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Helicopter Parent Alert! You're Okay, Just Make Sure the Flight Plan is Right

You're all getting a bad rap. Helicopter parents do a lot of good things for their kids. You can act fast, swoop in to protect your child at a moment's notice and swoop away really fast (great skills for parenting a teenager). And that bird's-eye view of the big picture really comes in handy. Best of all, helicopter parents have met two great parenting qualifications: They show a lot of love to their children, and they spend plenty of time with them, often pulling the night shift. So, if helicopter parents are so great, why all the negative publicity? Here's why...

With all this love onboard, most helicopter parents forget the fine print in their flying manual: ‘Do not hover too much or too close to your kid.’

That's what this alert is about. Make sure your flight plan keeps you at just the right distance from your kid.

The best flight plans include four parts:

1. Keep your gas tank at least 80 per cent full of unleashed parental love at all times. Children thrive when they feel a supportive parent will always be available and when the children feel they are acceptable and understood no matter what mistakes they make. That's why helicopter parents are so great - their kids can always see or sense their smiling parents somewhere, no matter what happens.

2. Don't immediately hover too close, or land and take over when your child has a problem. Kids need to learn how to handle failure on their own - when they're ready. Some stress is important for developing resilience and self-confidence.

3. Do hover close by when your child is first learning to solve something really tough. Success knocks out a problem pretty fast. (Be ready to land if necessary.)

4. Land and command when your child veers too far off the charted course. You know, things like breaking curfew, lying and destructive relationships. That's when you land and then discipline firmly and consistently to make sure your child gets headed in the right direction. Expect resistance (rarely will you hear, “Thank you, mom/dad, for getting me back on track”). And one other thing: Don't land and command or hover too close on personal choices like hairstyle, clothes, etc.

Helicopter parents, I salute you. Stay the course with the right flight plan. Your child's self-confidence and resilience will flourish.

Gary M. Unruh, MSW LCSW, is a child and family mental health counselor with nearly 40 years of experience. He is the author of the award-winning book Unleashing the Power of Parental Love: 4 Steps to Raising Joyful and Self-Confident Kids. For more information, visit


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