relax as the girls get older, or does it go straight from constant supervision in Sparks through Guides, to allowing Pathfinders to independently take a Greyhound bus to a Jamboree several hours away? Of course, “black and white, all or nothing” is a recipe for disaster, but there seems to be a lot of that in Guides. At any rate, the woman doing the screening (who seemed otherwise nice enough) couldn’t answer any of these questions, which I thought were relevant. I figured it’d be better to ask them then, than to have to ask later, when I was, say, faced with a group of eleven-year-olds who wanted to have a scavenger hunt.

    Anyway, a few months later, my application got rejected, AFTER I’d finished the application, multiple references, online Safe Guide training, and re-did my First Aid and CPR certification here in Ontario, as per their rules. I’m hoping this was just a “supply and demand” issue, but judging by the tone of the message I got, which made reference to “after conducting screening…..”; and “membership at the adult level is not guaranteed……”; I’m guessing not. So, I’m going to wait until I’m back in Australia, to volunteer with the Girl Guides again. I’m not saying that Australia is perfect, but the attitude towards children there is much different–kids often play outside independently, ride bikes and skateboards alone, and even go to the beach without their parents. In fact, you can buy bicycles there that have surfboard/body board racks on the back, for precisely this purpose. At Guides, the focus is on fun and community first, and of course safety is taken into consideration, but they don’t treat children like china dolls, and adults like criminals.

  47. Emily February 22, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    P.S., I forgot to mention, I’m not trivializing sexual assault by any means–it’s a terrible thing, and it takes a lot to recover from, but I still think it’s wrong to assume that every man, everywhere, even a perfectly innocuous Brownie dad who wants to accompany his daughter and her friends to the zoo, is a potential pedophile. Besides, doesn’t it occur to these people that, in at least some families, it’s the father who’s signing the cheques for dues, uniforms, field trips, badges, etc., so their child can even BE a Girl Guide in the first place? It doesn’t seem like a good business practice to effectively accuse your customers (but only the MALE customers, of course), of being child molestors.

  48. Donald February 22, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    The term ‘abuse’ is debatable. Whatever it’s called, this article give us great ammunition against police, school principals, and busybodies that are trying to make it the law that you MUST helicopter parent.

  49. hineata February 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    @Emily – oh dear, no,- though I suspect you’re joking,and I’m too clueless today to get it! – I am definitely not from China! Neither is hubby, though he is probably more Chinese than the mainlanders these days, after years of Communist rule. He’s ethnic Chinese from Malaysia and I’m bi-racial Pakeha (white)/Maori, from NZ, definitely more on the fat white side lookswise these days. And we definitely live in NZ – Malaysia has a culture I like parts of, and wildly prefer not to have to put up with other parts of. Hubby agrees, so we live here :-).

    Hubby tends to follow the Chinese rules for parent/child interaction, which seem to be love the child/have high expectations for the child/expect instant obedience from the child. Respect flows from child to adult in what I’ve seen of Chinese culture, with none of this nonsense (!) about it having to be earned. Quite the opposite of some other styles of living.Works okay most of the time, though causes some friction occasionally because we do live in a Western society (as third world as those who’ve never been to the third world joke that it’s becoming). :-)

    Back to the Guides – I am amazed that you have enough Guide leaders up there that you can turn people down. I think the only thing that might put people off being accepted as leaders here is if they had an actual record for child murder, LOL! You’re welcome to come down here and join me immediately, sight unseen. I’m very stuck for adults at the moment, given our current propensity for injuring ourselves….

    As for not treating adults as criminals in Aus, I thought that a criminal past was a necessity….:-) . (And yes, no doubt that joke is growing old!).

  50. Elisabeth February 22, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    I don’t know if it actually IS abuse, but I think that using that as the frame to convey the message that helicoptering is harmful to kids is a great way to get the parents most guilty of doing it to listen up!

  51. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt February 22, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Good point, Elisabeth — sometimes it takes a hyperbolic term like “child abuse” to get folks to step back and look at their behavior. I tend to think the term is overused and should be reserved for serious cases, but there is little doubt that excessive helicoptering is harmful to kids.

    I’m interested in the thread about male supervisors for Girl Guides/Scouts. I’m a dad of two daughters approaching “Daisy” age, and I often take them camping and hiking. I had thought it would be fun to help out with a troop, but it sounds as if I’d be seen as a potential pedophile. That’s a great incentive to be involved!

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    http://www.lethereatdirt.com
    One dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  52. Emily February 22, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    @Hineata–Thanks for clearing that up. I thought you might be from New Zealand, but I had no idea that you were also Maori, or that your husband was ethnic Chinese from Malaysia. Anyway, about the Girl Guides, I wonder about that all the time–how do they have enough adults that they can turn people away, and how do they have enough participants to stay in business, despite all the uber-safety and paranoid craziness. I think that those two things might be connected somehow–participation is dropping, so they don’t need as many adults, so they turn people away, so the entire Guiding movement is shrinking.

    Also, you know how you said that, if your daughter’s Guide group hadn’t recruited your husband and son, and other males, to help with the camping trip, then it would have had to have been cancelled? Well, if that had happened in Canada, the answer would have been to cancel the trip. According to the Safe Guide training I took (and got perfect, but still walked away with questions, because life is never as clear-cut as any manual makes it out to be), if a proposed event isn’t “perfect” from a health and safety perspective, it can’t happen.

  53. Emily February 22, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    @Let Them Eat Dirt–Don’t worry, I think men can still be Girl Scout leaders in the States; at least they can according to this dad’s blog:

    http://khellriegel.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/brownie-girl-scout-leader-update/.

    Now, don’t quote me on this, because this blog is from 2011, so for all I know, the rules might have changed since then, but if they haven’t, then I guess you’re free to Daisy it up with your daughters, and you know, I’m glad you want to. You only get so many years with kids, before they decide that they’re way too cool to be seen in public with their parents, so good for you for making the most of it now.

    Oh, and I read a bit of your blog, and I had to laugh at the comment about not wanting your daughters “hawking Thin Mints to old biddies.” In my experience, Thin Mints (not to mention the original chocolate/vanilla sandwich cookies) are so popular that you just have to say the word, and people stampede to buy them. When I was at Bishop’s, there was a girl in the choir with me who was a Girl Guide leader, and she made a killing selling Thin Mints just to other people in the choir. Also, while we’re at it, they taste even better frozen.

  54. hineata February 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    @Emily – oh, how ridiculous, of Guiding Canada, I mean. Anything can go wrong on these trips, and usually does. Boy was in touch again, saying that ‘some girl’ had burnt her foot when the kids managed to upend a pot of macaroni on her- the kid just stood in the river until it stopped hurting, and the biggest fuss came from the adults, who had to share the far more fancy pasta dish hubby made for them with this clumsy group.

    You have to expect pain, when you get a bunch of kids in the outdoors. Someone sometime will do something to hurt themselves….

  55. Emily February 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    @Hineata–That sounds like a lot of the outtrips I went on at summer camp. I was only involved with the Girl Guides of Australia for two months, before I had to return to Canada because of a problem with my visa that came up after I joined, so there wasn’t enough time to get the insurance together so I could accompany my Brownies to their five-day camp. But, I was proud of my Brownies; of the first-timers for bravely facing up to the challenge of five days without their parents, and of the kids who’d been to camp before, for making the first-timers feel comfortable, and helping them to have fun–and, from the stories they told me upon their return, I take it that they had a blast.

    But anyway, I used to attend Camp Kitchikewana, every summer from 1994 through 2000, so I was age 10-16. When we went tripping, we had a lot of positive moments, but we also had to deal with rain, injuries, getting lost, gross food, having to boil our water because the water purification drops went missing, and all manner of other things.

    In fact, during JUST the hiking trip my L.I.T. year (1999, age 15), I rolled my ankle, got stung by a bee, got hypothermia because it rained, and I didn’t properly waterproof my things (stupid me), and got blisters all over my feet. A few days after we got back from the trip, I managed to stumble over a hornet’s nest while we were playing some kind of hide-and-seek game, and I got stung by SIX bees, all over my feet. The camp doctor couldn’t really do much for me. If I remember correctly, I also got pharyngitis that summer, which is different from laryngitis, but it looks and feels exactly the same. I think I got sick at camp more summers than not; usually with swimmer’s ear, a cold, some kind of throat problem, stomach issues from the bad food, or any combination of the above.

    Anyway, we didn’t stop going on hiking trips or canoe trips when things went wrong, no parents sued the camp when their kids got ill or injured, and my parents didn’t stop SENDING me to camp, even though they knew that things could, and did, go wrong.

    As for your situation, I’m glad that the girl who burned her foot turned out to be okay, and honestly, I don’t know what the “Canadian” answer to that would be–I guess it’d be to make sure everyone wears close-toed shoes around the fire, but then that doesn’t always work out in reality. Maybe the kids just came from swimming, and quickly threw on sandals before coming for dinner, maybe someone’s sneakers got wet from the rain, and they’re drying on the clothesline, or maybe, you know, nobody wants to wear sneakers around the campsite, because they’ve been hiking in them all day, and they smell really bad. Whatever the case, there are a lot of “ideals” like this, that’d happen in a perfect world, but you can’t really enforce them EVERY TIME, because it’s either not possible, or it’d put a damper on the overall experience if you just went by the book all the time, and didn’t use judgement at all. At that dinner, someone dropped boiling pasta on someone’s foot, but there was really no way to predict that happening. Girl Guides of Canada also considers campfire cooking to be a “yellow” activity, so that means a higher supervision ratio than you’d have at a regular meeting, say, making beaded geckos, but even if there were fifty adults there (all female, of course), none of them could have swooped in fast enough to reverse the course of gravity and stop the macaroni and water from landing on the girl’s foot. I suppose if the adults did the cooking, it might have decreased the chance of the macaroni accident, but it would have also defeated the purpose of teaching kids to cook over a campfire–which was, of course, for the kids to have a chance to actually cook.

  56. Lisa February 22, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Helicopter parenting is not “abuse”. It is not a parenting style that I agree with, nor one I practice, and if asked for my opinion (and often when not), I will tell anyone listening that I don’t think it is in kids’ best interest. But it is not abuse.

    Somehow, we as a society have gotten the idea that every decision we make as parents has life-altering consequences. The reality, IMO, is that in most cases, it just doesn’t matter that much. That doesn’t mean that I, like everyone else, don’t put a lot of thought into my decisions and try very hard to do what’s best for my kid. But at the end of the day, I think we need to step back and realize that mostly, kids turn out ok no matter what day-to-day decisions we make. I wish more of my daughter’s friends had been allowed to walk to the park or to each other’s houses a few years ago (she’s 10 now). I’m proud of her, and her independence, and what a cool little person she’s turning out to be. I think my decision not to infantilize her helped her to develop the way she has. But her friends’ parents made the decisions that were right for their families. They love their kids, and did the best they could – just like I do. Their kids are just fine. Too many parents derive their own value from what they do for their kids, and then they need to believe that every decision is REALLY important. It starts in infancy (breast feeding, or formula? Co-sleeping, or crib? Sleep training, transitioning from bottle to cup, when and in what order to introduce food), and we never stop (parents researching the college application process, and struggling with the decision of which school is best for their child.) Truth: mostly, they turn out ok – so co-sleep if it works for you, but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t. Give your kid a ride to school if that makes sense in your day-to-day life, but make them walk if driving them is inconvenient. Leave them home alone, or hire someone to hang out with them. Allow them to do as many extracurricular activities as they want, or limit them to just one so they’re not “over scheduled” . But love them, and let them know that you do. And they will be ok. So with the kids whose parents make different choices than you do.

  57. JJ February 23, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Eliza, do your kids go to private school or public? I simply can’t imagine that a public school has the right to intervene or even know about a fight at a private home on a weekend. I know some private schools hold kids accountable for certain type of behavior outside of school (illegal drug use for instance) but in that case you are bound by a context.

  58. JJ February 23, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    I meant contract not context

  59. renee February 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    The phrase that struck me was “parenting for the short term.” I think this is a symptom of our culture. We want instant gratification. We want everything NOW. Why save our money for a purchase when we have credit cards? Why save for retirement when we want to go on vacation now? Why should we make ourselves and our children unhappy day to day? They can worry about that when they are adults. Very little long-term thinking and planning is going on in our society.

  60. renee February 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Eliza, I just read your story about the birthday party, and policy on social media. I’m biased because we homeschool and always have. But all I can say is – how in the world has the public schools (government) taken so much control of your children? I mean that in the general sense, not you personally. How has the government come in and stolen so many of your parental rights? Is it even legal for the public schools to have any say at all in what goes on in your home? Under what rule in the constitution does it allow PUBLIC SCHOOL officials (not police or military) to enter your home and make decisions? Lenore, are there any actual court cases that have been heard regarding the lawfulness of SCHOOLS entering a child’s bedroom and then making judgments based on what went on in the bedroom? I cannot imagine that is legal. And why have parents just accepted that?

  61. fred schueler February 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    all adult-organized sports might be considered a form of child abuse, since they waste so much of the kids’ time (of course this is also true of compulsory age-segregated schooling). I remember that my brothers and I stopped playing baseball when the rest of our cohort went off to Little League, because instead of playing ball they’d spend most of the time sitting on a bench or standing around.

  62. Library Momma February 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    My husband recently had a conversation with someone who implied we might be helicopter parenting because we homeschool, but in my mind these two things are not the same (you can helicopter parent a child who goes to a traditional school just as much as you can a homeschooled child). However, my question is what do you do with a child who refuses to do anything without mom or dad present while still practicing the principles of attachment parenting yest encouraging age-appropriate independence?
    I tried to encourage my son to stay home alone while I attended a homeowner’s meeting just a few hundred yards down the driveway.I put on the TV for him and let him watch a movie, yet he came out every five or 10 minutes to see when I’d be home. I don’t know if this is the appropriate place for this question, but I thought I’d ask. Thanks.

  63. hineata February 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    @Library Momma – was wondering two things –

    1/ how old is your son? and
    2/ is there a friend his age (or close) who he can have over as at the times you’re out?

    In my experience with my own kids (and I only have three, so not vast experience, LOL!) the oldest and youngest would stay at home alone with no worries from around the age of nine, (though the youngest seldom gets to – the joys of siblings) but the middle child, now thirteen, hates to do so. Not because she is afraid of anything happening while we’re out, but because she is ‘people mad’ and doesn’t like to hang out by herself. She is fine if a friend is around.

    I still go to the hospital with her to hang out, because she’d probably drive the staff nuts otherwise! (She often gets rooms by herself, to lessen the risk of picking up infections).

    So, is your son like that? If so, I would try and get a calmer friend over to keep him company. I say calmer because you really don’t want to come home and find they’ve been on the gararge roof hurling mud pats at the neighbour’s house, like I did one day :-)

  64. Beth February 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    @Eliza, I find it extremely hard to believe that a school is responsible for the activities of kids at a private home on a Saturday night, or at any other time outside the realm of the school day.

    Is there anything in writing that explicitly states this?

  65. Emily February 23, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    @Library Momma–Since you put a movie on for your son, maybe it would have worked if you’d used the movie to measure how long it’d be until you got home. For example, you could say, “I’ll be home when the movie’s over,” or “I’ll be gone for the time it takes to watch three episodes of Spongebob.”

  66. lollipoplover February 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    @Yan Seiner-
    And then there’s this:
    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/23/17064503-man-sues-parents-for-not-loving-him-enough#comments

  67. pentamom February 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    It’s not clear from Eliza’s comment whether the fight happened at a home, or at the school. If they’re meddling in how kids are affected by social media while sitting in the privacy of their own homes, they’re definitely over-reaching, but the story of the fight itself is a bit less clear. Maybe Eliza can clarify where the party took place.

    If the fight happened at the school, then it seems appropriate that the school should be involved. If not, it’s clearly not appropriate.

  68. Eliza February 24, 2013 at 1:38 am #

    Hi everyone who asked about the party. My daughter does go to a private school (We live in South Australia), but I teach at a public school. The policy is not that a school can tell children who to invite to a party or what social media to use, but if a parent makes a complaint about an incident at the party involving students from that school, or thier child is being bullied or threatned and the child or parent complain to the school, then it does become a school issue and it is required that the school takes action. This is for both public (state) and private schools. By the way an update about the blowout from the party. The parents do not speak to each other and have banned thier children from talking to each other. My daughter has told me that at school the girls have become friends again and have seemed to work everything out, except they cant tell their parents they are now friends because they are scared they would get in trouble. Both parents have rung me to try and get me on “their side.” I just pull out the Im too busy being a single mother and working full time card” and cant find time to get involved.

  69. hineata February 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Might be off topic, but Midge’ s ‘roommate’ in the Ward this morning is a 14 year old boy with a badly smashed leg that he got swimming near rocks. Diving I think, and a rock rolled on him, pinning him down, which is obviously rather dangerous in water. As well as scary you might think. He was pretty relaxed about the whole thing though, saying his mates got him out fine. Which is obviously true, or he wouldn’t be here.

    I wish helicopter parents would realize how capable kids are.

  70. mollie February 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Oh my goodness, Fred, I got such a rush of shared reality reading what you wrote about organized sports that I feel tears in my eyes.

    Thank you for that. Sometimes I feel so incredibly lonely, watching the mechanism of organized sports teams swallow my son’s life.

    Family dinners, downtime, and any kind of taking of responsibility outside of a gym or playing field is sacrificed for hours and hours of drills and, yes, waiting your turn to catch a ball, throw it back, and go to the back of the line.

    How I hate Little League.

    There, I said it.

  71. Emily February 24, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    @Mollie–This may sound crazy, but have you talked to any of your fellow Little League parents? Maybe they feel the same way, and would prefer that their children got more time to just play baseball (or whatever) on their own. So, what if, as an experiment, you and your fellow baseball parents could specifically plan NOT to sign your kids up for Little League this summer, but still exchange contact information with the parents, make sure the kids all know each other’s contact information, and provide the kids with sports equipment and old clothes that can get dirty, and send them to the park on a Saturday afternoon for some unstructured play? If the kids aren’t used to unstructured play, you could plan to get them together the first time, or the first few times, until it becomes habit to just let them make their own fun. Then, maybe a pattern will develop, of one kid texting another to meet everyone at the park (or wherever), and this will become normal. If it doesn’t work, you could always put the kids back in Little League the following summer.

  72. kc February 25, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    I’m not sure if helicopter parenting (in most cases) is abusive but I do think it can be very damaging in an invisible way. And I’m speaking from experience.

    Thankfully my parents never called up the teachers or helped with homework or stalked us but that may be because English is not their first language. They have filled out forms and done paperwork for us even though we insist on them not doing it.

    My sister got driven to and from school her entire school life. We weren’t really allowed to go anywhere/do anything ourselves. The constant message was – “you are not capable of doing this/figuring it our yourself”.

    If we were watching TV and there was any type of conflict (e.g. an argument), she would tell us to change channels because she didn’t want us to watch anything that was not sunshine-lollipops-and-rainbows happy happy. Yeah…..because there’s no such thing as conflict in the real world.

    I’m 30 and my sister is mid-20s and our mum text messages us all the time to tell us….it’s raining. It’s cold outside. It’s windy. It’s hot. As if we can’t tell the temperature ourselves?!??!

    Because our mum did all the housework and…everything for her, my sister is a complete slob and I pretty much end up doing all the housework (we moved out to an apartment) because frankly I don’t like living in a dump.

    Our mum expects me to cook my sister a hot breakfast in the morning (hello…I have to work too! there’s no way I am doing that). Mum comes over every day to take out the garbage, restock the fridge and tidy our apartment (even though I’ve told her multiple times not to). That means she goes through our rooms and shelves.

    She calls every night to check that we are home before 11 and believe me will constantly call until we are both home. I usually hold the phone away while she gets angry at me because my sister is out late. If nobody answers anything she will drive over to check that we haven’t died.

    Seriously. It has happened before.

  73. Suzanne February 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    I agree with Tim Elmore that helicopter parenting is abuse. Abuse is a parenting practice that causes long-term harm or diability and hovering so that children never develop leadership skills or even just basic life skill certainly does that.

  74. T February 25, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    I volunteer for lunch duty weekly at my child’s Catholic school (there are no teachers on duty). I used to get worked up when kids would rough-house with each other. But now, I mostly let them go, making sure as best as I can that it is a not someone bullying someone else. Kids get hurt, and that is life (though I would be freaked out and would feel bad if someone broke her leg or had a head injury).

    When kids come up to me to say that Jonny won’t let them play or Becky is being mean, I tell them to be kind to each other, but for the most part, I let them work it out. It drives me crazy how often these kids want to tell a teacher/adult about every little thing!

  75. Adam Lundstrom February 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I would love to read this article, but I get 404’d from every link to it, nor can I go to Elmore’s website. Is Mr. Elmore the latest target of a vast helicopter parent conspiracy?

  76. KarenTKD March 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Granted, helicopter parenting isn’t the same as an adult physically abusing a child. But I think I understand what the author is getting at. Picture this scenario:

    A parent is screaming at a child.
    “You are hopeless.”
    “You are completely incompetent.”
    “You are nothing without me.”

    If you witnessed a situation like that, you would probably consider the parent to be abusive, even if he/she never touched the child. (Heck, you’d probably consider it abusive if you saw one adult say those things to another adult).

    Actions speak louder than words, and that’s the message that helicopter parenting says. Even if that’s not what the parent intended to say, what else is the kid going to learn?

  77. Jason April 5, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    I would say that helicopter parenting is not abuse. Since helicopter children are missing out on life skills, and developing adult onset diabetes because they’re inactive and improperly fed, I would say helicopter parenting is probably closer to neglect.

  78. nick mike April 10, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    watch the newet movie scarymovie5 here:

  79. BP May 30, 2013 at 1:02 am #

    I’m a product of this control freak insecure parenting! It IS a form of child abuse. Robbing your children of a normal life is just sad and wrong. Children can’t grow if they don’t get a chance to live their own lives and explore. Some of these parents need to stop being so fearful and trying to control everything. Most people who parent like that are general control freaks. if you have really negative personality traits or possible mental issues, you should probably hold off on having children before you mess their lives up like yours was.

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