Sunday, 18 August 2013

I am a Helicopter Parent!

"Helicopter Parenting" has become a negative term referring to parents who do not allow their children the freedom or space to choose and undertake challenges. Teacher Tom Hobson and I reflected on this over dinner last week after delivering one of a series of Inspired EC training session on democracy in early childhood - and I am still thinking!

I am always there for my children, prepared to drop what I am doing to support and protect – I would say I am hovering – does this make me a Helicopter Parent? If it does then I am proud to be a Helicopter Parent, my children are beautiful adults now and live on the other side of the world but I still hover from afar! Yes, they made mistakes, they fell and learnt to pick themselves up again, they are resilient, they are able to face the consequences of their actions and are responsible adults.  My parents too are helicopter parents – we had as much freedom as we needed, we survived everyday bumps and bruises and learnt by our mistakes and I know my mum is there for me even now!

I am a helicopter teacher too – what is good for my own children, who are very precious to me, is also good for the children I interact with, who are very precious to their parents.


The critical point is where and how the hovering is taking place. Physically close, not allowing the child out of sight, enabling the adult to react at the first sign of any physical or emotional struggle is very different to the adult who is mindful and aware without ‘interfering’ with the child’s growing experiences! There is a very fine line between interference and interaction, well-meaning adults often interfere and reduce or even prevent children from having what should be valuable childhood experiences. 

In nature animals and birds often hover around their young – always alert and aware. They allow their young increasing freedom – at times ‘kicking’ them out of the 'nest' for the benefit of all.

Hovering may be:
1. Controlling Hovering - physically close, alert, quick to respond to all perceived needs, distrustful of child’s ability to use their own judgement.
2. Neglectful Hovering - physically close but mentally distant
3. Respectful Hovering – physically unobtrusive either close or distant, alert, trusting children’s ability to use their own judgement and only stepping in when absolutely necessary.

Finding the balance can be hard as adults want to protect children from harm as well as guide and support them in times of challenge. Harm can be both emotional and physical – often only physical risk and harm are considered as these are measurable while the long term emotional harm may not be as immediately obvious and may be considerably more detrimental.

Children need adults around them who appreciate the value in letting children have the freedom to discover things for themselves - even when these may be hard!

I am a Helicopter Parent; I practice Respectful Hovering!



  1. thank you for that!yes, it is the bit about not letting the children have time to work it out for themselves.... which leg where, how , when?....and as you say,being "distrustful of child’s ability to use their own judgement". The more I read and think,and the more i observe 'free-range' children who have faith in their own bodies judgments, analysis, etc, the more i see how we whisk in, under the guise of helping,etc. i like your distinction between the three types of helicoptoer hovering. i also appreciate your warm response to my picky message about Tom gazing at the ocean in Christchurch. thank you both for being passionate!and respectful! Evelyn.

    1. Evelyn, thank you for your positive comments - it always warms me to find other like minded Educators who love and respect children and see them as capable and competent.

  2. Great point - thank you!

  3. I blame the media for making us over protective and controlling - look what could happen if your child did xyz.
    Look at all the dangers out there.
    Lets be realistic here - who out there tries for respectful, but often end up being what I think is controlling?
    I hope I'm not the only one. x

    1. I don't think you are! Very often our instincts are redirected by the media and others who support the media. It is hard to stand up and be firm about what you feel is right.