Helicopter parents are raising anxious, narcissistic adults

They can dominate the lives of adult children too (AAP)

Helicopter parents are raising anxious, narcissistic adults

"Helicopter parents" aren't limited to school kids

Posted on 10.05.2019

New story from Marilyn Campbell on the ABC News website about the dangers of over parenting for teenagers.

The Age newspaper recently highlighted the issue of so-called “helicopter parenting” at universities.

The report talked of parents contacting lecturers to ask about their adult children’s grades, sitting in on meetings with course coordinators and repeatedly phoning academics to enquire about students’ progress.

Over-parenting involves parents using developmentally inappropriate tactics that far exceed the actual needs of their children. It involves excessive protection of children by their parents.

Over-parenting is often called “helicopter parenting”, as these parents hover over their children to make sure nothing goes wrong.

While commentators have been talking about the rise of helicopter parenting among school-aged children for some years now, the idea parents would be using the same tactics on young adults is a bit more foreign.

But researchers have been exploring over-parenting among university students for some years now too, and they’ve found negative consequences for these children, including higher levels of anxiety and narcissism.

What is over-parenting?

Research shows today’s parents spend more time per day parenting than in the 1980s. But we don’t know how many are over-parenting. That’s because most population studies of this nature rely on self-reports and parents are unlikely to admit to being over-zealous or controlling of their children.

Sometimes over-parenting is called “lawnmower parenting”, illustrating how parents clear their children’s life path of obstacles. Others have called this type of parenting like growing up in a greenhouse. Media also refer to children of such parenting as “cotton wool” kids or as being in “bubble wrap”.

Obviously, most parents want the best for their children.

Research shows children of loving and attentive mothers grow up more resilient and less distressed. But at what point is this positive love and care going too far? And is over-parenting actually bad for children?

In 2012, we asked 128 Australian psychologists and counsellors what they considered to be examples of over-parenting. Some of the examples they gave were:

  • cutting up a 10-year-old’s food
  • bringing a separate plate of food for a 16-year-old to a party as he is a picky eater
  • a mother who won’t let her 17-year-old son catch the train to school
  • constantly badgering the school to make sure their child is in a specific class the following year
  • parents rushing to school to deliver items such as forgotten lunches, assignments or uniforms at the whim of their child
  • parents believing that, regardless of effort, their child must be rewarded


Regardless, whether over-parenting comes from too much love or the need to see yourself in your children, it is not the best way of parenting.

A better way is allowing your child to make mistakes and learn from them. To help them when they ask for your help but not to always jump in. Each child is different and so is every parent, so one-size parenting does not fit all. But we know loving and attentive parents have resilient children, so let them be “free range” sometimes, and enjoy being a parent.

Marilyn Campbell

ABC News




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