From TheAge.com.au on January 20, 2013 by Cosima Marriner
The so-called “helicopter” parent is becoming ubiquitous, with new research showing more than 90 per cent of school psychologists and counsellors are encountering over-involved parents.
Some schools are staging parenting workshops to counter this behaviour as psychologists believe it can damage a child’s resilience.
A Queensland University of Technology survey of nearly 130 parenting professionals from across the country revealed numerous examples of overparenting: a 16-year-old whose mother makes him a special plate of food to take to parties because he is a picky eater; 10-year-olds attending school camp who don’t know how to dress themselves; and an eight-year-old whose mother confronts her classmate over a playground disagreement.
More than a quarter of the school psychologists, counsellors, teachers and mental health workers surveyed reported seeing “many” instances of overparenting. Nearly two-thirds said they had seen some instances of this behaviour, while 8 per cent had never witnessed it.
An Australian Psychological Society representative, Darren Stops, said psychologists had observed the emergence of the helicopter parent in schools over the past decade.
“Children are not allowed to be independent, they’re overscheduled, parents are over-involved in their child’s life, they’re not letting children learn from their own mistakes,” said Mr Stops, an educational and developmental psychologist who works in schools.
“We tend to see more young people that aren’t able to accept the consequence of their own actions because mum and dad will jump in to defend them.”
The research also found schools were fielding parental requests for children to be placed in the same class as a friend, or in a sports house that matched their favourite colour, as well as parents contesting discipline meted out to their child.
Some schools are trying to head-off the issue of overparenting by hiring experts to advise new kindergarten parents on the appropriate level of involvement in their child’s life.
Florence Kearney, the principal of Somerville House, a private school in Brisbane, said holding parenting workshops run by a clinical pyschologist had proved successful at countering overparenting.
“It makes our job more difficult when parents overparent,” Ms Kearney said. “They have to let go and let their children learn to take risks and develop into confident people.”
Psychologists warn that overparenting is helping produce a generation of anxious children who aren’t resilient, have poor life skills, a strong sense of entitlement and little sense of responsibility.
“The result of overparenting is Gen Y: they’re highly emotional and expect everything to go their way – and they were parented less than the current generation,” QUT PhD researcher Judith Locke, who conducted the study, said. “You can’t complain about Gen Y and then go home and indulge your child.”
A clinical psychologist, Ms Locke’s research revealed many parents aren’t letting their child reach normal developmental milestones, such as travelling alone.
Ms Locke said parents were overthinking their own childhood. “They’re looking at the flaws in their childhood and they don’t see them as lucky events which produced resilience, they see them as stopping them becoming superstars,” Ms Locke said.
Family therapist Andrew Fuller, author of the parenting book Tricky Kids, said it was important parents didn’t do things for children that they could do themselves.
“Parents are carrying a massive burden of guilt because they are time-poor so they try to make it up to kids with things to replace time.”
Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg believes overparenting has almost become the norm. “Parents have fewer children these days, so they’ve got more energy and time to devote to, and focus on, these individuals … there are going to be so many screwed-up teens as a result of this.”