6 Things to Do Instead of Helicopter Parenting Your Toddler.




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The other day I was at the playground with my partner and our 14 month old son. I kept hearing a man’s voice shout over and over, “Emily! Emily!” At first it was simply background noise, but after a while of hearing him I started to wonder what it was about. Eventually I focused my attention on the man and who I am only assuming was his daughter (Emily). Once I became more aware with their situation he sounded more like this:



“Emily! Over here, over here! This way! Emily, look look! Turn it this way, Emily. Now the other way. Look over here! Come here! Sit down. Sit! Sit! Slide down now. Yea, good girl!”

It was yet another situation of Helicopter Parenting, and in this particular instance the parent was heavily invested in leading and being in charge of the child’s play. Unfortunately though, with this much direction from her dad, it turns out to not be much for play at all. Obviously, this man is well-meaning, but I think it’s important to examine our behavior towards children.

Urban Dictionary accurately describes a Helicopter Parent as: “A parent who hovers over their child, regardless of their child’s needs and desires. An overprotective parent who does not want their child to face any difficulty without their parent’s help.”

I could literally write a short book detailing all of the instances of helicopter parenting I have witnessed. Sure, I can chalk it up to it all being unique circumstances (and I am sure there are exceptions), but I see it so much that I know it’s not all unique circumstances. I see it as a play-ground epidemic. I want to be clear:  I’m not talking about special circumstances here. Some parents behavior towards their child borderlines on neurotic at best, insanity at worst. Again, it’s obviously well-meaning but I think it’s important to notice when our anxiety and cultural normative ideas are ours and to not project them onto our child. We can realize that we can still be present but in a different way.




On several occasions I have posted on social media about a few times helicopter parenting has merged into my son’s reality and pissed me off. Pissed me off because his play and learning opportunities have been derailed by other (and I’ll say it again) well-meaning parents. Now I am writing a blog about it, so some people may be wondering why I care so much or why this is important to me. The reason is this:

The urge and insistence to have so much control over our children comes from a deep cultural (often unconscious) belief that children are dumb (or not as smart as us) and that they don’t require or deserve the same respect we pay our adult peers. Therefore, children often grow up on some level to be psychologically, emotionally, and even physically stunted. Because this behavior towards infants and kids is so common place in our culture, what is accepted as “normal” adult human behavior and abilities is often below the reality of true human potential. I often hear the argument, “My parents did XYandZ and I turned out fine.”

Yes, we are fine in a culture with depressingly low standards of “fine.”

I don’t mean to sound dramatic or harsh on anyone. I am not perfect. I was not raised perfect. No one is. Not even my own child. What I do know is that we can do better, and part of doing better is cultivating a deep sense of trust and respect for our children. They desperately want it from us. Sometimes their way of asking for it can come out in ways that we interpret as “bad” behavior. Then our image of them is that they are “bad,” so we tighten the rope a little more and the cycle continues. Let’s break the cycle.




Maybe after reading this far you have identified yourself as a helicopter parent. If you find yourself saying, “Yes, this sounds like me, but how do I begin to stop and give my child more freedom,” then keep reading. It might feel difficult at first, unnatural even, but over time I truly believe that you and your child(ren) will be much happier because of it. Shifting the fundamental way we see and engage with our children will inevitably grow you as a person, as well. I came up with 6 ways you can actively start giving your child the respect and freedom he deserves. The first one is:

1.) Let the child lead their own play. 

At the beginning of this article I gave the example of the dad who was directing his daughter on the playground. Literally, the only thing you need to do is follow your young child, or know where they are at depending on their age.  Play comes naturally for them, especially at such a young age where everything is new. They don’t need us to tell them how to play or given our ideas of what play looks like. To them, play can be as simple as watching rocks in water or staring off into space. It is all important to them and their development. Many times, letting my son lead means we end up in the bathroom or some other place that is no longer the designated play area. We live next to a grocery store that has a children’s playscape outside that we frequent. Our son often wanders (with us following him) from the play area and leads us onto the deck, into the store, he climbs up the stairs and plays with things on the shelf. When he does stay on the playground nothing is off limits because of his age. We let him try to climb the highest surfaces (as we spot him), go up the many steps to the slide and wait for him on the other side of long tunnels. Which leads me to number two..

2.) Spot your child, but don’t hold them.

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Baby is clearly unhappy on the right.

This is so important because often times we think little kids are naturally wobbly and uncoordinated. To some degree it is true as they are learning fine motor skills, but many times they are this way when we constantly hold them as they are trying to walk or climb and pick them up and put them on their feet when they fall. They can never get a feel for their balance or master the repertoire of motions needed to be strong, steady, and coordinated with their movements. I can give you a couple of examples.

One time I saw a little girl about two or three years old walking through the woods on a trail with her mom. The mom stood behind her, holding the little girl’s hands up above her head, thinking this was giving her balance and ease as they went over rocky terrain. When she would fall her mother would pick her up, put her on her feet and proceed to hold her arms up again. She was essentially controlling all of her daughter’s movements. This little girl didn’t have a chance to fully sense and get a feel for her environment with her own body.

Another thing I see often is with little babies under a year of age and a little older. On the playground, since they can’t climb or sometimes even walk yet, I see their caregiver pick them up as they are attempting to climb the steps and put them on the platform where the slide is, or even sit them on the top of the slide. The unconscious idea is that the baby has a goal (get to the top or go down the slide) and that they can’t so we have to put them there. The thing is, at that age they are learning and exploring their range of movement and learning new skills. All they see is THIS step and they want to learn to master THIS step. Again, by directing their play and assuming the goal or the point of play for the child, we’re keeping them of learning important skills for optimal physical development. I am not exaggerating when I say that I get comments on my toddler’s physical ability daily. He’s so “fast,” “sturdy,” “coordinated,” and “good on his feet,” they say. I don’t say this to brag (well, maybe a little), but to display what a 14 month old is capable of. He already climbs up the steps and goes down the tall slide all by himself. He runs fast and goes up and down stairs without holding the side rail for support, and he loves climbing up and down rocks. Our son has also never worn shoes, which helps immensely with stability and posture, but that’s another blog post. An alternative to holding your child’s hands and body and picking them up to do everything is to be close by and spot them. That way if they fall you can quickly catch them. Also, be the judge on what’s a good fall and what’s a bad fall. It’s okay if they fall a few inches on packed dirt. They learn to fall gracefully.




3.) Learn to be okay with breaking some rules and getting some stares because of it.

Let’s face it, many of us don’t live in a world that values radical freedom for children. When you start to let your child lead more they might start to do some unruly things, let me tell you. They might crawl up from the bottom of the slide rather than slide down from the top. I am serious. I have been very surprised with how many parents take serious issue with the way their child is using the slide. What do we come to the playground for if we can’t loosen up? Making sure a toy or object is used exactly how it is intended to is very important in helicopter world, but you gotta LET IT GO. LET IT GO-OOOO!

All Frozen references aside, if your child wants to crawl up the slide or use a drum as a launching pad then we will all be better off if you could bend the rules a bit. I am not suggesting no boundaries or condoning the destruction of property. You will know the difference.

The other day we were at a children’s museum and a little girl younger than two kept throwing (more like tossing) a fake, plastic egg on the floor. Her mother repeated over and over to her, “Don’t throw it. No throwing. We don’t throw toys.” Really, though, what is throwing it harming? It’s can’t break and she wasn’t throwing it at or near anyone. I think often times the behavior of our children has less to do with them and more to do with what we think other people will think of us. Plastic egg throwing?! Savage, they say! Again, let it go. People’s opinions will be there no matter what. Kids have a lot of energy and sometimes throwing things and banging sticks is a way to release that energy. Our job isn’t to stuff it down and stop them, but rather, our job is to provide a safe environment that is conducive for that behavior, or redirct to another outlet if that action is harmful to anyone.

“Yes, you can bang the stick, but make sure you hit the ground or a tree, not people.”

“Yes, scream, let it out. If you want to scream go outside, or here, scream into this pillow.”

I give examples not to condemn the parents, but because this is one of my favorite topics so I talk about it often, and when I do, people frequently ask what to do instead or what could they do in X situation.

I actually take joy in watching a parent tell their kid to not do something and then not stopping or managing my son when he attempts the same thing. In many instances it gives the other parent permission to relax and give in to their child’s innocent desires. My son likes to throw things. One thing he likes to throw are my glass bottles of essential oils when we are in the bath. I usually redirect him and show him he can throw them in the water where they are safe. Of course, there are going to be times when your child wants to throw or play with something that is actually off limits, like Aunt Debbie’s china plate. At these times it is appropriate to set gentle boundaries.




4.) Give children the opportunity to solve problems on their own (yes, even little babies).

The most common form of helicopter parenting you will probably see is parental intervention in times of conflict. This displays our lack of trust in children as capable problem solvers. It often looks like telling and forcing children to share. I can’t tell you how many times my 14 month old has walked right up to a kid, snatched a toy from their hand, and when the child rightfully attempts to take it back, a parent immediately jumps in saying, “You need to share. Share with the baby.” No, your child doesn’t need to give up the toy he was playing with just because someone decided they wanted it. The same way we don’t need to give up our cell phones to anyone who comes up and takes them from us. Plus, I wouldn’t want my child to think that people have to give up their belongings simply because he takes it from them.

I think we project our deeply held beliefs about ourselves onto our children. The quick insistence to make our children sacrifice their things and always accommodate to others (often shows up as “get out of the way for these people/kids”) is a reflection of many people’s ideas about themselves being in the way or not worthy of having exactly what they want, etc. 

I have been blessed with a few occasions where for whatever reason the parents didn’t intervene during a conflict. What happens is truly remarkable and proof of how amazing children are. Yes, even babies. What happens is they either decide on their own who gets the toy and the one who doesn’t want it bad enough happily walks away, or better, they make a game out of it and the conflict turns into play. Sometimes they will be in a deadlock and emotions will run high. I watched my son get incredibly frustrated with a child who was NOT willing to give up his toy. My boy had met his match, and it made him very upset. It’s okay then to step in as a helper and guide, but still important that you aren’t making decisions for them. I think in this particular instance the struggle was about over by the time I stepped in, and I reflected back what was happening. “You both wanted that toy really bad. You are very frustrated now.”

Hitting and biting.

Another frequent occurrence, especially for toddlers, is hitting and biting. Know that this behavior is normal for not yet verbal children or children who cannot yet communicate their wants and needs, or simply, children who are feeling A LOT. While normal, it still doesn’t feel good, so if our child smacks another on the face it can feel like a knee jerk reaction to aggressively reprimand her. It’s important that you don’t immediately fly off the handle because it is easy to rob your child of the opportunity to feel empathy for the person they hurt, and feeling another’s pain is what will make us not want to hurt them again. If when they hit someone and you immediately start shaming, punishing and forcing apologies, then their attention goes to the feelings of shame, embarrassment, or confusion if they are really young. They don’t feel the other person, they just feel like a bad person. We never want our child’s motivation to be from a place of shame and fear. If we can pause and let them see and feel the other child as they cry then they can learn empathy. You can tell them how it feels when they hit, and show the other child your own empathy for them. If you’re close enough to your child and you know they are about to take a swing before they do, then blocking hands and redirecting is helpful, too. This is really hard for many because we can look really apathetic to other parents if we don’t show much action after our child hits someone. We think they are expecting us to punish our kids, and they probably are. Maybe they don’t understand, but only we know what is best for our child. Leading by example and showing other people a radical new way of handling things can be a gift. Also, note that aggressive behavior is sometimes a sign of an unmet need (usually a need for connection) that only you the parent can investigate to see what that is.

Please note: I am not condoning aggressive, violent behavior. I am offering an alternative way to deal with it that might be more effective and that doesn’t break your connection with your child in the process, or having them feeling so bad that they act out and do it again in the future. You always want to foster connection with your child. Disconnection is what drives unfavorable behavior.




5.) Give choices, not demands.

This one is pretty straight forward. It displays respect when we give our children options instead of orders. Let your child be in charge of their life as much as they can be. Just because they are little doesn’t make them less human. Living isn’t something to be earned with adulthood, it is a birth right that starts the moment you are born. As parents we have the job of providing our children with all the information and resources to make the best decisions. If this isn’t something you are used to you can start by asking them what they want for lunch and letting them choose what they wear. Yes, even if the outfit is totally bizarre by your standards. To take it a step further, ask how they want to spend their time. I am pretty radical, so when my son is old enough I will leave it up to him if he even wants to go to school or not. To some people this might be extreme, but this is his life. A person spends a lot of time in a classroom when they choose a traditional schooling route. Why would I force him to spend a lot of his life doing something he didn’t enjoy? Life is happening NOW. Not after high school, or college, or after you get married, or get the career you want. It’s now.

For really little ones giving options can be as simple as asking questions.

“Do you want to put your shoes on yourself or do you want me to help you?”

“Do you want to walk or would you like to be carried?”

You get the idea..

And last but not least,

6.) Start seeing your child as if they already know everything they need to know up to this moment.

This is where we fundamentally shift the way we see our kids. I think the common way we view babies especially, is that they are born with nothing, void of knowledge and wisdom, and it is our job to fill them up with the proper information and teach them the ways. On some level this is true, we do offer the role as their guide. The way I see it is that children are born with everything they need to know and our job is to simply provide the environment to let their innate self, knowledge and wisdom to unfold. They don’t need to be taught how to be. They need space and love to feel safe, respect to foster their confidence, and freedom to be the mystery of who they already are. Meet your child with a curiosity and desire to know who they are rather than assuming who they are and will be and trying to fit them into that box. Curiosity makes parenting way more fun and less stressful. Not to mention, trying to control a free being is exhausting.

Before I end I want to note that this isn’t neglectful parenting. It’s about being there when it’s necessary and not when it’s not. Along with what I talked about here I am also a passionate advocate for attachment parenting, which is the opposite of neglectful parenting. This also isn’t passive parenting. You can still implement loving, healthy boundaries the same way you might with a friend. It’s okay to say no, just look closely at what you are saying no to. Aim to be a yes as much as possible, even if that means you have to negotiate with your child. John Holt says,

“Trust children. Nothing could be more simple or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”

 

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67 Comments

  1. Most of this is good stuff, but I definitely do not agree with the hitting and biting. If another kid hits or bites my child I am going to say something. I am also not going to watch my child hit or bite someone – I am not going to condone such violent and bullying behaviors. My child has a lot of freedom and free play and we love that. He rarely hears ‘no’ or gets directions unless it’s a safety issue. But there are behaviors that hurt other people that are not okay.

    1. Thanks for reading and your feedback, Cece! I hope I didn’t come across as condoning these behaviors, rather just changing the way we handle them for small children who don’t yet know any better. I am all for letting our children know that hitting hurts and comforting the hurt child as I mentioned in my post. On the other hand, shaming and aggressive punishment is never a good method for anything. That’s my personal opinion.

      1. I agree with most of this except for the schooling part. I am actually very grateful my dad raised me with a hands off non helicopter approach. I was a tomboy, scraped up my knees constantly, and lived life to the fullest but if he hadn’t been adamant and very firm about me going to school I may not be where I am now. He and my mother had my oldest brother at 16 and me at 18 and I can see why he was very pro school. He struggled with us kids and still got his degree but I will always fully encourage my kids to succeed and go far with their education

        1. Oh I totally encourage my son towards success and learning, I just won’t dictate how that looks 🙂

  2. I don’t consider myself to be a helicopter parent, but I find myself being glad I don’t know this little boy. I don’t want to be around kids who throw things and scream and climb on shelves in grocery stores. I have taught my children limits and social behavior, and even they don’t want to be around kids who have no clue.

    1. That’s a shame, Jan. And a harsh, exaggerated judgment. My son is a delight and loved by everyone who knows him. We’re constantly stopped everywhere we go because he’s so friendly and engaging. Kids are kids. They make loud noises and throw things and climb. It’s not bad. It’s children being children. I’m sorry for your limited view of them.

    1. That’s a great question. My son sleeps with me in our bed every night. We do extended on demand breastfeeding and I never let him cry it out. If he does get hurt I always comfort him and respond to his cries. We also avoid strollers and only carry him in arms or with a carrier. He doesn’t talk yet, but when he does I will always help and comfort if he asks. It’s not about ignoring cries for help, simply giving them the freedom they want to explore and being the home base for when they need you.

    1. an other way of saying you give him the freedom he wants, is that you respect both his need for autonomy and his need for connection.

  3. I find this info all pretty genius. My kids are grown a d my youngest (26) just had his first child. They have great plans on how to raise her, and I am in full support of their choices. Many of which go right along with this article.

  4. Great article. One I’m embarking on myself with my delightful sweet Lovey. He’s 21 mos and boy do I get kickback from people! Some even get nasty because I don’t just cart him around speak for hhim or “put my foot down”! I’ve been called extremist among many other things. What do I do? Listen to my son, respect his choices and voice, follow him and take his cue when playing, I don’t rush him or make him responsible for my own issues that I have to work through. Is it his fault I get irritated at some things? No. It’s an opportunity for me to rewire my brain. A brain that was shaped by my culture and my upbringing. Am I perfect? Ha! Do I strive to give him what he needs? Absolutely. But I let him tell me. Some things are a given but mostly I defer to him. Some see that as permissive. I call it respect and trust. I live this little man fiercely and it angers me to know end when he is classified as not as intelligent or able to speak for himself by others. Esp those who believe they’re doing me a favor by stepping in. Seriously? Just keep stepping ‘aight?? 😉 here’s to a new world! !

  5. Thank you very much for this interesting piece. I find myself already doing aspects of this, but am interested in hearing more about conflict resolution, as I can see myself stepping in more and more to ensure my child knows when he’s “done wrong”. In part 4 you talk a lot about seeing how a child will decide who wants the toy more, but what it if it is your child who snatches the toy and holds on to it. How do you deal with those scenarios, when the toy is clearly not theirs, and they’ve taken it off a random kid. What strategies do you adopt? Thanks in advance, David.

  6. My older son (6) constantly bullies and grabs toys from my little one’s hand (2) at home. He also doesn’t feel much compassion towards his younger brother when he cries. I tried MANY times to step in to stop this behavior and asked him to ask first, though, unfortunately, this often fell on deaf ears (because he cared more about the toys the younger one’s feelings).
    Isn’t it unfair to the little one if I let this happen day after day? Isn’t it “cruel” if I choose NOT to calm the situation and help him to get the toys back?

  7. Letting your child choose not to go to school if he doesn’t feel like it – so many reasons why I find this kind of babying problematic. First you must not be working or life would be impossible. Second when do you start teaching your amazing child that he or she is a social being who lives in a world where sometimes you do things because thems the rules – and that they don’t have to always ‘feel like it’. In fact that feeling passes if you get over the hurdle and do it. Many young people I meet don’t have much capacity for getting over hurdles. Thanks to parenting that let them ‘lead’ all the time! Sometimes a parent actually shoukd tell a child what to do in my view.

    1. Thanks for you input Maree. I don’t believe in not educating or not learning. I guess I should have said I’ll let my son do whichever type of schooling he likes best. We have so many options here where I live. And that may be homeschooling for him. I know as a child I hated school and can’t tell you much about how is benefited me into adulthood. I don’t really use anything I learned in public school today. I agree, as parents sometimes we have to lay down some rules, and for us, dictating my sons learning process isn’t one of those. I trust only he knows what he’ll be interested in and how he’ll want to be educated and we can go from there 🙂

      1. You don’t use anything that you’ve learned from your school years? Are you kidding?

        I don’t believe you have a grasp of basic child psychology. Children need structure and routine in their young lives to feel safe. Otherwise, they act out. When children are given too much control, they get out of control. They don’t have the aptitude intellectually or the wisdom from experience to be able to make many of the decisions you have suggested, especially whether or not they wish to go to school.

        1. I didn’t say I don’t use anything I learned during my school years. I said, I don’t use in my everyday life what I learned at school. I guess what I should have said was, ***I don’t use anything now that I leaned at school that I couldn’t have learned at home or taught myself.

          But it’s true. Most of what I do on a day to day basis I either didn’t learn past kindergarten or I taught myself. All the things I learned in science, history, math, etc.. I couldn’t tell you. Nor, do I need that information for life.

          I’m not against education. I love learning! And I didn’t love it so much until I left school. Ironic, eh?

  8. I agree with some of this. However, biting and hitting isn’t because a child hasn’t be taught how to express their behaviour but them not yet being able to express feelings or having full self control. It is a primitive primate fiction. It isn’t parents not teaching children how to express themselves, as you write. Also these kind of behaviour that includes hurting others or damaging things must be is a positive way disciplined by a primary carer for example as its important to teach/show them its immoral. However this is probably best done in a certain way to help them start to understand and grow empathy. I most try to allow my toddler to direct play and be free to play and learn his way! I think that’s great as is solving problems themselves as long as its not putting them in danger or causing them distress. However it is also important they are shown that its positive to play the way others do to, in order to learn to think of others and socialise empathically and with kindness. So every great things here though! 😊

  9. I shared this comment yesterday, but do not see it today. Thought I’d try again in case it got lost in the interwebs. I can’t imagine it was deleted.

    I shared this article on my FB page with some commentary and a friend suggested I share my commentary here, so here it is, along with some additional background info that makes my commentary make sense if you don’t know us.

    This is an article that I wouldn’t have thought a thing about several years ago. I’d have read right past the story at the beginning and not thought a thing of it. Then I had T. And while I liked to think I was aware of differences before him, I am so much more aware now and more aware of what I don’t know about all the different ways that kids can experience challenges.

    I wasn’t there at the park with this author, but every time this article is shared, I now find myself wondering… what struggles in life have that girl and her dad had to deal with? Does play in fact come naturally to her? Does physical movement? Does she in fact, at this stage in her life, need encouragement to move as much as she needs the practice? Does she need to learn how to play? Because despite the author’s “expert” opinion here, play does not in fact come naturally to all children.

    I can come off as helicoptor-y. I was potentially the only parent to ever escort their 7 year old into the gymnastics gym (their policy is NO PARENTS in the gym) – helicoptor? Perhaps, but it was also the only way to help Miss Bundle Of Anxiety even consider a class like that. Two months later, she counts down to Gymnastics Day – but she never would have gotten to this point without me letting her use my presence as a bridge. T was born with kidney failure, and as a result has had many physical challenges to overcome – including requiring physical therapy just to get comfortable with his body enough to even roll around on the floor as a baby. I used to chase him around the playground, encouraging him to look at this, go over here because he was reluctant to move around on his own and was often overwhelmed by the out of doors after spending so much of his first few years in a hospital. And later, I chased him around making sure he didn’t fall well past the age that “normal” parents stop this behavior – but he didn’t start walking until he was 2 and he wasn’t super good at balance and whatnot for a while after that. I wanted him to be able to climb on the equipment AND I wanted him to not plunge to his death when his poor muscle tone couldn’t finish the job of getting him up the tall ladder.

    (kidney failure makes you feel ill. As a result most kids with kidney failure have eating problems. T stopped eating orally entirely by around 6 months and has been tube fed ever since. After he received his transplant, we began working on teaching him how to eat with his mouth, which began with helping him accept things touching his lips without vomiting. Two years later, he will eat some limited foods, mostly things that melt and don’t make crumbles in your mouth like yogurt and ice cream – he also prefers things that are cold, since that helps him keep track of where it is in his mouth so he doesn’t gag on it.) I’ve also been the mom at the restaurant, buying her toddler ice cream for dinner and not making him eat any real food… and I’ve seen the looks that people sometimes throw my way for that. Judge all you want – that’s my boy eating food with his mouth. We’re at a restaurant and I want to just eat my meal and not do feeding therapy exercises with him, and I’m darn well going to buy him something I know he’ll eat. But if you don’t know that, you might write a blog post like this one, but about us, and entitled “6 ways to stop letting your kids control you” or “6 ways to encourage your kids to eat healthier” and you’d include the “helpful” tidbit about how kids won’t let themselves starve and they’ll eat what you offer if they’re hungry enough and you stop feeding them ice cream. (Which is no more true than “play comes naturally to all kids.” Some kids WILL let themselves starve to death, even surrounded by food. And some kids do NOT know how to play without help.)


    After I shared this, I received responses from several friends, such as the friend whose child has OI and she follows him around the playground trying to make sure he gets to play but that he doesn’t break a bone doing so. A friend whose daughter has many health challenges, which have resulted in her having absolutely terrible sense of balance – and the bonus that any blow to the head could cause her to lose what little hearing she has. Others.

    I understand that your Urban Dictionary definition wouldn’t include us in the definition – since our kids clearly need the extra support I’ve discussed here. But my point is that all of your super judgy examples are cases where YOU DO NOT KNOW the whole story.

    I’ve been the parent in your Item #2 – because my 2 year old wanted to walk so bad and we were in therapy working on it and the best way, according to our therapist, to help him was to help provide him the stability that his body could not provide. He wore special shorts to help hold his legs together, he wore special braces to help hold his feet where they were supposed to be, but when he was getting tired, his little body literally could NOT do it without external support from a caregiver. His core strength is still really poor – the result of spending so much time recovering from major abdominal surgeries as a baby and child – and he struggles to hold himself upright even now. The options available to us when he was first walking were: help him do it by providing some of the stability his body couldn’t provide for him, let him flop on the ground, or pick him up and carry him. What he was clearly communicating to us was that he’d prefer we help him do it. Do you know for a fact that none of the children whose parents you scorn in this article have not faced similar challenges?

    Then in #3: “The other day we were at a children’s museum and a little girl younger than two kept throwing a fake, plastic egg on the floor. Her mother repeated over and over to her, “Don’t throw it. No throwing. We don’t throw toys.” Really, though, what is throwing it harming?” Perhaps the little girl is like my little boy. Rules must be adhered to pretty strictly when in public, or things break down pretty quickly. If I let him throw a small toy not near people where it’s not hurting anything, it quickly escalates to throwing bigger things, harder, near people, and putting other people’s kids at risk. It’s easier for everyone if I intervene sooner, rather than later. “Oh, i’ll let you throw the toy this time but not next time” is pretty confusing for my child and “I’ll never let you throw the toy so don’t even try it” is the level of concrete that he needs right now. (If there were space, I’d find a place where he could safely throw and restrict his throwing to just that space, but most shared play areas don’t really have a spot where you can do this.) I’d certainly hope that any other parents observing my enforcing our strict “no throwing toys” rule in public would appreciate that I’m trying to keep their kid from getting beaned in the head with a Thomas the Train toy, rather than sitting back and assuming they know my kid better than I do.

    Then there’s This gem in #4: “Another frequent occurrence, especially for toddlers, is hitting and biting. Know that this behavior is normal for not yet verbal children or children who are not taught to properly communicate their wants and needs.” Um, it’s also normal for children who have developmental challenges that make it difficult to properly communicate their wants and needs. I can hardly even believe you said “children who are not taught to properly communicate…” Oy.

    There is a whole world out there of not typical children. I’d suggest trying not to assume that every child you come across is developing typically and not facing any unusual challenges.

    1. Thanks for your long, well thought out response to my article, Sarah. I totally know there are children with special needs that require different circumstances. I thought that went without saying, but I guess not. Not everything is one size fits all. Again, I thought that went without saying. I simply offer advice that I think will help the average person. To me, if your child is a “ball of anxiety” as you called it, then walking her into gymnastics isn’t helicopter parenting, it’s meeting her requests and needs at that moment. No where in the article am I advocating forcing your child to do something they are not comfortable with or ready to do on their own. The opposite actually. I advocate letting them lead. Only going as far as they are ready. Not forcing or pushing them. As far as strictly enforcing rules in one area because then it will escalate all others, for me this is an opportunity for education. “We can throw this here because X but we cannot throw it over there because Y.” My whole message is give freedom where you can and set boundaries when truly needed. This is simply my opinion and the way I choose to do things. If you think your way works best for you and your children then I won’t say stop. I don’t have experience with special needs children, therefore, I won’t be writing an article about them anytime soon. If you’d like to write an article in response to helicopter parenting and special needs children I would love to read it. There’s always something to learn. I am sorry you interpreted my article to mean that it works or applies to every child. I certainly don’t remember writing those words, but maybe not overtly stating that it doesn’t has some default to believe that I mean it’s supposed to. Again, I appreciate the time you took to read my work and thoroughly respond, even if it was to disagree. I am taking all kinds of feedback as a growing experience.

  10. As I said, I understood that your advice was meant for typical children (and of course it is “understood,” lol. Special needs moms are pretty accustomed to having our kids forgotten about and brushed aside, and to assuming that things that parents of only healthy, children don’t ever think about kids like our children. 🙂 But what I said several times was that my disagreement wasn’t necessarily with your advice… but your entire paradigm. The fact that when you give examples of the “helicoptering” you have seen in public… you just assume that all those kids are typical and their parents needlessly helicopter-ing. Why not assume that those kids are perhaps like OUR kids – and that those parents are providing the support that their kids legitimately need in order to function in a world that is almost always set up assuming that everyone is “typical.”

    Why judge when you can support? Why assume the worst when you can assume the best?

    1. Short answer, you are taking this article too seriously. If you don’t agree with it, then it wasn’t meant for you now was it?
      Why can’t people just move along from something that they don’t agree with instead of having to cry, “don’t judge me, you don’t know MY story!”?

  11. Great read. I see a bit of myself woven throughout, but am thinking through how I would effectively handle hiring/biting or any other physical violence. But, on another note, what does your son wear on his feet if not shoes? I always assumed once my son starts walking, he should wear shoes for health and safety reasons especially when we’re at the playground.

  12. Not sure how I got this in my feed and I seldom respond to things, but as a family who did attachment parenting, I thought I would add that after two and a half decades of this, the result has been competent, independent, and caring, and respected, adults. One way to think of this method is to remember that it is based on meeting needs and teaching the difference between a need and a want. Just about everything a newborn “requests” is a need. This changes as time goes on. The great part of this is that by teaching the child that their needs will be met and the difference between a need and a want, trust and empathy is built so that they know not only will they be safe and secure in their needs, but that wants are recognized and taken into consideration, but are not guaranteed. They get to learn that parents are there for the important stuff and to teach how to determine what is the optional. Children don’t run the show, but they do learn how the show is run, learning about their individual situation and as they get older, that of family members and society as a whole. They come to know that not fulfilling a want isn’t a whim of parents and later, other authorities, but considered responses based on the situation. This is great for the parent because it leads to children who see that parents and siblings and friends and the rest of society’s members have needs and wants, too, and how those are addressed for everyone. As they grow older, these children learn to recognize others’ needs and respond and to consider others’ wants and make decisions on whether that is a option they can or should honor. I would often say that parenting is walking the fine line between letting children know they are the center of your universe without having them conclude they are the center of THE universe. This is a very child centered version of parenting, but not because you are giving in to every request or are jumping up and meeting every demand. Instead it is child centered because it has the long term goal of creating adults who have heard yes and no and learned when to employ them for themselves and their families.

  13. Just want to say a huge thank you for this article. It takes a strong person to write about things that aren’t considered ‘normal’ and Instead written from instinct and love…. You do get some pretty harsh feedback but you handle so well. Thank you for writing in spite of this as these words are needed for SO many parents that are having a hard time and need some support and guidance. And I also may not do everything outlined in your article but we do the best we can, as do you. Lots of love and gratitude xxxx

  14. Your views on parenting with respect to allowing the learning process to unfold naturally align with how I raised my own children. I too notice helicopter parenting and how frustrating this seems to be for the child. However, there is an even more disturbing trend that is becoming more common in my observation.
    It’s becoming the norm for babies and children to be strapped into deeply reclined strollers with a pacifier everywhere they go. They seem to be motionless, stare blankly, and have no opportunity to interact with the world. I’ve often wondered what effect this would have on physical and verbal development.
    I’m not referring to occasional stroller/pacifier use. It has become uncommon in my area to see a baby in arms, toddler without pacifier, or young child out of stroller to run and explore. Sleep training is the accepted norm as well.
    I am deeply saddened for these little ones. My intent is not to judge the parents, but to empathize with these babies and small children. Is there even a word for this type of parenting? And what are your views on this?

    1. My partner and I always talk about it because we see it, too. He (my partner) says the kids in strollers look like handicap little people being carted around. Our son has never had a pacifier and I just bought our first stroller 3 weeks ago. My son is 16 months. He’s getting really big and I’m only 100lbs, so I use it when I’m walking a decent distance, but still always bring the carrier in case he refuses the stroller. My partner has never pushed him in a stroller, always in arms. I agree and also wonder what always being pushed around does to the development of a child. Our son has always been very engaged and in his body. Very agile 🙂

  15. Nice article. It highlights some of the differences between my own parenting techniques and my partners. I very much allow our sons to explore the world with as little intervention as possible, whereas, my partner like’s to assist – very much a worrier in fear of all these things that may harm our boys. Kids bounce well, they always have done.

    One thing I’d like to add regarding the throwing and hitting – One of the things I’ve always strived for is to avoid the kind of parenting that erects imaginary barriers for our children; why is hitting or throwing naughty? Aren’t varieties of both of these things lauded in the Olympics as sports (Boxing, javelin etc). These barriers are restrictive for development and I want my children growing up believing anything can be achievable. We went through a stage where one of our boys was constantly throwing EVERYTHING. Not once did I try to stop him. Instead, I got a low level basket ball hoop and made a game of it, I gave him a target and every-time he scored it was a big deal. It worked wonders for his hand-eye co-ordination not to mention his confidence. Same situation with hitting. “You want to hit things son? Here’s some drum sticks, smash the life out of this drum”.

    Many parents need to stop telling their kids ‘No’, and learn how to turn their child’s behaviour into something positive.

  16. I love all of this! Thank you for writing it.
    I agree with everything except your schooling comment.
    I want to teach my kid perseverance and not quitting something just because they aren’t “enjoying” it at the moment.
    For example, if you let your kid quit every sport or musical instrument, they will never get to the point of enjoying it at all.
    I HATED taking college courses in the beginning and wanted to quit. But my parents pushed me to stick through it and I am SO grateful. By the time I was in my last two semesters I DID enjoy school and am so proud of my degree.
    I want to push my kids to pick a sport, instrument, and school and I want to teach them to stick to their commitment. This way, when they do find something they think they want to do in life, they’ll know how to push themselves through the hard, unenjoyable parts in the beginning. The joy comes when they master their skill!

    I’d love to hear your thoughts more on school!

    1. Hi Kendra! Thank you. And yes, I’ve had a few questions in regard to that school comment and maybe I should have clarified. I’ll let my son choose which schooling style he prefers. I won’t just send him to our nearest public school without question (that’s how we did it in my family growing up). My thoughts are: I’m a no to public school. My most preferred is unschooling or a school that follows a child led, no curriculum style of learning. We have so many awesome alternative type schools here where I live for young kids. My son is still young but when the time comes the idea is to do what works best for him and meets his needs and desires as far as what he’s interested in pursuing. That might mean a Waldorf type education, maybe it’s unschooling at home or maybe it’s a mixture of things. We’ll see 🙂

  17. Yet another way of judging how other’s choose to parent there children and of someone believing that only their idea of parenting is the ‘right’ one…

    1. I know. It’s always about the parents. Forget the children, right?

      Take it how you will. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  18. I really liked your article but I don’t agree with letting your child choose everything because there are some cases where children really don’t understand what is best for them. What child would choose to take medicine that tastes bad, a vaccine that could protect their life, or a medical/dental procedure that is necessary for health. What child would choose to wear a bicycle helmet, eat healthy food, brush their teeth, wear a seat belt, etc. if we didn’t as parents force them. And some children have a natural love to learn and would excel in a democratic or unschooled environment. But others, need the structure of a traditional school to force them to learn or they would grow up illiterate. I think there needs to be a balance.

  19. I’m an attachment parent (co sleeper, extended breastfeeder, dirt in the feeter) and, while I definitely agree with the long leash approach to children finding their way, I’m not sure using specific examples of people you’ve picked out of a crowd to illustrate your main points was the best way to convey this message. I see other parents doing their other things, and there’s always more to the story. Some overactive dads might have been told to suck it up or brush it off after major childhood injuries, when parents could have been a little closer at hand, some moms who always pick up their kids in the woods just want to keep walking because wtf, this is a hike, okay!? In all seriousness, we are over attentive and over aware of our children as a culture (in the West), and we do need to let our kids get hurt and figure things out, but we also need to let other adults learn, get hurt and figure things out. Everyone’s a perfect parent until their first major issue comes up, too. You’re lucky that your first child does everything in a line you can follow, that he walked ‘on time’ and was short enough to make his way to adept walker. My second is like that, but my first was afraid of everything, her sensory perception being wildly different and, in a word, trippy. We hovered, so help us, when she did her first everything and, even so, she’s had a cut chin, a slammed finger or two and a sprained ankle, because things happen and eventually, we learned to let go. She’s six now. Probably in time, eh?

    1. I understand. I didn’t mean for this to come off as a one size fits all article. Obviously, there are exceptions and as parents it’s our job to adjust accordingly. I wouldn’t say my son does everything in a line that I can follow. It doesn’t always feel convenient, that’s for sure. That’s part of the work in parenting, for me. Learning to surrender where I can. I like what you said about being over attentive and aware with our children in the West. I agree. Thank you for reading 🙂

  20. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
    I am quite sure I’ll learn lots of new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

    1. Thank you! I just posted a new blog. You can also subscribe to be notified every time there’s new content, or “Like” The Feminalist Mom on FB 🙂

  21. I really enjoyed reading this post. Although I am not yet a parent myself, I know a handful of people my age who were raised by helicopter parents, my husband included. I can see in them the effects this type of overly controlling parenting has had on them, namely lack of self confidence, not trusting in themselves, and inability to navigate challenges typical of adult life without assistance. I am most familiar with my husband’s case, and have observed that my mother in law fits the part of the definetion “does not want their child to face any difficulty without their parent’s help,” to a tee.

    Given the behavior of my friends/family who have been raised in this manmer, the long term results of helicopter parenting can certainly hinder a child’s ability to function successfully as a member of society, unless you count the depressingly low standards of fine, of course. I agree that these parents are likely well meaning, but raising children isn’t about the parents, it’s about helping the child become a whole person.

  22. I really enjoyed this read. As a mother of 7 children, helicopter parenting petered out around my 3rd child, however since then, I have actually made a conscientious decision to allow them their space, allow them to resolve their own conflicts and to allow them to be in their own space at their own time. Much less stressful for all parties involved.

  23. YES! Helicopter parenting is one extreme, but lack of respect for children is so prevalent! As a full-time mom who is always out and about and organizing lots of nature playgroups and such in a very child-centered parenting themed area of the country, I think I’ve still only met a handful of parents who truly respect their kids. And the peer pressure to disrespect them is intense! I’ve fallen prey to it before, and it makes me want to cry to see my child hurting from my own authority because other parents enforce what they see as my rules when they don’t understand that negotiations aren’t exactly the same with a four year old than a fully logical adult (because they don’t take the time and effort to truly understand kids and speak their language). Anyway, thanks for writing this.

    And yes, if we let our kids truly play, take their shoes off (or don’t put them on, I suppose), and feed them the real, seasonal food that our bodies evolved for, you will be completely amazed by their physical abilities. People have no idea what grains and dairy, arch support, and even the not-too-frequent “no” does to stunt their kids development. No, they’re not fine, and neither are those of us who grew up that way.

  24. Right here is the right webpage for anyone who really wants to understand this topic.
    You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject which has been written about for many years.

    Great stuff, just excellent!

  25. I am no longer certain the place you’re getting your info, however great topic.
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  26. Your style is so unique compared to other folks I’ve read stuff from.
    Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity,
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  27. I am a grandmother, now, but I still remember my mother’s wise words about “giving choices.” She said “once you decide that you want the children to go outside, you ask ‘would you like to play in the front yard or the back yard today?’ And then you know which chores to do in the house, so you can keep a watchful eye out a window!”
    In other words, you don’t ask “would you like to go out or stay in today?” ~LOL

  28. i think its great you are raising your child the way you think is perfect for him and your family. maybe instead of getting irated and judging other patently styles, teach him that everyone is different.

  29. Preach it! Loved the article, wish more of the discussion in the comments was targeted towards the actual point of the article: trusting our children and seeing them as human beings just as deserving of respect and consideration as another adult in the same room. That, I feel, is much more worthy of discussion than spewing self-defensive daggers at the author, trying to grasp onto whatever shreds of their belief system remains and panicking.

    Encouraging growth and challenging old belief systems will always be met with resistance, yet it is inherent in our existence. Thanks for your honesty and bravery, and willingness to speak your truth.

  30. To me this is just one persons opinion on how to parent. Just because helicopter parenting annoys you, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I personally think some of the idea you have are wrong. Especially letting my baby climb steps or walk without me helping him. I have seen too many head injuries in the hospital to literally stand there and watch my kid climb the steps when it’s obvious he is infact unsteady. Unless you are an expert on children’s development I don’t think you should be acting like you’re superior to how others parent. It’s parents like you that annoy me. You are not a better parent because you don’t hover.

    1. Hmmm. I find myself wondering if you read the whole article because I clearly state to stand with them as a spot if you’re not confident with their ability to do something. I do know that holding their hands above their heads has it be that they don’t learn to balance, so being there if they fall is a good alternative. And assessing as the adult what is safe and what isn’t. I’m not advocating neglect. I’m advocating for children to be able to explore their world and their bodies within safe boundaries without being shut down constantly by high strung adults, which is what I often see.

  31. This is very conscientious parenting style and I agree with most of it, being aware and trying to give the best to your child and not wanting to taint their world with norms of the society is a great pursuit, i m sure your child will grow up to be a great human being.
    but having said that, I also see that there is underlying judgment about other parenting styles, each child is different and their needs are different, and parents – most of them, are having best intentions in their heart when they do what they do, no well-meaning parent would put “conforming to cultural etiquette” in front of their their child’s welfare. Most parents are genuinely interested in raising a child with a deeper sense of awareness, you are judging someone too quickly when you say “high strung adults, which is what I often see”..what you see as “high-strung” could be “highly-alert and aware” parent who are is intuitive about their child and probably have assessed the danger of their child falling off the stairs when he tries to climb the stairs, and thought it would be better to assist him; they are not being neurotic, they just know their child well enough to make the best judgement.
    Also, I could not get myself to agree with the throwing – throwing bottles is dangerous, you will not be around him all the time to direct him towards water, and as he grows and he will not look for water every time he wants to throw a bottle,as you said, they live in present and want instant gratification, but teaching patience and setting limits on what is “acceptable throwing” is also important, my son was never a thrower, but he picked it up from my friend’s child, who throws things for fun and also when he gets upset (which is also not a good way to release frustration) and when I try to correct, my friend keeps saying I should not, as I am interfering with their play. I am sorry, but throwing stuff for fun needs limits, it could turn into something dangerous very quickly, and throwing when you are upset is not playing, its simple an act of letting out frustration, where you could and should help your child, getting upset is OK, but throwing stuff around the house is not OK, esp when there are people you could hurt and things you could break! try to teach them to deal with frustration, like taking a deep breath and discussing about what is the source of frustration and deal with the source.
    Parenting is a tight-rope walk – a fine balance between being relaxed and being high strung – u need to be both, based on the child’s needs and the circumstances, and most parents are both.

    1. As someone who is both intuitively aware and high strung, I know the difference.

      As for throwing things, it’s a shame people took this article to mean that I condone absolute chaos and throwing whatever, wherever a child wants and not implementing other forms of stress relieving techniques such as deep breathing like you mentioned. I believe that once they get to a certain age they understand the difference between throwing a bottle for fun in water and chunking rocks at people angrily. Comes from empathy and education on my part as the parent. I have a pretty good sense of what’s OK and what isn’t for my child in each situation but people are way quick to judge me based on one article. The very thing I’m accused of doing to others. I didn’t write this because I saw helicopter parenting a couple of times. If that were the case I could chalk it up to special circumstances. I wrote it because it’s a playground epidemic. It’s there constantly and I don’t believe everyone has a special situation that justifies such behavior. I just don’t.

  32. Its like you wrote about a day in our house!! Love it! My daughter is 2 and is the most competent, careful, empathetic child I know. And yes I know that sounds biased but other people tell me the same all the time so I know its not just me. Im blessed in that I am able to stay home with her and we have a great dynamic. I let her make 95% of the choices for the day and when something isnt a choice, such as bedtime or running an errand, I try to allow some form of choice around it. I was worried that I was creating an entitled monster but every she turns into a more kind, selfless child. Some may be contributed to genetics and disposition but I cant help but feel that the freedom she ia given is part of it also. Thank you for this incredible article!

  33. Hi!
    My daughter is 11 months old and she likes chewing pebbles on the seaside and is very interested in cigarettes buds in the park. How do u react when your child puts in its mouth stuff that u find dangerous for its health? I am trying to redirect her interest but this does not really work. I d be really glad to hear an opinion or ur own experience on the subject.
    Thanks!
    M.

    1. I always closely watched my son and let him explore things with his mouth like rocks and sticks if we were in an area that is mostly untouched. As for nasty things like cigarette butts and such, I just would simply put my hand between his mouth and the object he’s trying to eat and say nicely, “not for your mouth.” I also learned the sign for yucky/icky/dirty and would do the sign to show him since we do a lot of sign language. They are very mouthy at that age!

  34. I needed to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every little
    bit of it. I have you book-marked to check out
    new things you post…