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5 Ways Helicopter Parents Can Ruin A Child’s Sense of Independence

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5 Ways Helicopter Parents Can Ruin A Child’s Sense of Independence

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”- Anne Landers

Helicopter parenting is on the increase, it seems. It simply means that parents are always hovering and ready to rescue a child, a teenager or even college student from negative experiences, danger, risks, and failure. Overprotective parents have always existed but they are now on the rise.

According to an Indiana University study, about 38% of the interviewees reported their parents were very often ready to intervene. Parents themselves often admitted that they helped their kids – in fact, the 2013 Pew Research Survey found that 73% had helped their adult children by financing them.

The problems encountered down the line by these kids is that they face a rather brutal adult world that they are totally ill-equipped to deal with, including: poor grades, hard decisions, managing personal finances, failure at sports and at school. In addition, they can find themselves to be totally inept when it comes to doing household chores when they move into a flat on their own or with other students.

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Here are 5 things that helicopter parents do that these children, teenagers, and adults can relate to only too well.

1. They always take them to school

These kids are always taken to school and never allowed to get the bus, subway or even walk to school if it is not too far. Parents always hold their kids’ hands and some of them make sure that they accompany them right into class! They are also far too involved in arguments with teachers, sports coaches and umpires. They will not let their kids stand up for themselves.

Lenore Skenazy recently gained fame as the “world’s worst mom.” Watch the video where she explains how and why she let her nine year old ride the subway alone.

2. They prevent them from developing coping skills

Kids need to learn how to do things, fend for themselves, fight their own corner and also cope with hardship and disappointment. it seems that helicopter parents are swooping in whenever there is even a vague possibility of risk or discomfort. Julie Lythcott-Haims is the author of How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. How you wish your parents had read this book when you were younger!

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“Our job as a parent is to put ourselves out of a job, we need to know that our children have the wherewithal to get up in the morning and take care of themselves.”- Julie Lythcott-Haims.

3. They will never let their children indulge in risky play

Helicopter parents ban tree climbing and refuse to allow their children to get grazes, cuts; these children will also never face the challenge of getting lost and finding their way back home. It is ridiculous to discover that helmets are now sold to prevent toddlers getting hurt when they fall, while learning to walk!

The National Trust in the UK is launching a campaign to get kids to play in the countryside and get away from their PlayStations. A UK Parliamentary group has also advised parents that exposure to risk is an essential element for a balanced childhood:

“Risky play, involving perhaps rough and tumble, height, speed, playing near potentially dangerous elements such as water, cliffs and exploring alone with the possibility of getting lost, gives children a feeling of thrill and excitement.”

4. They are far too much involved in their kids’ college education

Students are supposed to be self-sufficient and highly motivated to take on new challenges. But through being ever present, helicopter parents prevent the development of such skills. Business and law schools are torn between allowing parents to be present and forbidding them for the benefit of students and staff, because the parents are footing the bill.

These helicopter parents are showing up on campus visits normally reserved for students. They have no hesitation in writing the resumes for their offspring and then calling the admissions office to check up on its arrival.

“This is not a strategy for long-term well-being. It is always better to empower children to make good choices for themselves rather than having them remain dependent on parents to sort out problems for them.”- Michael Ungar, psychologist at the Resilience Research Center at Dalhousie University.

5. They are increasing the risk of their children becoming mentally ill

Research now clearly indicates that all this hovering and protecting is having damaging effects on their children’s mental health. One research study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies shows that the students of overprotective parents were less satisfied with their life and were more prone to suffering from anxiety and depression. These students reported a real desire to feel more self-reliant and autonomous, as they lacked self-confidence.

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Thanks Mom and Dad!

Featured photo credit: Monkeys climbing tree/ Julle Allcea via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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