Why Helicopter Parenting Is A Real Barrier To Child Development

We would all recognise that a close relationship between a child and their parents where the child is kept safe and healthy is an important part of growing up and developing social skills, but what happens when this developmental space is restricted so that the young person cannot learn and grow their skills without the ever-watching eyes of their parents?

Regulating emotions and behaviour standards is a key point in child development and is the route to a happy and successful adult life.

Children rely on caregivers for guidance and understanding of their emotions. They need parents who are sensitive to their needs, who see when they are capable of managing a situation and who will guide them when emotional situations become too challenging. This helps children develop the ability to handle challenging situations on their own as they grow up, and leads to better mental and physical health, healthier social relationships and academic success. Managing emotions and behaviour are fundamental skills that all children need to learn and over-controlling parenting can seriously limit those opportunities.

This can take place in the home and be very destructive: parents constantly guiding their child by telling him or her what to play with, how to play with a toy, how to clean up after playtime and being too strict or demanding in terms of interactions and behaviour sets. This can lead to a number of reactions including defiance, apathy and frustration. Such emotions are then transferred to the learning and social development environments where poor and under-developed emotional and behavioural regulation is frequently observed. Put simply the greater the emotional regulation seen in a child at the age of 5 the less likely that young person is to have emotional problems and the more likely that child would have good social skills to draw upon and to be more productive in a school environment.

Being calm, and having developed calming skills from a balanced parental background, is seen in children effectively managing the complex demands and strains associated with pre-adolescent school environments.

Our challenge as professionals is to try to educate often well-intentioned parents about the critical importance of developing and supporting the autonomy of the child, especially around dealing with emotional challenges. This should include explaining their feelings and the consequences of different responses and the use of positive coping strategies such as deep breathing, listening to music, colouring or retreating to a quiet space.

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