A Look at “Over”-Parenting

Parents and children

The style of overprotective and overinvolved parenting known as “helicopter parenting” is the focus of new research. Examples abound of parents who “cross the line” from expressing a healthy interest and involvement in their children’s lives to hovering. Of course, protecting and helping one’s child are normal parental instincts. As young people mature, though, other not-so-instinctual parenting skills are called for, like helping children learn to make their own decisions and face consequences of their actions. There is a balance to be struck—studies show that teens with actively involved parents not only do better in school but are more likely to enroll in college. Moreover, higher levels of parental involvement correlate to a more positive college experience for students.

Despite the amount of negative attention “helicopter parents” have received in the media, they are a fairly rare species. But you know their basic traits: they can be spotted storming into the school office when Johnny gets a C when he thought he deserved an A; or bringing forgotten homework or lunch money; or picking up SAT applications for a kid who isn’t even planning to go to college; or not only filling out college applications for their child but writing their application essays as well.

Much is being learned about “best practices” in the parenting of maturing teens (not an oxymoron). Rather than micromanage, parents need to help develop decision-making skills. The parent-as-coach provides structure, shares strategies for staying organized, gives advice, and models behavior such as how to negotiate with an authority figure without becoming confrontational. Parents also need to take advantage of opportunities for dialogue; after all, the most important parental skill may listening.

Related Links

  • Are You a “Helicopter Parent”?
    This brief “Eye on Parenting” article focuses on the phenomenon of the hovering, hyperinvolved parent; includes a link to a video interview with a psychologist on the topic.
    (Source: CBS News, August 18, 2010)
  • Confessions of a (Sometimes) Helicopter Parent
    This article puts one mom’s first-person account of close interaction with her first-year college student in the context of parenting issues.
    (Source: Inside Higher Ed, July 16, 2010)
  • Helicopter Parents Reconsidered
    This article discusses pros and cons of parental involvement with about-to-be-college-age children, in searching for a healthy balance; includes a quiz for parents to take.
    (Source: CollegeBoard.com; accessed August 31, 2010)
  • How to Ground a “Helicopter Parent”
    This article presents positive approaches parents can take as their teenage children mature.
    (Source: CNN, August 19, 2010)


  1. meredith says:

    i am a 13 year old that is doing a current event on this topic and wanted to let you knoww this is very moving i am the youngest in my family and have 3 sisters and love this article becasue when i am at school and someone looses something and says o well my mom has it and them has there mom leave work early to drop off when really she left it on her bed this frurates me and she is an only child so this may be why but she is kinda a baby she cant really think for her self and this is what got me from this article. Do you think this is more common for only children?

  2. PopRo says:

    Now if parents keep their kids homeschooled and the kids never develop any social skills, do you think that would really mess the kids up?

  3. Brandi says:

    I feel as if this would be more common among only children, or children of parents who have already lost a child. This, I believe would come from trying to over-compensate for what they don’t have, and making sure their child feels “loved”

  4. sam says:

    I live in a women headed household. I know that my mother has taught me to be a smart and independent young women, a lady that can stand on her own two feet. I understand that not everyone has been taught to be self-efficiant. My mother taught me some really important things.. I love her for not giving everything under the sun I asked for. It taught me to be proud of what I did on my own. My children will have to work and behave to get extra toys they don’t need. They will be taught to be responsible for their actions. Just like I was. I make my own decisions not to drink or smoke.