How helicopter parenting can affect youth development

by Dexter P.

Everywhere we look now a days it seems as though you can see an example of over parenting. Whether it is a parent at the park constantly telling their kid to “be careful”, or a parent constantly being at their kid’s sporting events trying to correct them. Parents doing this to their children could be depriving them of fundamental skills in the principles of youth development. Principles such as developing a wide range of knowledge, skills and behaviors, and developing youth capabilities can all be affected by this.

When children are outside playing it is important for them to be able to take risks and learn their limitations. If a parent is constantly watching them, the child is less likely to take risks that can lead to youth development. In this setting if the child is allowed to freely play, climb and swing, they will learn fundamental skills that require challenge and decision-making. This is something that may be lacking in our youth today and will only get worse if we continue to protect them. I worked with someone a few years back and his mother was the perfect example of a helicopter parent. She would not allow her kid to do anything. I remember when he was 17 everyone from work was going to magic mountain. Even at 17 his mother still wouldn’t let him go because she said it wasn’t safe if she wasn’t there. I still see him every now and then today and it is not hard to tell that he missed out on critical youth development skills.

By parents feeling the need to be around their children all the time, it can lead to increased anxiety and less self esteem for them. This is because when parents are constantly around, the child isn’t so much focused on taking risks and growing as much. Most youth are more focused on disappointing their parents so they will not be focused on the task. The best example of this would be in a sports setting. When the child is finally out in the real world without their parents, they are missing out on crucial aspects of youth development because of the over parenting. Many of these youth simply do not know what to do without their parents when they move out.


Parents: Overprotective Mommies and Daddies. (2007). Technique, 27(8), 7-8.

Baumrind (1966). Effects of authoritative parental control on child behaviour. Child Development, 37, 887–907.

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8 Responses to How helicopter parenting can affect youth development

  1. swatson12 says:

    Great post Dexter! I think this topic of helicopter parents and over parenting is very interesting and also a scary reality today. So many parents see the world as a scary place for their children and do not realize all that they are missing out around them by being over protective and not letting them experience things for themselves.

    During the summer, I work at a kids fishing camp, so we see all kinds of parents. Some let their children explore at home and have fun on their own and this is very evident in the activities we do. They are not scared of the water and being outdoors but love the experience. Some of the children who have very over bearing parents are very scared to do new things and often look for guidance on everything and someone to help them through everything. Over the course of the week though many times we will see children start to come out of that mindset and actually are excited to go try new and unpredictable things. Children should always have the opportunity to problem solve and work through things they are not sure of because when they get out in the real world they will have no coping skills or idea how to do anything without mom or dad there beside them.

    Again, great article and on a topic that isn’t always discussed as much as it should be. More information should be out there on this for parents so their child is able to have the most enjoyable and fun childhood as possible.

    -Stephanie W.

  2. Alex says:

    Solid post.
    I agree that helicopter parenting is taking away from youths’ opportunity to grow, develop, and teach them about their limitations. I have not had the opportunity to interact with lots of ‘helicopter parents’, but I certainly see the problem. Although I did not grow up with helicopter parents, I was always under the impression that I was raised with a helicopter mother. Now that I am older and no longer living at home with my parents, i have had the opportunity to think back on some of the things that my mother used to do, and compare that to some of the crazy stories that I hear of hardcore helicopter parents. Looking back, my mother wasn’t as paranoid as I thought she was back then. I was 17 when I went to Magic Mountain for the first time, and I did not go with my parents. I traveled to Moncton from PEI, with a car load of my friends. Although I was 17 when I first went to Magic Mountain, my mother still let me take a day trip with a bunch of other high school students and go to a water park for a day.

    Ultimately, when/if I ever become a father, I hope that I do not become a helicopter parent. I would rather my kids look up to me and look to me for advice, as opposed to fearing me for making a mistake or being afraid to ask me anything with the fear that I simply say “No.”

    Alex W.

  3. Josh McInnis says:

    I believe there is situations of parenting that can allow some repetitive parental involvement, advice such as ” look both ways before you cross” and “be careful” are important instructions for safety and I believe should be constantly used so that children can be aware of dangers.

  4. colinougler says:

    This post is so to the point, that way sly. Basic and to the point – really makes me think about the parents I have dealt with in the past.

    I can remember as a teenager, some activities I would do with my friends included after school activities, go to the mall, go to the movies, and go to Saint John Idol, a singing competition held in the uptown area. All of these activities were without the presence of a parent. Though our parents weren’t physically there, they always knew where we were from dropping us off. If anything ever went wrong, all we would have to do is call.

    My point is even looking back ten years, it seems like an entirely different way of perceiving what youth have the freedom to do. Maybe this is due to being born in the early 90’s, therefore being closer to tradtional perspectives of children not needing to be watched constantly, but we had much more freedom. The same dangers have always been around, we now just have such a standard of classifying everything that situations are constantly labelled as dangerous because they aren’t within our control. However, this aspect has not changed, rather we have adapted to the behaviour of being less lenient.

  5. sportandrecenthusiast says:

    I agree completely with your post Dexter. However, believe the issue is more of a societal issue than a parenting issue. In today’s society, everyone is quick to judge and criticize. If your child is not participating in every opportunity and getting the most out of each moment of his/her day, you feel you are letting your child down and he is falling behind compared to his peers. When in reality, it is the exact opposite. Children today are deprived from free play, self-expression, and creating their own boundaries and limitations.

    This issue was elaborated on in class, and Dr. Shannon-McCallum explained that parents are made to feel guilty about being a dual income family, so each parent is working and not physically home to provide for their child. Therefore, during the time away from the house they want their child in structured activities which promote success. Since it is the social norm for parents to put their children in all of these extracurricular activities, the recreation industry is able to capitalize from this by promoting and offering all of the specialized camps they can, because they know the target population of youth is there.

    Therefore, I agree with all of the downsides of over-parenting and lack of free play. A child needs to be able to experience life on their own, make their own decisions and deal with the consequences, and test their own boundaries and limitations in order to develop to their maximal potential. However, I believe aside from parents recognizing this, there also needs to be a shift in the way recreational programs are offered, so that these programs are also encouraging independence and free play.

    Megan C.

  6. kepo00157 says:

    This is a great post Dexter! I like how clear and concise you were, while still getting the point across.

    Growing up, 2 of my next door neighbours had helicopter parents. The first neighbour, was a family of three siblings. These kids were so sheltered and not allowed to do anything. Whenever they rode their bikes, they had to stay in their drive way and wear elbow pads, knee pads, with a helmet and a bright colored tall flag attached to the back of their seats. They weren’t allowed to play man hunt with the rest of us past dark. Whenever there was a walk to school day, instead of joining the rest of us, they had to walk with their Mom. These kids were in booster seats well into middle school. I also know for a fact that the girl’s mother still washed her hair in tub while she was in highschool. These kids never got to explore their limits or make mistakes, and how to learn from them. They are in university now, and not socially developed to where they should be. The second neighbour wasn’t babied quite as much. She had the freedom to explore and play with us outside past dark, but any time we were in public her mom spoke for her. Her mom would speak for her on the phone, order for her at restaurants and speak to her friends if she had any problems with them. She never had the chance to speak for or express herself. She was always looking to her Mom for approval before doing anything.

    I was brought up completely different. My Mom and Dad always let me dress myself, explore the outdoors, make my own decisions and make my own mistakes. I have grown up to be so independent and self sufficient; which my neighbors did not. Helicopter parenting not only affects children in their youth, but down the road as well.

    Kelsie P.

  7. darrionlyne says:

    Great Post! Over parenting is a very interesting and prevalent topic. Too many parents see the world as a scary and dangerous place even though, statistically, the world is safer than ever for children. What parents do not seem to realize is that they are inhibiting their child’s developmental skills when they over parent to the point where their child has no freedom in their actions or experiences.
    I have not been in the position to deal with ‘helicopter parents’ however, I have seen my friends deal with their over-bearing parents while growing up. Some of my friends would have rules that I did not understand; my one friend was not allowed to have sleepovers until her senior years in high school because her mother was under the influence that she would get into trouble if she was not home in the evenings. Her mother was so paranoid about her daughter that she ended up lying about going to friends’ houses and events. This closed communication ended up in a lot of turmoil between them and inhibited her from being able to freely enjoy activities outside of her parent’s comfort zone even though she wanted to participate.
    It is a fine line that parents walk when they are over or under involved in their children’s lives. With all the expectations surrounding parenting, there can be overwhelming pressure to be a perfect influence in a child’s life. When/If I decide to parent, I want to make sure I am there for my child throughout all their experiences; however, youth need free play and the ability to discover without me. Without free time, less critical thinking, problem solving and creativity take place.

    Darrion S.

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