If you just can’t help but hover over your teen’s every move, your kid could be paying the price. A new study suggests helicopter parenting can lead to less self-control in young adults. And if you think your teen going to college is a good excuse to hover, you ought to take a step back: Helicoptering often contributes to school burnout.
Helicopter parenting is a parenting style defined by parents’ excessive monitoring of their kids and insistence on handling their problems and everyday obstacles. This results in kids who may not be able to endure life’s hardships on their own, research says. The Florida State University study Helicopter Parenting, Self-Control, and School Burnout among Emerging Adults was published this September in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.
Students who participated in the study gave self-reported scores about their parents’ involvement in their own lives, plus their own self-control and experience with burnout. Researchers studied helicopter parenting’s effect on young adults and found that it can give teens fewer chances to practice self-control and manage their emotions or behaviors. It’s tough to work those resiliency muscles when Mom and Dad are taking care of every problem that arises.
School burnout, a response to academic stress, is another potential con, as students of helicopter parents are more likely to become exhausted by schoolwork, feel inadequate in class and have a cynical or negative attitude about education overall. Burnout can lead to mental health struggles down the road, like anxiety, depression and addiction, plus poor academic performance. In fact, some victims of burnout end up dropping out of college altogether.
There’s also a difference between a helicopter mom and a helicopter dad. While over-parenting mothers are more common, hovering fathers are more associated with burnout. When a dad is overly involved, the teen may feel more stress about school performance and grades. Yet,researchers say additional work is needed to investigate paternal helicoptering; it’s unclear if it leads to lower self-control or if paternal helicoptering is a response to burnout rather than a cause of it.
If you’re worried you may be hovering too much, pause and reflect, researchers suggest. “We talk about mindfulness a lot. We’ve seen that mindfulness helps for outcomes,” says study co-author Ross May, a research assistant professor and associate director of the Family Institute. “Take a second, reflect on what’s happening, understand your surroundings, know the context and then evaluate your behavior. Now, getting that understanding is going to be difficult, but that’s kind of a step one.”