Help for Helicopter Parents: Strategies for Growth and Learning

August 25, 2023

We love our kids and have a healthy desire to protect them. But that can sometimes morph into an unhealthy need to control every aspect of their lives. And that could rob them of opportunities to develop confidence and strength. 

Kids need to be challenged. They need opportunities for manageable risk: to problem-solve, advocate for themselves, and experience natural consequences. Maturity takes time and patience — and failure is part of the process. But you can learn to see those hard moments as good.

Understand the difference between hurt and harm

Few things are truly harmful, and allowing small risks (choices) is a good place to let go of being overly directive. 

For example, don’t remind your teen to wear a jacket when they’re going to a movie with friends in the middle of winter. Sure, they’ll feel hurt by the cold. But they’ll either realize their mistake and run back inside for a coat, or they’ll shiver a bit in the theater and eventually return to warmth. Either way, they won’t experience permanent harm. 

However, not having a jacket during a winter hike far from home could mean the difference between life and death. This potential for irreparable damage is harm — and parents must take control and insist on safety: “Take your jacket!” (Other examples of harmful behaviors include riding a bike without a helmet or drug abuse.) 

Pave the way for connectedness and growth

Children need to grow and stay connected to family in healthy, appropriate ways. 

For elementary-aged kids, that means practicing progressive responsibility. Parents do a task while children observe, and then they work side-by-side on the task. Eventually, the child owns the task. Parents offer guidance and suggestions only as needed or asked for. 

For middle school tweens, that means learning through relationships. Help your child continue building interpersonal skills and strong friendships. Be a safe place for them to learn how to evaluate choices, plan for positive outcomes, and process feelings of discouragement when faced with negative results.

For high school teens, that means having strategies in place for dealing with failure. Character growth is more important than focusing only on “wins” or “losses.” Maybe your teen is struggling in a certain class. You can help them strengthen homework patterns, better incorporate learning styles, and understand the benefits of trial and error. 

Keep the big picture in mind

Remember that failure usually isn’t harmful. Yes, failure hurts, but it doesn’t have to devastate. Instead, with appropriate risk and guidance, it motivates growth. 

You can best love your child (and let go of unhealthy desires to overprotect) when you help them learn, grow, and develop personal responsibility. You prepare them to navigate the realities of life — and that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give them. For a full picture of these ideas, read our article: Strategies for Growth and Learning: Help for Helicopter Parents. We also recommend our broadcast Creating a Safe Family Where Your Children Can Thrive.

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Focus on the Family’s Counseling Staff is a group of highly experienced, state-licensed clinicians and pastoral counselors who specialize in addressing personal and family issues from a biblical perspective. Focus has enjoyed a long and valued referral relationship with Meier Clinics and other like-minded agencies who serve the cause of Christ in their clinical work. Focus on the Family offers free consultation through 1-855-771-HELP.

At Meier Clinics, all of our counseling staff are in agreement with our Christian statement of faith.   They are Christian and respect our clients’ beliefs, meeting our clients where they feel comfortable in their spiritual beliefs. Call us at 888-7CLINICS to get set up with one of our Christian counselors.


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