Is helicopter parenting harmful?

Clara Kelly

Do some parents live vicariously through their children and how dangerous can this be?

It seems like for as long as there has been competition, in sport and everything else, there have been overbearing parents trying to force their children to compete, but is this control good or bad?

Ever since the emergence of sports, drama and dance clubs for kids, there has been an equal number of parents pushing their kids to attend them. Since shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms came into the public sphere, this behaviour appears to have been normalised even further.

It is easy to see the many benefits of getting your child involved in clubs of some kind – improving social skills, making friends, and learning new and useful abilities. However, we must ask where it begins to cross a line?

When kids who have little to no interest in sports end up being forced to compete because their parents notice they are good at them, despite not enjoying them, that is when it becomes a problem. It would be like forcing a child who loved sports to pursue drama or dance because of the parents own beliefs on what is best.

Wanting the best is human nature, but where it gets troubling is when parents begin to live vicariously through their kids until the children themselves no longer get any joy from the activity. That is when a re-evaluation of priorities needs to occur.

Some children are forced to live under tremendous pressure. The effects of this can be traumatic and lead to resentment towards their parents.

If a kid is being forced to always think of the next competition, trophy or medal, to win, win, win at all costs, I believe there is no way that will not have a damaging impact on their mental health and subsequently, relationship with their parents.

This win-at-all-costs attitude that prioritises the child’s abilities to succeed and benefit their mother or father over their well being is ever-present in shows like Dance Moms. Their popularity shows there is no shortage of entertainment value in watching how toxic and controlling coaches and parents can be.

People tune in to shows like this and forget about the real children, the children who often seem unhappy as they are forced into makeup and spray tans and practice for hours on end, instead of just being allowed to be a kid and have fun.

We might still see similar antics on a smaller scale on a local football field or community centre, kids who do not want to be there and parents who are a little too eager and overly excited for that next win.

This idea of helicopter parenting has always been present even when it comes to the educational system. People who pay far too close attention to their kids’ experiences, particularly their achievements. They can be too concerned with their grades and reports and put an enormous amount of pressure on them to not just succeed, but excel.

Placing large amounts of pressure on little shoulders, to take piano lessons or learn an instrument, play a sport and do well at school is far too much for young people to handle.

As a society, we have such mixed values when it comes to this particular topic with some parents cursing participation medals, however, I don’t think a shift towards those attitudes would necessarily be a bad thing.

Children are ultimately still just children and should be treated as such.

Clara Kelly

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