Helicopter Parent? Harumph!

I’m sick of this “helicopter parent” label. Aren’t you?

Some parents are too involved in their children’s lives. The dad who pesters the coach to put his kid on the team comes to mind. The mom who insists that her daughter be invited to the birthday party is also overreaching. And don’t even get me started about the parent who harasses the camp because her child isn’t in the day’s photo shoot.

Reconnaissance or Rescue?

But for those of us who don’t swoop in so low, the helicopter pejorative gets tiresome, even feels insulting. Society expects more of parents than ever before. My mother and father rarely scheduled playdates, helped with homework or drove me to school  – three jobs my husband and I have routinely done. And never mind us. Many single moms working fulltime are doing the same. Should we lecture them about overparenting or just applaud?

Also, what looks like hovering is often a legitimate rescue operation. “Wear that bike helmet!” “Get off that trampoline!” It can all sound excessive, especially to an older generation that never worried about such things. But more parental involvement has saved a lot of lives. As an article titled “Score One for the Helicopter Parents,” noted, the death rate for children from accidents has dropped nearly 30 percent in the last decade.

Mixed Messages

In addition, the message to parents often feels so mixed. Teachers, experts and coaches tell us not to do too much, yet expect intensive involvement. Consider the modern mom and dad’s responsibilities:

• Help with Homework: Drill those math facts! Be sure that printer has ink, that art supplies are  stocked and that the math binder has the right number of pockets. You are your child’s first teacher! But step back when your youngster is given four hours of homework to complete in the two hours after dinner.

Get Your Child Involved in Sports: Have him on the field, in any part of the state, at any hour – all subject to last-minute change. (Helicopter? Harumph. How about a plane?) Buy expensive sports equipment. When they grow, buy it again. But please, in your free time – get a life!

Restrict Your Child’s Internet Use: However, make sure they have access to a computer and the Web for homework. (We had to buy our children laptops in fourth grade – ca-ching!) Keep your child off Facebook, but don’t miss activity updates there. When your kids are online, track and control them with software. When they get phones, read their texts. But do not hover!

And on it goes. In an attempt to do it all – but not too much – it’s surprising that more copters don’t crash.

Left in the Dust

So forgive me if the latest debate on helicopter parenting doesn’t resonate. I’m doing my best, without any piloting experience at all. I hate helicopters, having nearly crashed in a Russian hand-me-down while reporting in Nicaragua. (The same copter later exploded in flames.) Dependant on a single propeller, helicopters are dangerous, slow and deafeningly loud.

Instead, if you find me suspended in the air, have a little sympathy.

I’m probably hanging by a wing and a prayer, vision obscured by a little rocket that has left me in the dust.


Do you get conflicting messages about how involved to be as a parent? Where do you draw the line? Share by commenting below!


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    January 12, 2015 at 3:40 am

    I enjoyed this blog post

  • Amy

    October 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Loved this post! It was spot on for characterizing the plight of the modern parent! I'm always trying to strike that perfect balance […] Read MoreLoved this post! It was spot on for characterizing the plight of the modern parent! I'm always trying to strike that perfect balance and detest the label helicopter parent. I know I don't want to be one, but I also know that the level of involvement required for success seems to be far greater than what my parents ever invested. I feel better knowing I'm not the only one struggling with the balance. Thanks! Read Less

    • JenniferHull
      to Amy

      October 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks, Amy. Finding the right balance definitely feels tricky. And just when you have it figured out they move to another level! My first daughter […] Read MoreThanks, Amy. Finding the right balance definitely feels tricky. And just when you have it figured out they move to another level! My first daughter just started 9th grade so I'm feeling my way along as a high school parent, which is a whole new ball game. Read Less

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About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.


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