From "an anxious mess" to "unwilling/unable to make decisions," adult Redditors share how helicopter parents have shaped their lives today.

By Maressa Brown
August 03, 2020
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Every generation of parents is the object of tongue-clucking over their parenting style. In the '70s and '80s, what is now referred to as free range parenting reigned supreme, leading to a generation of "latchkey kids" who made their own dinners and went unsupervised well into evening hours. In the '90s, Gen X parents were accused of doing a 180 and becoming helicopter parents who were not only far more involved with their children’s social and educational development but seen as potentially overbearing, hovering over their kids to the point that they might compromise the child's independence.

But what do kids of helicopter parents actually grow up to be like? That was the question posed in a recent, compelling Reddit thread that racked up over 2K comments.

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Experiences of Adults Raised by Helicopter Parents

A commenter named pt3rod4ctyl shared that being raised by helicopter parents left her feeling like "honestly just an anxious mess." She continued, "Every job I've had, I've been constantly afraid I'll mess something up and be a disappointment. It's honestly paralyzing."

Redditor Foxjoon had a similar sentiment, describing themselves as, "Anxious. Suffocated. Helicopter parents have this unrealistic expectations but refuse to accept that their children are now adults."

Flippantcedar spoke to their own experience and how it has affected their parenting style, writing, "My mom was the original helicopter parent. Adulthood was hard. I had zero real life skills. Now I'm 40 and have kids of my own. As a parent, I am much more relaxed than my mom (or even my husband). I actually lean well into the 'benign neglect' end of the parenting spectrum. I held a lot of resentment towards my mom for years for not teaching me things, and for 'saving' me all the time. I love my kids like mad, so I let them fail and learn from their mistakes. My kids are way more competent as kids than I was as an adult. They know how to budget and save, how to cook and clean and are learning so many other aspects of 'being a real person.'"

What Others Say About Kids With Helicopter Parents

Those who know people raised by helicopter parents also had some observations of their own. For example, Reusethisname observed, "Where I went to school there were unfortunately a LOT of helicopter parents. The kids ended up going to college somewhere far away. Once they realized their newfound freedom they went absolutely NUTS with all the partying, often causing their grades to suffer as a result. A few were even forced to move back home where they were again subjected to their parents' helicopter parenting style."

And a former spouse, writing under the handle BeowulfasaurusRex, wrote, "My ex has an overly doting mother. He couldn't crisis manage, troubleshoot, or handle anything on his own. He also ONLY trusted her advice. I suggested something, he refused. She suggested the same thing and he obliged. He lacked motivation to do better for himself, look for a better job, get our own place, etc. because his mom always took care of him financially. He had no faith in his abilities or talent because he never had the chance to prove to himself he could handle anything."

One commenter, writing under the handle Stoic_Scientist, shared a list of general perceived traits of a helicopter parent's kid: "Unwilling/unable to make decisions; 'I didn't do that because nobody directed me to'; doesn't take a single step without getting specific approval from someone; no problem-solving ability whatsoever; just waits around to be told exactly what to do."

The Takeaway

The thread is no doubt concerning to anyone who might fear that they're a helicopter parent themselves. That's why one Redditor named BodySnag, who identified themselves as a parent and said they found the comments "depressing," passed along what they called "the best parenting advice ever." "I heard the advice early on that it's my job as a parent to slowly work my way out of the picture," they wrote.

The Redditor explained that they love their children and provide well for them, but they pride themselves on their children's ability to care for themselves in many ways: "At 9 and 11, they can cook their own meals (when needed), do their own laundry, go to the park on their own (it's only a block away)," continued BodySnag. "They can also meet an adult and look them in the eye and shake their hand. They order for themselves in restaurants. We include them in major family decisions. Their opinions are listened to and respected. They're free to make their own mistakes and do. It's tough. It's brutal. I worry like hell every single time they get on their bike and drive down the driveway. But we've prepared them. They wear a helmet and know the rules. Now I got to back the F off. For them. I'd love to have my kids need me forever, but that's what pets are for. Not children. It's your job to slowly work your way out of the picture. Brutal, but that's love."

Still, while it might be easy to make generalized assumptions about someone raised by a helicopter parent, one Redditor argued that the topic isn't easily painted with a broad brush. "I honestly think it depends on the child," wrote Sjb1985. "A very independent child will probably rebel. A dependent child might flourish to a point. I've noticed all types of kids react differently. Some do well, and some don't."

Still, the experiences shared here serve to echo research from the University of Mary Washington that found over-parenting is associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression. With hope, conversations like these will inspire adults who were raised by overbearing helicopter parents to set boundaries—and those who are raising kids themselves now to consider how their particular parenting style could end up shaping their child, for better or worse.

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