Helicopter Parenting: Why It Fosters Failure

Helicopter Parenting Fosters Failure

It turns out that children need to make mistakes to learn. For example, every typically developing baby will one day face the challenge of learning to walk. Importantly, walking isn’t something babies learn to do in just one day—it takes days and weeks and months, with a lot of steps and falls along the way. In fact, research has shown that infants between the ages of 12 and 19 months take an average of over 2,000 steps in a single hour of walking, and fall about 17 times during that same time period (Adolph, Cole, Komati, Garciaguirre, Badaly, Lingeman, Chan & Sotsky, 2012). That’s a lot of mistakes, but every fall presents an opportunity to correct those mistakes and learn from them.

So what do we do? We do perhaps the most difficult thing a parent can do—we let our children fail once in a while. By not allowing them to fail, we prevent them from learning how to flexibly deal with problems, and perhaps even how to deal with difficult emotions (Perez-Edgar, 2019).

Babies don’t mind making mistakes, but as they get older, children eventually learn to associate making mistakes with feeling ashamed or embarrassed (Duckwork, 2016; Lewis, Alessandri, & Sullivan, 1992). To avoid promoting these emotions, when children do mess up, gentle discipline coupled with support and feedback can help provide them with the right expectations and support autonomy at the same time (Baumrind, 2013; Grolnick & Pomerantz, 2009; Grusec, 2011; Stifter & Augustine, 2019).

Researchers have even suggested that parents try to model mistake-making for their kids, and some school interventions teach teachers to make grammatical mistakes on purpose and let children catch them (Bodrova & Leong, 2006).

Despite differences in parenting style, what all parents want—helicopter, tiger, and free-range alike—is what’s best for our kids. And sometimes what’s best for promoting their success is letting them experience their own failures.

References:

Adolph, K. E., Cole, W. G., Komati, M., Garciaguirre, J. S., Badaly, D., Lingeman, J. M., ... & Sotsky, R. B. (2012). How do you learn to walk? Thousands of steps and dozens of falls per day. Psychological science, 23(11), 1387-1394.
Baumrind. D. (1966). Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887–907.
Baumrind, D. (2013). Authoritative parenting revisited: History and current status. In R. E. Larzelere, A. S. Morris, & A. W. Harrist (Eds.), Authoritative parenting: Synthesizing nurturance and discipline for optimal child development (p. 11–34). American Psychological Association. 
Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2014). Closing the achievement gap through modification of neurocognitive and neuroendocrine function: Results from a cluster randomized controlled trial of an innovative approach to the education of children in kindergarten. PloS one, 9(11).
Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2006). Tools of the mind. Pearson Australia Pty Limited.
Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance (Vol. 234). New York, NY: Scribner.
Grolnick, W. S., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2009). Issues and challenges in studying parental control: Toward a new conceptualization. Child Development Perspectives, 3(3), 165-170.
Grusec, J. E. (2011). Socialization processes in the family: Social and emotional development. Annual review of psychology, 62, 243-269.
LeMoyne, T., & Buchanan, T. (2011). Does “hovering” matter? Helicopter parenting and its effect on well-being. Sociological Spectrum, 31(4), 399-418.
Lewis, M., Alessandri, S. M., & Sullivan, M. W. (1992). Differences in shame and pride as a function of children's gender and task difficulty. Child Development, 63(3), 630-638.
Odenweller, K. G., Booth-Butterfield, M., & Weber, K. (2014). Investigating helicopter parenting, family environments, and relational outcomes for millennials. Communication Studies, 65(4), 407-425.
Schiffrin, H. H., & Liss, M. (2017). The effects of helicopter parenting on academic motivation. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(5), 1472-1480.
Schiffrin, H. H., Liss, M., Miles-McLean, H., Geary, K. A., Erchull, M. J., & Tashner, T. (2014). Helping or hovering? The effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23(3), 548-557.
Stifter, C., & Augustine, M. (2019). Emotion regulation. In Handbook of Emotional Development (pp. 405-430). Springer, Cham.

Written By Vanessa LoBue
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today

Helicopter Parenting Fosters Failure pin

Share on

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top