Whether you love them or loathe them, helicopter parents are back in the news, and the findings may surprise you. As reported in an article in the Boston Globe, a recent study determined that there may actually be benefits to helicopter parenting, and as much as we’d like to malign the practice when we see it, being overly involved in your kid’s life just might have its merits.

Helicopter parenting is the mildly pejorative term for those moms and dads you see on playgrounds and libraries (you probably know a few of them personally) who hover incessantly, much like a helicopter, over their children. Taken a step further, they go out of their way to over-parent their kids, making sure they never get hurt, never lose or fail, and intervene in as much of their children’s lives as they can.

Entire industries have been spawned to accommodate the helicopter parent in all of us, making promises to keep your kids enriched and healthy, or ensuring a bright and happy future. Even though many of the claims have never been proven, and have even been disproved or refuted, that still doesn’t stop some of us from spending our hard earned cash on classical music CDs for our children’s listening enjoyment… or should I say, enrichment?

Whatever be the case, as a parent, you’ve probably heard all the arguments against the practice of over parenting; how it might encourage poor behavior (can you say spoiled?); instill children with fear of taking chances; deny them their own sense of self; make them too reliant on other people to solve their problems; and make it difficult if not impossible for them to set out and create a life of their own. Furthermore, being heavily dependent on mom or dad to make your big life decisions surely can’t bode well for any future intimate relationships that your kids might develop when they're older.

The take home message? Helicopter parenting should be avoided because it is simply bad for your kids.

Or is it?

When you really get down to it, it just seems like common sense that you’re not doing your kids any favors by holding their hand all the time, and yet, the findings discussed in the Globe actually paint a different picture: that college age children whose parents fit their definition of being helicopter parents, had actually grown into capable, well adjusted college students who were “more engaged in learning and reported greater satisfaction with their colleges.” The findings were so unexpected that even the researchers conducting the study were taken by surprise, to the point where they had to go back and take a second look (so much objective inquiry).

And they also make the point that most of our impressions of helicopter parents are in the extreme. We think of them as those people who have completely taken control of their kids lives and keep track of their every movement, when in fact, many who fit the definition are in fact simply more involved. So maybe it’s not a bad idea to take the negativity about over-parenting with a grain of salt, and keep in mind that it’s really a question of degrees.

Finally, it’s hard to argue with the fact that when your kids get to be older, it doesn’t hurt to have a good relationship with them. Not necessarily be their best friend, which probably won’t be an option, but comfortable enough so that hopefully they’ll  communicate to you when they need help, and this rapport stems from being involved in their lives.

Besides, when you really get down to it, parenthood isn’t what it used to be, and compared to our parents and their parents, couldn’t the argument be made that we’re all a little guilty of some form of helicopter parenting? How many of us get together with our friends and chime in with the familiar refrain, “We never used seat belts… wore helmets… had play dates when we were kids?”  Yet they are an integral part of our children's lives.


And finally, while being a constant presence in child’s life might seem like a exercise in parental denial or self indulgence, is that any worse than completely ignoring and neglecting them?

I would argue that it isn’t. So in the end, maybe there’s no perfect solution, and helicopter parenting, to a greater or lesser degree, is just a fact of modern life. And as much as I’d like to lighten up and not give in to fear and anxiety, I’m always going to succumb to it to some degree.

Even if, when I was a kid, I never used a helmet or, for that matter, wore a seatbelt..