Helicopter Parent

Handling Helicopter Parents

Helicopter parents want what is best for their child, but their behavior can stunt their child’s independence and learning – while putting a strain on teacher time and resources.

The term “helicopter parent” generally refers to a parent that hovers around his or her child, making decisions and managing more of their school life than may be beneficial. Helicopter parenting might include doing a student’s homework and questioning the curriculum or teacher methods to the point of inhibiting classroom progress. It’s a behavior that educators see not only in the lower grades, but all the way up through high school and even college. Below are a few ways to tactfully cope with signs of helicopter parenting:

1. Listen and Discuss

Listening to a parent’s concerns relieves stress on both sides of the issue. Just knowing that an educator takes their anxieties seriously can alleviate tension in some circumstances. Helicopter parents’ worry often stems from a fear that a student is in danger of potential failure. Discuss the importance of failure with parents, and how mistakes are a vital part of the learning process. Teachers are preparing students for success in the real world so they can be independent, life-long learners. While this step may not immediately bring closure to the issue, initiating an open dialogue and setting a tone that invokes easy communication is a good first step.

2. Offer Positive Involvement

The term “helicopter parent” carries a lot of negative connotations, but most hovering parents just want to be involved. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If a particular parent is monopolizing a lot of time, consider whether there are any less invasive ways for them to be actively engaged with the school. They could chaperone a field trip or help organize a fundraising event.

Helicopter Parent3. Keep Notes

Having a paper trail handy can benefit everyone. It proves that the teacher is making an honest effort to help a student to the best of their ability, and that the student is trying hard as well. This doesn’t mean creating a detailed log of every moment spent on a project, but just enough to show that there has been progress. If a student does particularly well at something or overcomes an especially difficult challenge, highlight those positive achievements. They empower the student and let parents know that their child is capable of doing excellent work on his or her own.

4. Make Allies

Making allies includes letting other members of the administration know when you’re experiencing difficulties with a helicopter parent. They may be able to offer advice or step in to help if your best efforts to mediate the situation have been ineffective. If a particular parent is jeopardizing the amount of attention that other students receive, it’s time to set stricter boundaries. A helicopter parent can also be an ally in a student’s education. If necessary, offer reminders that teachers and parents are on the same side, striving for the same goal of the best possible education.

It’s important to remember that helicopter parents’ intentions are good. It is usually easier to manage a helicopter parent than it is to try to engage an absent parent. Focus on helping overbearing parents see that the best way to help their child succeed is to let them earn success on their own.

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Leah Dearborn

Leah Dearborn is a freelance writer based in the Boston area. A graduate of the journalism program at University of Massachusetts–Amherst, she spends her time writing about science, history, and books.

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