Helicopter parenting: It’s a term that has become popular in recent years, but it can be hard to define. All parents are different, so what one family does might seem overprotective — or underprotective — to another family. By the time your child is a teenager, there are certain activities that he or she should be able to do on his or her own. Read through this list of 7 signs you might be a helicopter parent.
1. You Are Doing Your Teen’s Schoolwork
Is your teen busy and finding it hard to get all of their schoolwork done? Are you helping out by typing up papers, answering history questions, or putting the finishing touches on projects? You are not doing your teen any favors. By the time high school rolls around, your adolescent should be handling all of his or her schoolwork. It’s fine to log into the school’s parent portal so you know how things are going, but even this should be winding down by senior year. Your child is now old enough to take responsibility for all of his or her obligations, and that includes schoolwork.
2. You Call Your Teen’s Friends’ Parents
If your teen has a disagreement with a friend, do you get involved? That is a sign that you might be a helicopter parent. Older children and teenagers should have the skills by this point to work out disagreements with friends. Sometimes, you will not like the way they handle these types of issues. You can talk to your teen about other ways to respond, but it’s important that your teen knows that they (nor you) can control someone else’s behavior. The exception is if there is bullying involved. In this case, you should help your teen work with the administrators at school or, if necessary, the police to get the situation resolved.
3. You Are in Contact With Your Teen’s Boss
Many teenagers have part-time jobs. Because teens are new to the employment scene, there will be some stumbles along the way. For example, your teen might not know that they need to give plenty of notice before taking time off. They might not like the way a boss is speaking to them or they might disagree that their job description includes various tasks that the boss is requiring. Work with your teen to overcome unrealistic expectations and to give advice on how they should handle certain situations. In almost every case, however, parents should not be communicating with their child’s superior at work. An exception would be if there were an emergency that made it impossible for your teen to call into work (because they were hospitalized, for example).
4. You Have Asked Your Teen’s Teacher for an Extension
Again, you should not be in regular contact with your teen’s teachers without a clear reason. If there are problems with your teen’s grades, your child should be the one to handle it. If the teacher gives your child a poor grade on an assignment or refuses an extension, you can coach your teen on what to say and do, but it’s not your place to call the teacher. Keep in mind that your teen will be in college in just a few short years, and he or she will need to know how to work with professors and approach them about various topics. If there is a behavioral problem with your child or he or she requires an IEP, then you will be involved; however, as a general rule, allow your teen to handle anything he or she can on his or her own with you acting only as a coach.
5. Your Teen Has No Chores
Are you doing your teenager’s laundry? Are you handling everything related to the evening meal, from shopping to cooking to cleaning up afterward? Who makes your teen’s lunch? If you are bashfully acknowledging that your teenager has no chores, you just might be a helicopter parent. Keep in mind that teens will need to learn how to successfully run a home and keep things relatively clean and sanitary. One way they learn this is by doing household chores. In addition, contributing to the household is important for all family members.
6. You Are Managing Your Teen’s Time
Your teen likely has a full plate. Between school, sports, friends, an afterschool job, family obligations, and personal projects, it can be hard for him or her to figure out what they should be doing at what time. The teen years are the perfect time to learn how to manage time. If you are always the one to direct your teen, he or she is not learning these valuable lessons. A helicopter parent doesn’t want to see their teen fail, but it’s important to understand that only by failing will your teen learn how they need to change their habits for success. Coach and give pointers, but don’t fall into the trap of constantly reminding your teen when assignments are due, what time they need to leave for work, or that they need to eat breakfast more quickly so they won’t miss the bus. Remember, it’s their problem, not yours.
7. Your Teen Has Fewer Privileges Than His or Her Peers
This can be a difficult sign to quantify because every family does have different rules. If yours are stricter on everything, however, it could be that you are a helicopter parent. Take a look at what your teen’s peers are allowed to do and evaluate your own rules to see if they are comparable. There will always be differences; you might not allow your teen out past 11 while some of his or her friends can be out until midnight, and that’s fine. If your teen’s curfew is substantially earlier than that of his friends, however, or if your teens aren’t allowed to go to the mall unaccompanied and all of their friends are, you could be helicoptering. Consider changing some of your rules to give your teen more independence.
In general, to avoid being a helicopter parent, you need to have some faith in your teenager. You’ve spent the last 13 to 18 years instilling your values and what’s important to you, and now is the time to let your teen develop his or her own while still under your watchful eye. Step in if your teen is putting his or her safety at risk or treading into dangerous territory, but don’t save him or her from every mishap. A teen who fails math at 15 is not destined to be homeless as an adult! Watch for signs that there are major issues going on, but as long as your teen seems well-adjusted and is doing what they’re supposed to do most of the time, step back and watch them learn to stretch their wings.