Characteristics of Helicopter Parents

By Jennifer Zimmerman
Are you worried that this child is going to fall off the stool?
Are you worried that this child is going to fall off the stool?

Being called a helicopter parent is never a compliment. But one person's helicopter parent is another person's responsible parent, so how do you know when you're crossing the line? It's very easy to say that the parent who calls his 22-year-old's boss about work issues is a helicopter parent, but you don't want to wait 20 years to find out that you're a helicopter parent. Luckily, some helicopter parent characteristics are obvious even when your children are under five.


When you take your young child out into the world, the responsible thing to do is to be close to them. Holding hands in a parking lot, following a toddler just learning to walk as she crosses a hard surface - these are times when hovering makes sense. But when your child is in a relatively safe space, such as a child-proofed room or an age-appropriate playground, that's when hovering crosses the line. The helicopter parent doesn't discriminate in her hovering; she is just as vigilant at the library's story time as she is crossing a busy intersection.


Helicopter parents are very worried about making sure their kids are successful. But instead of focusing on developing traits like self-reliance and perseverance, they focus on skills. Lots of skills. If the 2-year-old next door is taking swimming, dance, gymnastics, Mandarin, music and knows what flashcards are, then your neighbor is a helicopter parent. Young children learn their developmentally appropriate skills through play and play-focused preschools, not through lessons better suited to their 10-year-old siblings.

Problem Solving

It is one thing to step in when your 4-year-old is trying to tie his shoes, but it is quite another when you have to take them off for him. A 2-year-old who never climbs up the stairs, a 3-year-old who can't put his socks on, a 4-year-old who can't wash his hands - these are a few examples of too much parental problem solving. Helicopter parents are so invested in solving their children's problems that their children never learn to solve any of them on their own.


A helicopter parent believes that she is his child's personal cruise director. She will never let her child get bored or play by herself. Instead of allowing the child to develop her imagination, the helicopter parent will often direct all the play too. It is one thing to follow your child's lead and spend some quality play time with him each day, but look for your landing zone, helicopter parent, when you can't take a shower or make dinner because you're too busy teaching your child how to play with her new blocks.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.