Helicopter Parents and Agenda Moms: Parents Who Manage Their Children’s Lives

December 17, 2016

We use the term helicopter parents and agenda moms to refer to those parents who expect to control and organize their children’s lives completely. They act with the best of intentions, but without a shred of doubt, they diminish their little ones’ liberty.

A helicopter parent or an agenda mom constantly checks on their children’s homework, their assignments, their tests, and their activities, never ceasing to tie up loose ends or to plan every minute of their child’s life.

They are the guardian of every bit of information and every academic (and extracurricular) obligation of the child, creating in them a dynamic of veritable dependence. As a consequence, it is more difficult for children to learn to take responsibility for their activities obligations, and interests.

Girl Opening Pandora's Box

Helicopter parents and agenda moms who leave their children empty

With this activity of overprotection and with the task of creating a bubble from the characteristics described above, we end up stimulating the “growth” of children who do not know themselves, who are incapable of regulating their emotions, and who do not know their needs and ambitions.

This relationship between parents and children ends up becoming toxic, as the children are trapped in an overprotective bubble that seeks to be the most resistant of all armors, when in fact it is the best seed for insecurity that we can plant in them. Furthermore, these children are overstimulated; they cannot tolerate frustration or boredom because they only know how to play the passive role that they have gotten used to.

These parents, in their task of protecting their children from any discomfort and helping them be brilliant, decidedly detail every little movement of their “bubble children.”

Behind View of Girl

The origin of the term dates back to 1969, when Haim Ginnott wrote in his book “Between Parent & Teenager,” “my mom would float over me as if she were a helicopter.” This phenomenon has spread socially and we have ended up at a point where many parents (unjustly) blame teachers for their children’s bad grades.

Helicopter parents and agenda moms:

  • Make decisions for their children in every domain of their lives.
  • Watch over every movement and try to appease their children with every detail and in an immediate way.
  • Resolve their children’s conflicts and always try to hand them solutions.
  • Speak in the plural: “We are going to have to spend so much time studying this subject!” “Look at how much homework they have given us!” etc.

That obsessive need to have everything under control also ends up being devastating for the parents, who end up stretching themselves too far. They try to offer their little ones a life full of perfection, love, and care, offering them all the resources that they can access and preventing them from making mistakes that they should make at their age.

What happens is that in the end, reality imposes itself and the floating castles start to crumble. This kind of relationship ends up being suffocating. Both parties end up frustrated and stretched too far, leading to deep complexes and emotional problems.

Mom and Child on Beach

Overprotective parenting that ends up being reflected in depression and anxiety

According to various studies, this style of overprotective upbringing leads to harmful consequences in the short, medium, and long term: depression, anxiety, and stress. A price that not only the children are going to pay, but also their parents.

This deterioration is a response to the limitation of three basic emotional needs: the feeling or sense of autonomy, the feeling or sense of competence, and the feeling or sense of being connected to others, especially during adolescence and with those of their own age. So everything that limits the emotional development and growth of the child brings devastating consequences on a personal and interpersonal level.

Children have to be educated with care and attention with a foundation on the amounts of each in a common sense. We cannot get involved in the various spheres that make up their lives nor can we be responsible for their obligations, for they will grow up feeling useless, incompetent, and dependent, and that is precisely the opposite of what we want.

Illustrations by Karin Taloyr and Claudia Tremblay