Helicopter parenting – what is it and where does it come from?

Helicopter parenting is a relatively new concept in our cultural lexicon. It refers to the current cultural tendency of parents with a keen eye to protect our children from all potential sources of harm, risk and / or disappointment. In many ways, helicopter parenting is synonymous with the term “super-parenting” and / or “hyper-parenting”.

Origin of the term “Helicopter Parenting”
The term was first used in the 1990 book entitled “Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility” in a section on “ineffective parenting styles.” From there, the term was picked up in educational circles to refer to some parents’ intensive intervention in the daily aspects of their children’s educational life – their classroom activities, their courses and grades, their communication with teachers and professors, etc.

In this way, when the term helicopter parenting is used pejoratively, it is meant to indicate that parents today are floating too much – that there is such a thing as too much protection, too much parental control, too much supervision, interference and intervention. In fact, the end result of a parenting approach that aims to eliminate as much risk, disappointment, and physical / emotional harm as possible is to constantly hover, helicopter-like, over the least that happens in children’s daily lives.

The argument against helicopter parenting is thus that a certain degree of disappointment, physical / emotional damage and risk, and a certain degree of “handling things yourself” is needed for children to become responsible, resilient, capable, self-sufficient and independent. clear members of society.

Where does Helicopter Parenting Come From?
The desire to minimize, eliminate and manage risks is not unique to the domain of parenting. In fact, “risk awareness” in itself is a central element of modern life. The pursuit of understanding, calculating, communicating, managing and otherwise minimizing or eliminating the innumerable risks associated with our daily lives has become one of the hallmarks of modern post-industrial societies.

In this context, the trend is towards helicopter parenting not simply an isolated issue of overzealous parenting – a case of “ineffective parenting” or “super-parenting” that is in some way at odds with broader cultural behaviors and tendencies. Rather, our broader contemporary obsession with risk and risk management actually expects and demands that we parent with a keen eye towards the various things that can possibly cause some form of physical or emotional harm, injury, discomfort, pain or disappointment.

Modern parenting culture expects parents to have the moral and social responsibility to be extraordinarily “risk-conscious” in relation to their parenting philosophy and behavior. Researcher Ellie Lee, for example, argues that in today’s risky society, “cultural norms … construct the” good / responsible mother “as the mother who is aware of the many risks that contemporary society poses to her children, and believes that it is her job is to manage those risks by referring to expert opinions. “

In other words, the tendency towards helicopter parenting – rightly or wrongly – is a completely logical result of an already risk-averse, expert-led culture.

For the parents’ defense
Understanding where helicopter parenting comes from is not to say that it is necessarily a good thing or a bad thing to do. That is to say, the tendency to want to protect our children from all potential sources of risk (which is often achieved by hovering, intervening and “helicoptering” over our children) is little more than an extension of broader cultural tendencies that define the modern risk society.

That said, parents are often caught in a catch-22. On the one hand, helicopter parenting is interpreted as “super-parenting” and is assessed in a negative light. But if and when we reduce our level of control and commitment and allow our children to be exposed to more risks in their daily lives (ie if we consciously challenge the philosophical foundation of helicopter parenting), we still face the possibility of being negatively assessed, especially if the longer leash results in some form of physical or emotional harm to our child.

The implicit cultural expectation is that parents should not be too risk-averse or too risk-accepting, without getting the balance “just right; in principle to find out how to walk the line.

I have some serious concerns with this implicit expectation of modern parents, especially if it is mainly professionals and “experts” (unlike the parents themselves) who are given the primary authority to define and assess what “reasonably good” parenting is, what optimal mix of risk exposure and risk aversion can be for any child. A behavior that can be considered “too risky” according to one family may be completely within the acceptable risk range according to another. I think this is good and not something that should be limited. We should have variation in our parenting styles and in our risk assessments. It makes us think, it keeps us on our toes, and it makes us discuss and talk about one of the most important jobs in the world, raising the next generation.

Suggestions for further reading
Helicopter parenting is an important phenomenon to discuss, as it speaks to some of the most important tensions in modern parenting culture. As such, I have a couple of suggestions for “further reading”. One is an interesting and balanced article recently published in Time magazine called “The Case Against Over-Parenting”.

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