A "helicopter parent," it is a well-meaning parent who hovers near their child, ready to offer assistance at the first sign of trouble. Most often, helicopter parents are mothers, but fathers can be helicopter parents as well.

The motives behind this style of parenting are easy enough to understand. With current headlines about school shootings, abductions, and other dangers that our children face, we worry. There is a line, however, between wanting to protect your child from harm and limiting their growth.

Children with helicopter parents are more likely to suffer depression or anxiety. They get an unconscious message from their parent that they are not able to handle situations by themselves. This hurts their self confidence. They do not develop the skills needed to make their own decisions and they doubt their abilities. These deficiencies stay with them into adulthood.

Every parent wants to be needed, but this kind of attachment to a parent is harmful to the child.

If you find that you have a tendency to hover, you can take simple steps to encourage your child to do more for themselves. One of the times when hovering can occur is during homework. The goal of homework is to allow children independent practice of concepts taught in school. The goal can best be achieved when a parent is available to assist, but does not hover.

1. Be available, but engaged elsewhere

Make sure that you are available to help. but be engaged in something else. Do not send your child the message that you live only for them and that you will put everything on hold at homework time.

At homework time, be engaged with some other project.

  • Be in a different room from your child.

  • Tell your child that you will be working on something, but you are available to help if they get stuck.

  • Insist that your child bring the problem to you for help, rather than bellowing for you to arrive at their side.

This sends your child the message that you are supportive and helpful, but it is their work. The message that your child receives is that mom and dad have a life as well. It is healthy to view you as a separate individual.

2. Let your child know what you expect

Set guidelines for the expected time that homework is to be completed and follow through. If your child does not complete their assignments in the alotted time, teach them proper time management skills. Require them to complete the assignments the following morning.

There is a definite temptation to set up camp with your child and scramble alongside them in the eleventh hour. Some parents might be tempted to do some of the work for them.

Resist the urge and remind yourself that they need to develop independence. Where will you be in ten years when they are facing a work deadline? Give them the skills that they need now.

3. Let your child do their own work

Avoid constantly checking in with your child. Of course, with younger children checking in is needed more than with older children. Remember that in school your child is doing seat work on their own, and they can complete tasks without you checking in every few minutes. Checking in often disrupts your child's concentration, and it can become micro-managing and even nagging. None of this is conducive to completing assignments.

You want what is best for your child, but you can actually do more harm than good when you do too much for them. Be available and set appropriate expectations, but make homework the responsibility of your child.

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