Helicopter Parents (The vice of over-parenting)




The other day I went for a haircut. Seated on the chair next to mine was a child of about four years and hovering around him was his mother. I was amused to see her continuously instructing the hairstylist as to how to cut and with what instruments. Just as the stylist moved she would move around the head of the child, supervising each and every strand of the hair getting styled. I could obviously feel the discomfiture of the stylist who was struggling to balance his work with the incessant instructions of the mother. Little did I realize that the child too was getting uncomfortable till he loudly shouted: “Mama you please go”! A hush fell in the salon but the mother – a cool cucumber just asserted “You don’t understand anything. You just keep quiet and let me do my work!” The child was obviously bullied to silence. That was a helicopter parent in full regalia - a classic example of what Time magazine once described as "Over Parenting"


This incident reminded me of the word I had read sometime back “Helicopter Parents.” My simple perception of the word was over-doting parents. Wikipedia was much more explicit in explaining this word: Helicopter parent is an informal expression for a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not. Though hilarious their behavior is, I wonder how much good this type of behavior does to the child and even to the parents. It seems to be a rampant phenomena. No wonder Time came out with a title page on this.

I was recently told of a postgraduate student in obstetrics and gynecology who is a granddaughter of some old-timer gynecologists from Ahmedabad. Their son and daughter-in-law (this child’s parents) who are also doctors have taken the entire department on the head where their daughter is studying . Those of us who are in the know of medical education are aware of the fact that post-graduation in clinical branches like obstetrics and gynecology are extremely busy but immensely learning and foundation-laying years. The system needs the students to work very hard in managing patients under supervision of their teachers and entails hard slog but very educative process. The parents of this student who are also doctors have left their jobs and are now doing full time helicopter- parenting. They are filing police complaints against the teachers of their daughter, filing high-court cases against the institution on frivolous grounds and even dictating teachers as to how they should manage their patients. Indeed the teachers too in my perception are behaving absolutely cowardly dancing at the tune of these helicopters and hardly protesting. But that is not the point. The point is the harm that the parents are doing to their child. In her most formative years this student’ parents are not allowing her to learn and develop the necessary skills and expertise for being an independent gynecologist. I was told that the mother even goes in her daughter’s hospital wards to write orders and prescriptions of her child’s patients which her daughter is supposed to do!


It is very painful to see parents forcing their children to live life as they have lived. Countless promising careers including those in medical colleges have been spoilt as the doctor parents have forced their unwilling children to become doctors. In words of Mitch Albom “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” Forcing children to carry the burden of your dreams is the biggest act of violence.

In my part of India months of March – April are very hot. It is this time when board exams are also conducted in schools. So consistently I see parents waiting for all three hours when their child is writing the paper waiting in scorching heat for three hours every day till all papers are over. Waiting for the first 15 – 20 minutes after the bell goes on the first day is understandable as there can be some technical help required in the form of forgetting some identity documents or writing pens going hay-wire or something. But all seven papers 11 AM to 2 PM or worse still 3 PM to 6 PM in 400C sweltering heat is something beyond my comprehension.

Is this helicopter parenting the result of rise in social prosperity of parents? Is it that the parents now have become more insecure though more prosperous? It seems to be a complex matter with no simple answers. It is more for the sociologists to decide. As of now for curious onlookers like you and me it is just hilarious and at the same time even a little painful reality of or society.


Comments

  1. Pravin Patel commented on Facebook on this blog: very nice

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  2. Jayashree Sridhar commented on Facebook on this blog: Great observation, sir the milder variety are the ever ever judgmental parents!

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  3. Malay Shah commented on Facebook on this blog: sir, its a v.good finished product of your brain and hands.... a humble request to increase in font size in text of the font. and deviation from "times new roman" to another fonts may be attractive. that's a personal feeling.."

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    1. Point well taken Malay. I will do the needful as soon a possible

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  4. Ravindra Yewale commented on Facebook on this blog: Excellent sir!

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  5. Aloke Debdas emailed this comment on the blog: Interesting as usual!

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  6. Archana Verma commented this on Facebook on this blog: This should b a MUST for all parents . best seller parenting tips

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  7. Kamalendu Chakraborty commented this on Facebook on the blog: "I read your Are you a "helicopter-parent"? ..... with these type of parents some times practically behave in the same way, continuously instructing, advising and nonstop behaving like a real parents, till the young mother gets irritated and bored.then i counsel about the bad effects over parenting. this is a very interesting topic "-parent.helicopter""

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  8. Kawita Bapat commented this on Facebook on the blog: "Bullock cart parenting by me"

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  9. Nayana Parange commented this on Facebook on this blog: "Hilarious! now I dont feel so bad about not being a helicopter parent! I was too busy doing my own studying to harass my son's teachers!"

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  10. Manisha Jhawar commented this on Facebook on this blog: "I at times feel bad seeing the increasing no. of helicopter parents around, I feel I've done nothing for my children."

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  12. Dear Sir, Absolutely delighted to read the blog. Have no clue how parenting is done but now know there is wide classification of parents variety! :)

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    1. Thanks Monica for a very wise input. Appreciated

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  13. Col Manobendra Roy commented this on Facebook on this blog: ‎"The child is the father of man"...so said Wordsworth...no wonder than that the over indulgent parents see their children as "Dolls" of their childhood games...and they (children) keep growing up parents see them as "Tools" of their unfulfilled dreams and aspirations...over possessiveness or over indulgence is a mental aberrations which needs to be addressed and counseled upon before it reduces a child to a robot like status...no wonder than the child loses his individuality as he is never allowed to explore and learn by trials and tribulations...but do spare a word for the parents...he wishes well for his child and in this highly competitive world where he finds himself struggling to make both ends meet...he gets over conscious that nothing untoward should befall his apple of joy...so where do we land up in this rat race...we need to find a balance with a clear vision...recognize your child’s good points as also his weakness...work on them precisely with realistic aims so as to avoid utter disappointments and undue lamentations at a later stage......a very apt adage of Oscar Wilde here to forewarn all indulgent parents... "Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them."...this should act as an adequate warning...to pre-empt that your child does not grow up with a feeling of rebellious attitude towards you...this should need no further emphasis...personal opinion...
    At the end allow me to laud you, Pankaj with another fantastic write on the travails of a child and what ails them as they remain cocooned within the confines of over indulgent parents...another top class piece from you as always...keep at it...you have a fine flair for writing...liked it!!!

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  14. Archana Tiwari emailed this comment on the blog: Wonderful.....that's all I can say. Here I am reminded that in my novel Queen of hearts I have mentioned about this concept. Will tell you when the book hits the market......thanks once again......

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  15. Abha Singh emailed this comment n the blog: Even I have sometimes observed amusing parental behaviour, but you have expressed very well.

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  16. Sir,a really interesting write-up and hilarious too to imagine the situation you have described! However must be very tiresome for the teachers to manage their irritation with this situation!!How selfish and short-sighted such parents can be....

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    1. Thanks Charu. As usual your inputs are always very intelligent and helpful. Appreciated.

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  17. Bhavin Jadav ‏@bhavinjadav tweeted this on the blog: Aren't most Indian parents like this? :-)

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  18. anjan22 ‏@anjan22 tweeted this on the blog: Haha! Exactly what most of us do! Very good article!

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  19. RiBaanee ‏@BreeZerHolic tweeted this on the bog: Good write up Doc...but I came across 'weekend parents' who have money to give kid but not time...

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    1. RiBaanee ‏@BreeZerHolic further tweeted this on the blog: thanks Doc :) both type of Parents harm children..when parents come with thr kid 4 counseling, first I have to deal with parents.

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  20. Ankita Chandna commented this on Facebook on the blog: "Sir,I had somewhere as a child that children get spoilt due to lack of love and attention than vice versa. I personally feel as a working parent that we over do this at times to make up for the time that we could not be with out kids, its just that the line between doing and overdoing is so difficult to judge, parenting is indeed not so simple....Thanks for giving a wonderful insight in this sensitive subject wanting more such tips...."

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  21. Srikanth R. ‏@_R_Srikanth tweeted this on the blog: Thanks. Phew! That's pretty extreme! Glad I never had to experience that.

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  22. Sairee Chahal ‏@Sairee tweeted this on the blog: "Thanks for sharing, very relevant"

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  23. Rita Putatunda ‏@ritasnatter tweeted this on the blog: Too generalised.. based on a single/few eccentric example.. did not like it.....Parenting can't be generalised.. each child/parent relationship is different..... besides, I'm a firm believer of 'better over parenting than underparenting'

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  24. kavitha ‏@reddy_kavi tweeted this on the blog: Absolutely agree with your views on helicopterparenting,we as parents should learn when to leave hand of kid and let them explore

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  25. Imp's Mom ‏@ImpsMom tweeted this on the blog: Feel sad for the kid.. at some point the kid will rebel or buckle under the pressure...thank god am not one!

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  26. Sonal ‏@wittydoctor tweeted this on the blog: Helicopter parenting is indeed an article combining astute observation & right amount of wit:-) There exist such parents who overdo. But surprisingly as a kid I was sometimes jealous of kids who had helicopter moms. I used to think my mom is a gyne so doesn’t have time. Within few yrs of being jealous of overdoing momwala kids- I became proud of growing up in a more independent way. Thanks to awesome mom.

    Overdoing moms outnumber overdoing dads...I thought I was yet to see helicopter dads - but I saw few recently & realized dads overdo it more especially overdoing dads in professional life:-). Thank God my parents r so cool & always gave me freedom to be myself yet support me when I fall.

    Helicopter parenting is also happening to precious pregnancy babies I think...you as a gyne would understand what I mean. it’s also a problem created by fancy new schools and the stupid competitiveness that ensues. Parents are anxious about their precious weak baby. Helicopter parenting can b prevented by gyne & pediatric people by proper counseling of power moms with precious babies

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  27. Jyoti Daswani commentsd this on Facebook on the blog: "Brilliant! Yes,many factors contribute,prosperity,nuclear families,less number of children. Also,the unhealthy competition in our education system,has made us paranoid,and we tend to ensure total satisfaction,as far as kids' tests go. But the medical college stuff looked too sick,and of the extreme kind.Thanks!"

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  28. Neeraj Saxena ‏@neerajsaxena tweeted this on the blog: I love it & relate to it. Sometimes I tend to do it myself but not to this degree :) Agree over-protectionism harms our kids more

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  29. At times any child underperforms he is often consulted to a counseller ... but do we see the parents here ? They equivalently need counselling not about upbringing of child but to make the parents aware that "let the child grow, learn, flourish ... dont push them or constantly be behind them ... let them be independant ... cause after a certain age the child requires MENTORS more then parents to succeed in life"

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  30. Kokila Desai emailed this comment on the blog: sir,this was fantastic.

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  31. Jawahar Surti emailed these comments on the blog: A worrying trend indeed! It was my observation too while my children were growing up and I used to see other parents so over their kids and I used to wonder why this extra attention? Let the child grow! No need to say I didn't go through any of the stresses other parents go through during the "board" exams! A bird kept too long in a cage when allowed to fly off will die an untimely death in the open.

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  32. Viva (Vikash) Vadur ‏@MiracleYantra tweeted this on the blog: Excellent Tips by Dr. Pankaj Desai. Thank you for sharing!

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  33. A thinker @M_Alive tweeted this on the blog: Nice and eyes opening blog for these type of parents

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  34. Well written Sir...being a father of 2 kids it will be vary useful for me.
    waise i know i m not a helicopter parent.

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    1. Thanks Mohit. Very sensible inputs. Appreciated

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  35. Farzana Versey ‏@farzana_versey tweeted this on the blog: I was more helicopter child decades ago! To your topic, overparenting, esp b/n in mother-son, can cause later relationship problems

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  36. Yadu Singh ‏@dryadusingh tweeted this on the blog: Yeah, it was a good read. Helicopter parenting is harmful.

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  37. aina ‏@khanaina07 tweeted this on the blog: Amazing :) highly impressed...:)

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  38. Rohit Bansal ‏@therohitbansal tweeted this on the blog: Thank you, yes it's a serious issue. am glad u focussed on it.

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  39. Just like the mother undergoes a higher amount of Separation Anxiety compared to her child; this too is a form of that anxiety. Anxious of your child not being what you want them to be. Anxious of playing a 'vital' role in his/her life. Children who inherit Control Freaks as their parents, lead the rest of their lives as mear puppets.

    All in all, this is a good read. Practical, funny and unnervingly true.

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  40. Priti Dungarwal emailed this message on the blog: Helicopter parenting is 'smother' love. nice article sir,true to the times.

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  41. madhvi ‏@madhvi15 tweeted this on the blog: Brilliantly stated...thanks for sharing ..

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  42. Shyamal Sett emailed this comment on the blog: That's the real story of almost all the parents with their children

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  43. i like it... i think we join hands together to give each other blog links if u like

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    1. Thanks Nihanya for liking the blog. Will work on your suggestion

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  44. Chirag Mistry emailed this comment on the blog: I like it, it is fact that over protected child either becomes indecisive or they run away from home to avoid excessive instruction and end up with spoiling own or other's life .......lots of example.........or from good company they may have good progress like Dhirubhai Ambani

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  45. Good one sir :) Growing fond of your writing, let it keep coming!

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    1. Thanks Akash. that was very encouraging

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  46. U r a great teacher n blogger toođź‘Ť

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind appreciation. Encouraged me

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