Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Helicopter Parenting: Does it help or hurt?

Posted May 31, 2012

Lori Verni-Fogarsi

Editor's Note: Today, Lori Verni-Fogarsi, a local mom and author of the new book 'Momnesia,' wraps up her weekly posts reminding us moms that it's important not to forget about ourselves. Check the box to the left for more from Lori.

As I begin this article, I feel compelled to disclose that although I do have two children, 11 and 14, and two step children, 17 and 19, I do not hold any sort of degree that technically qualifies me as an official “parenting expert.”

However, if on-the-job experience combined with astute observational skills count, then I’m your gal! Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to observe helicopter parenting firsthand, as well as fight my own urges when I’m tempted to help my kids more than is actually helpful.

You may be getting the gist that I’m not in favor of this method, which is defined by as: A style of child rearing in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child's independence by being too involved in the child's life.

You may be a helicopter parent if…

  • You never let anyone else watch your baby for fear that they may end up eating peaches when it’s supposed to be a “pear day.”
  • You insist on tying your child’s shoes even though they know how to do it because you’re worried that they’ll become untied and cause them to trip.
  • You refuse to let your child ride the school bus for fear that they’ll interact with “mean kids,” even though no such thing has ever happened.
  • You personally intercede in each and every disagreement that occurs between ten-year-olds who are arguing about whether to play with chalk or bubbles.
  • You “help” your child with school projects to the extent that they come out looking like a professional graphic designer made them.
  • Now that your child is 13, you never go out on a date night because they’re too old for a babysitter but are too scared to stay home alone.
  • Your school-age child has no chores to do because you’re too worried about the dangers of them getting poisoned from Windex.
  • You have filled out your child’s college applications for them.

“But, but, but!…” you may be saying. “The reason she has to eat pears and not peaches is because her skin was turning orange and the pediatrician said it’s from too many orange foods!”

That may be true. Nonetheless, one extra serving of peaches (or riding the school bus) is not going to kill them! More importantly, the benefits of allowing your child’s independence far outweigh the risks of tripping over their shoelaces!

For example, the baby who spends time with Grandma or Daddy (or even — gasp! — a quality babysitter!) learns to develop relationships with other people; the child who trips over their laces learns to tie them tighter; the kids who ride the bus are gradually learning to navigate the world on their own.

For parents, there are benefits too, and not only the obvious conveniences of not having to do every single thing for them. There are also fulfilling benefits like watching your child develop into an independent, self-confident individual who is able to do things like excel at a job interview and not end up unemployed, living in your basement at 40.

I say all of this in a tone of jest, but really, it’s true. What do you think? Do you agree that helicopter parenting can actually be harmful in the long run? Or do you feel it’s better to protect kids to the umpth degree in every situation? I look forward to your comments!

Lori Verni-Fogarsi is the author of the new novel, "Momnesia." She has been a freelance writer, columnist, journalist, and seminar speaker for more than 15 years, and has authored one nonfiction book, "Everything You Need to Know About House Training Puppies and Adult Dogs," which has been widely acclaimed in its genre. Lori is a happily married mom of two, stepmom of two more, and has two cats, both rotten. She invites you to learn more at and to join her on Facebook.


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  • loriverni Jun 5, 2012

    Wow, lots of great comments about this post! As for the bus thing, yes, there was intended humor... plus, the wording actually refers to not letting them ride the bus despite no incident ever actually happening.

    My overall point was that, while it needs to be done gradually, it is my belief that children need to develop independence of their own, at age-appropriate intervals. Helicopter Parenting refers to those who can't seem to let go of "protecting" children from "all things" at "any age."

    Thanks to everyone who commented. Hope you all enjoyed the article!

  • howdiditgettothis Jun 2, 2012

    I think some of you are missing the "humor" in her column.
    To me, it sounds like she is being totally humorous in saying No mean kids have ever ridden a bus.

    Children, for better or worse, have their own minds & personalities. You can be the best parent or the worst parent & your children will make their own choices as they grow.

    I believe it is the parent's responsibility to do what is BEST FOR THE CHILD, not what is easiest for the parent.

    Sometimes that does mean being a HP. Sometimes it doesn't.

    The hardest part of parenting for me has been the ever changing "rules" since different ages require different parenting strategies.

    A wise parent once told me to set a few "time-less" family rules....along the lines of "treat other how you want to be treated" , "encourage don't discourage" , and "respect people, places and things" ). Give your child choices (age appropriate) and teach your child to set (and enforce) boundaries.

  • MRS PG Jun 2, 2012

    What about not letting someone else watch for child for fear of sexual molestation? There seems to be an awful lot of that going on. And it's not just stranger danger either.

    Mean kids on the bus? OH YES

    How about not leaving your child at home for fear of them being murdered in a home invasion.

    If anyone reads the horrible, horrible news, it's a wonder they don't keep their precious children in bubbles.

  • claygriffith01 Jun 1, 2012

    Being a brat is learned behavior. It definitely depends on the parents.

  • Not Now Jun 1, 2012

    Momma6: I have met and interacted with as many bratty HP kids as well as non-HP kids. Brattiness does not care what kind of parent a child has.

  • Killian Jun 1, 2012

    Unfortunately, society is beginning to see the results of Helicopter Parenting even now. College kids whose parents call the prof with a disputed grade? Or whose parents file their 1040EZ because it might be too hard? Insane.

    There are times when parental interference is warranted, and the situations may very. But in a lot of cases, parents now are raising dependent, whiny, demanding, kids who feel like the world owes them a career and a salary just for existing. Not so, junior. Work for your independence, for your position in a class or a job, and then we'll talk.

  • fuzzmom Jun 1, 2012

    missparenthead, I hear ya (meaning I agree with a lot of your points), but would you be okay with your kid on a bus that needed a "behavior coach"? My point was that I disagreed with author's blanket statement about there being no problems with riding the school bus.

  • missparrothead Jun 1, 2012

    We live in such a HP society, its terrible. I rode the public school bus yrs ago, and every once in a while the driver would pull over the side of the rode, as he smelled pot from the kids in the back. Did this injure me? Heck no. My son currently is in a (middle) magnet school in Wake Co. and rides the bus with high schoolers. The bus driver has them separated. Zero problems. I'm not saying that there couldn't be issues, but we can't worry about everything and have to give things a chance. I also know parents who meddle in friendships of their 3rd graders. Not, that we don't need to guide and protect our kids from bullying, but really??

    My kids learned to tie their shoes in preschool as I wouldn't expect a kindergarten teacher to tie the laces on 20+ kids.

    I completely understand having to be more involved if your children have special needs; that is different. My comments pertain more to the "average" kid.

  • fuzzmom Jun 1, 2012

    While I agree with most of these pointers. I totally disagree that there has never been a case of mean kids on the bus. I rode the bus nearly every day of my entire secondary education, and I wouldn't dare want my kids exposed to what I saw/went through. Sure, not all buses are the same, but there are enough problems that I definitely wouldn't want a small kid on the bus, especially not a kindergartender. For those counties that share buses, I wouldn't want my 6th-8th grader(s) riding a bus with highschoolers. It's so bad in some counties that they even have "behavior coaches" (paid adults) on the buses to try to curb the bad behavior just so the bus driver can concentrate well enough to drive. When the "behavior coach" can't ride, the bus driver ends up more often than not sitting on the side of the road, waiting for the pricipal to come and assist. Mind you, these are elementary school kids, and there's not "special" kids either. I kid you not.

  • loriverni Jun 1, 2012

    Wow... great comments! I particularly enjoy the one from "carrboroyouth," who is a college student with no children but sees the (negative) effects of helicopter parenting in her peers!

    Thanks for ALL the great comments!