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How to Stop Helicopter Parenting

Lucie Rice

You finish your child's puzzles. You solve his spats. Heck, you'd cut his applesauce if he asked. It's time to stop being a micromanaging mom. Help has arrived…It's a bird! It's a plane! No, wait… it's you, the Helicopter Parent. That shadow over your kid? It's yours—as you nervously bend over him in his bed, making sure his chest is still rising and falling. That droning noise? It isn't chopper blades, it's you again, on the phone to his preschool teacher, complaining that he said some kid cut him in line. Before that, you were busy wiping his butt, even though he does it on his own at Grandma's house.

Sound familiar? You've got tons of company. Like, for instance, Joy Schoffler of Austin, TX. “My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Isabella, will ask to be carried down the stairs,” she admits. “She sees me holding her brother and wants to be picked up, too. Of course, Tyler is ten months and can't walk, and Isabella can. But if I'm running out the door late, picking her up is easier than stopping and saying no.” Schoffler needs to start an online support group with Robin Parker of Atlanta, mother of 2 ½-year-old Thomas: “He's learned to bring his dad or me any challenging task because we'll do it for him,” she says.

Why do so many of us wait on our kids hand and foot, or micromanage their lives to jaw-dropping extremes? Are we trying to elevate troubleshooting to an Olympic sport (or land our own reality show)? There's plenty of evidence that this coddling is as unhealthy for them as it is exhausting for us. So you've gotta stop. But how? Read on for some insights, plus advice that'll help you land your crazy copter.

What the Heli Is Going on?

Think back to your own childhood: Your folks probably didn't hover nearly as much as you do. Chances are, you got to play in the yard unattended, or even made your own snacks. Turns out some pretty powerful technological, economic, and social factors have turned us into a generation of over-zealous moms and dads, experts say.

For starters, there's the explosion of cyberspace, and media in general: “Parenting information is available twenty-four-seven,” observes Christie Barnes, author of The Paranoid Parents Guide: Worry Less, Parent Better, and Raise a Resilient Child. “You can go online and find out every scary thing that could happen to your child. You can also investigate every illness. So there's endless opportunity for fear.” At the same time, the rules for setting your little one on the path to lifelong success have become murkier than ever, adds Margaret Nelson, a professor of sociology at Middlebury College, in Vermont, and author of Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times. “Even if you've managed to be financially comfortable and happy, you're aware your child may not be able to duplicate what you've accomplished, even if he does exactly what you did,” she explains. “So you ask yourself ‘What should I provide him with?’ Without an answer, you start trying to provide absolutely everything you possibly can, including too much help.”Kids with overbearing moms may have more anxiety and depression.

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