Do you hover over your kids trying to control every move they make, either for fear they’ll fail or just to give you a better sense of control? Are you the overly busy parent who gives your kids the freedom and trusts them to make the right choices? Perhaps you’re the parent who attempts to offer guidance while encouraging their own independence? Or are you the parent who waits for your child to come to you for assistance or advice?
No parent wants to be a dictator or enabler, and yet giving our children too much free range may do more harm than we realize. Whatever type of parent you are, be open-minded to creating a happy balance.
Take our quick quiz to determine how much of a “helicopter parent” you are. We’ve provided a section for parents of children of any age, from toddler to college level.
1. When your toddler goes to the park, you immediately:
A. Get out your wipes and clean the equipment.
B. Take out the buckets and make sandcastles with them.
C. Check your e-mail on your phone while they play.
D. Ask your child what they’d like to do and supervise while they explore.
2. When your toddler wants to paint, you:
A. Get out a plastic mat, gloves, and paint and help them create.
B. Get knee-deep in paint with them.
C. Sit them down at the table with some paint and paper while you catch an episode of The Real Housewives.
D. Take them outside with paint and paper and let them go at it.
3. When your toddler is at a party, you:
A. Stay within earshot to observe how they mingle with the other children.
B. Sit down and interact in activities with them and the other kids.
C. Give them your phone to play with so you can sip wine and mingle.
D. Let them explore and interact.
Elementary School Age:
1. When your 12-year-old comes home with their science project rubric, you:
A. Take notes, give them three ideas to choose from, and immediately go shopping for supplies for the perfect project.
B. Ask them to take a few moments to brainstorm ideas and then monitor them while assisting along the way.
C. Ask their tutor to assist while you finish making personal calls.
D. Have them write down their ideas, encourage them to do research, and offer your help if they need it, while letting them know it is their project and responsibility.
2. Your 10-year-old comes home and tells you they were being teased at school, so you:
A. Immediately make an appointment for a parent-teacher conference or contact the principal.
B. Show up at school the next day and have a talk with the kids who were doing the teasing.
C. Tell them it’s no big deal and they should just brush it off.
D. Ask if they’d like to roleplay together to teach them how to be assertive, and relay one of your most embarrassing elementary school moments to help them feel better.
3. Your sixth grader was asked out to the end-of-school dance, so you:
A. Tell them absolutely not and they’re not allowed to date until they’re a junior in high school.
B. Offer to take them out shopping for a new outfit and meet with the other parents to go over some ground rules before the dance.
C. Drop them off at the dance and tell them to have a good time and take an Uber home.
D. Are excited and happy to teach them some new dance moves.
1. Your tenth grader wants to run for class president, so you:
A. Get excited and offer to be their campaign manager and offer to make buttons, cups, posters, and labeled water bottles to pass out to everyone at school.
B. Congratulate them and offer to help if they need anything.
C. Tell them it’s okay as long as they have their own ride home from any after-school meetings.
D. Tell them about your experiences and ask them if they’d like to discuss different ideas and strategies on how to run a successful campaign.
2. You just caught your teen making out, so you:
A. Forbid them from seeing the person again and check into homeschooling.
B. Acknowledge the awkward interruption and approach your child later in the evening to discuss the rules of the household.
C. Look the other way and try not to seem awkward at the dinner table.
D. Wait until the air clears and ask if they want to discuss what happened, then share similar embarrassing moments you experienced with your parents to make them laugh.
3. Your junior in high school didn’t make the varsity team, so you:
A. Make an appointment to meet with the coach and ask for another opportunity for your child to try out, letting the coach know your child was extremely nervous and would do better if they had another shot.
B. Sit down with them and explore other options together.
C. Buy them a gym membership and tell them “better luck next year.”
D. Comfort them in their disappointment and let them figure out their next move on their own.
1. Your son or daughter is applying for college, so you:
A. Start making calls and create a list of the best schools to apply to.
B. Show them the site that will help them determine what college is tailored to their interests and career choices.
C. Send them to visit their older cousin for their first frat party to get familiar with the full college experience.
D. Inquire what colleges they’ve applied to and suggest they make an appointment with the school counselor to avoid imposing your ideas.
2. Your son or daughter’s first quarter grades are slacking, so you:
A. Demand to speak with the dean, sign your child up for tutoring, and order them to submit a progress report every four weeks.
B. Offer to hire them a tutor and let them know you can take time off to help next quarter if they need it.
C. Wish them better luck next time and take them shopping to get their mind off it.
D. Ask if they want your advice and if so, discuss what they could do next quarter to improve their GPA.
3. Your son or daughter is considering taking out another student loan, so you:
A. Make an appointment for both of you with the financial aid office so you can go together and try to talk them out of it. Meanwhile, you start making calls to see if you can help them get a part-time job to keep them out of debt.
B. Go over the pros and cons of student loans, along with discussing the difference, and encourage them to make a wise decision.
C. Tell them to go for it and take them out to celebrate.
D. Describe your personal experience with student loans and give them any helpful guidance they may need.
What kind of parent are you?
Helicopter Parent: If you chose mostly As, chances are you’re a textbook helicopter parent. This style of parenting can often lead to anxiety, lack of trust, and co-dependence in your child. While your intention is to protect your children, kids won’t easily make the transition to adulthood when parents are overprotectively hovering over everything they do. Try to lean away from being a micromanager and allow your children the space to make mistakes they can learn from. Give yourself a break and let your kids soar.
Safely Hovering: If you chose mostly Bs, it’s a good guess that you want to be involved but also have the desire to allow your children the freedom to discover the world around them. This is often a good balance between helicopter and complete freedom. Kids will benefit from exploring and making decisions, but they’ll also have the comfort of knowing you’re there to offer guidance if they need you. As you nurture independence in your children, keep in mind that struggling equates to learning. Identify when you’re imposing your own goals and wishes on them. Teach them and guide them, but continue to be willing to let them make their own choices. Raising a future independent young adult equates to a happy parent for life!
Busy Flying: If you chose mostly Cs, it may be time to reevaluate your schedule and make time to be more present in your child’s life. Your world is constantly changing and full of appointments, so while you may want to be there, you find it difficult to do so. In the midst of it all, you may find yourself trying to be their best friend by winning them over with shopping and being the “cool parent.” Children need independence, but too much freedom may cause them to end up feeling neglected. It’s not that you don’t love them; you may just be feeling extremely overwhelmed. If you rearrange your schedule and give yourself enough “me time,” you’ll be amazed at the amount of attention and guidance you have to offer children while simultaneously allowing them to walk their own path.
Flying Solo: If you chose mostly Ds, you may fall under the style of parenting that believes a child should be free to fly while inquiring if they want your help. You may be so opposed to helicopter parenting that you allow your children the freedom to explore and make mistakes no matter what. This may seem like a good thing, but keep in mind that your role as a parent also includes setting boundaries and gently steering kids in the right direction, especially when they come to you for help.
As parents, we want to be sure to encourage our children to solve their own problems by asking them to contemplate potential solutions, but we also want to reassure them that we’ll always be there to support them along the way!