Helicopter parent

Helicopter parent

Helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. The term was originally coined by Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay in their 1990 book Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility,[1] although Dr. Haim Ginott mentions a teen who complains, "Mother hovers over me like a helicopter..." on page 18 of the bestselling book Between Parent & Teenager published in 1969. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not. In Scandinavia, this phenomenon is known as curling parenthood and describes parents who attempt to sweep all obstacles out of the paths of their children. It is also called "overparenting". Parents try to resolve their child's problems, and try to stop them coming to harm by keeping them out of dangerous situations.[2][3]

Some college professors and administrators[who?] are now referring to "Lawnmower parents" to describe mothers and fathers who attempt to smooth out and mow down all obstacles, to the extent that they may even attempt to interfere at their children's workplaces, regarding salaries and promotions, after they have graduated from college and are supposedly living on their own. As the children of "helicopter parents" graduate and move into the job market, personnel and human resources departments are becoming acquainted with the phenomenon as well. Some have reported that parents have even begun intruding on salary negotiations.[4]



The term "helicopter parents" is a pejorative expression for parents that has been widely used in the media; however, there has been little academic research into the phenomenon. Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay coined and defined "helicopter parents" very precisely in a section on "ineffective parenting styles" in their 1990 book Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. It gained wide currency when American college administrators began using it in the early 2000s as the Millennial Generation began reaching college age. Their Baby Boomer[5] parents in turn earned notoriety for practices such as calling their children each morning to wake them up for class and complaining to their professors about grades the children had received. Some of these parents had chosen their child's college and hired consultants to help fine-tune the application process.[citation needed] Summer camp officials have also reported similar behavior from parents.[6]

The rise of the cell phone is often blamed for the explosion of helicopter parenting — it has been called "the world's longest umbilical cord."[5] Parents, for their part, point to rising college tuitions, saying they are just protecting their investment or acting like any other consumer.Alsop, Ron (2008). The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up The Workplace. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0470229545. 

The phenomenon is described in the British novel "May Contain Nuts" by John O'Farrell.[7] The novel was subsequently made into a television show. In the novel, a child's mother poses as her daughter in order to take her daughter's upper school entrance exams—since she doesn't trust her daughter to do well enough on the examinations herself. The novel nicely illustrates the paradox of a parent wishing to help their child to achieve success while simultaneously undermining their child's self-esteem through preventing them from either achieving independence or experiencing the consequences of their own actions. In Britain, officials have been contemplating changes to their policies regarding the process of applying to university[citation needed]—largely due to rising numbers of helicopter parents.

The American website "collegeconfidential" also provides many venues for parents to be closely involved in their children's college application processes and frequently includes discussions of the phenomenon of helicopter parenting—with parents debating whether it is appropriate to be involved in helping an adult child select university classes to take, whether parents should expect to communicate with university professors or staff to resolve problems like textbook availability or roommate issues, and whether parents should then go on to be involved in decisions regarding postgraduate studies such as whether or not to earn a Master's or Doctorate degree.

Risk aversion

Risk management is a key skill for everybody,[3][8][9] but which some children are denied; helicopter parents often restrict their children's activities.[10][11] Alongside the constant supervision of children is extreme risk aversion and a disproportionate paranoia[12] about risks covered in media reports[13] such as pedophilia. Children are encouraged to spend more time indoors, for example watching television, instead of exploring outdoors. The longer term risks of these practises, such as obesity,[14] bad health and poor risk assessment are accepted because of the perceived child protection advantages. It also deepens generational segregation, encouraging children to view adults as potential abusers.[15]

Institutions such as schools often follow similar risk-averse principles, keeping children in the classroom for more time and forbidding even those activities previously considered a normal part of life. In the longer term, the children remain inexperienced both in dealing with the real world, and in making decisions.


To counter the risk aversion, some parents propose stepping back and allowing children to do their own thing. The term "slow parenting" from Carl Honoré's book Under Pressure,[16] and the books The Idle Parent[17] and Free-Range Kids[18] are broadly equivalent. Forest kindergartens are common in Scandinavia and growing in other countries such as Scotland. Outdoor education or play is gradually gaining popularity.[19]

See also

  • kyoiku mama ("Education mother")
  • Father Knows Worst (Simpsons episode)


  1. ^ Cline, Foster W.; Fay, Jim (1990). Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. Pinon Press. pp. 23–25. ISBN 0-89109-311-7. http://www.loveandlogic.com 
  2. ^ Over-protective Parents on consistent-parenting-advice.com
  3. ^ a b The Biggest Problems Facing Youth by Angela Bennett in Family Times
  4. ^ Armour, Stephanie (2007-04-23). "'Helicopter' parents hover when kids job hunt". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2007-04-23-helicopter-parents-usat_N.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  5. ^ a b Briggs, Sarah; Confessions of a 'Helicopter Parent' (.PDF.), retrieved May 1, 2006
  6. ^ Kelley, Tina (2008-07-26). "Dear Parents: Please Relax, It's Just Camp". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/26/nyregion/26camp.html. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  7. ^ O'Farrell, John (2005). May Contain Nuts. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385606080. 
  8. ^ Loynes, Chris (1992). Is it Right to be Safe? (Annual Review of Environmental Education ed.). Council for Environmental Education. http://www.thresholdconsulting.co.uk/articlesPDF/safe.pdf 
  9. ^ Ungar, Michael. Too Safe for their Own Good. ISBN 978-0771087080. 
  10. ^ Gill, Tim (2007). No fear: Growing up in a Risk Averse Society. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. p. 81. ISBN 9781903080085. http://www.gulbenkian.org.uk/media/item/1266/223/No-fear-19.12.07.pdf. 
  11. ^ Parents are paranoid about child safety warns Government expert referring to Professor Tanya Byron, in The Telegraph, 10 June 2009
  12. ^ "Q & A: Vetting and Barring Scheme". BBC News Web (BBC News). 11 September 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8156124.stm. 
  13. ^ The child safety catch, BBC news 7 February 2001
  14. ^ Childhood Obesity, Parliamentary Science and Technology Postnote 205, September 2003
  15. ^ When panic shapes policy by Mark Easton, BBC Home Editor
  16. ^ Honoré, Carl (2008). Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children From The Culture Of Hyper-Parenting. Orion. ISBN 978-0752875316. 
  17. ^ Hodgkinson, Tom (2009). The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids. Hamish Hamilton. pp. 233. ISBN 978-0241143735. http://idler.co.uk/news/the-idle-parent/. 
  18. ^ Skenazy, Lenore (2009). Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry. Jossey Bass. pp. 256. ISBN 978-0470471944. 
  19. ^ Is it time to let children play outdoors once more?, in The Guardian 30 March 2008

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