'Helicopter parents' lead to spoiled, unhappy children
Published: Thursday, July 13, 2006
Updated: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 15:09
R.J. Nalbach, a junior at Health Careers High School, admits he is a bit overindulged. At 15, his parents buy all of his clothes, clean his room and do his chores, such as taking out the trash.
"They assign it to me, and I do it when I get around to it," he said.
His dad usually gets mad, then his mom may do it for him.
R.J. is not alone. In fact, this kind of parenting has become a trend for his generation. "Helicopter parents" like R.J.'s can be seen hovering over their children from preschool to the workplace.
Roger Tripp, a licensed professional counselor, said research on parenting types explains the issues surrounding what has become known as overindulgent parenting.
Tripp said children of "authoritative" parents - strong parents who allow children some bargaining power - are the most happy.
People whose parents are "laissez-faire," giving their children whatever they want, are the most unhappy, he said. They have low self-esteem and feel unworthy.
"What they said was, 'The message we got was we were incapable of doing it ourselves,'" Tripp said. "To me, that is the most enlightening story about spoiling our kids and why you shouldn't do it."
A parent's overindulgence can have other negative effects, as well.
If parents step in too early in problem or social situations, the children do not have the opportunity to gain necessary social skills that are normally developed during adolescence, Tripp said.
Some parents use overindulgence "as a guilt management tool," Tripp said. "(Other) parents just can't see why you would deprive a child."
Helicopter parents usually hover around and indulge their children because they want the best for them.
Like R.J.'s mother, who will do some of his homework for him if she sees he is staying up late to finish.
R.J. also has to watch his younger brother and sister sometimes while his parents are working, but if he wants to go out, he can call his parents and arrange for a baby sitter.
"Usually, I do what my parents tell me, as long as it's not like a big thing," he said. "Like ... go outside and mow the grass."
R.J.'s parents also supply him with all the material things he wants. He expects a car for his 16th birthday and will be surprised if he doesn't get one.
"Parents love their children so much they can't stand to see them in pain, but that's not love," said psychotherapist Rod Keller of Affirmation Christian Counseling. "The role of the parent is to prepare a child to make it in the world on their own."
Consequently, the kids will grow up and not be mentally or physically tough enough to survive out in the world, Keller said. "If a child grows up not respecting his mother, he's not going to respect anybody."
Psychotherapist Gordon Hudson says such children will not know how to be responsible and will have problems with authority.
Hudson sees cases in which people were not supported or well taken care of as children.
As a result, when they become parents, they tend to overindulge their children.
They promise themselves that their children will have better lives than they did.
"They don't want to upset their kids by not giving them the things they want," Hudson said.
In other cases, parents try to protect or defend their children in difficult situations because they feel like their reputations as parents are being attacked, Hudson said.
"Parents have to be consistent and strong," Hudson said, or else children will never respect boundaries or discipline.
Hudson said one warning sign of overindulgence is when parents feel like their kids disrespect or take advantage of them.
"Even though there may be a lot of warning signs, they (parents) don't pay attention to them," he said.