Parents instinctively want to protect their children and give them only the best. But these days many parents can't help but hover, doing everything for the little ones, which deprives them room to grow. They've been labeled as "helicopter" parents.
It used to be that helicopter parenting referred to a parenting style of moms and dads (okay, mostly moms) of teenagers. Studies show, though, that it's a parenting style that affects children as early as toddlerhood. There's even a new study that shows how helicopter parenting is not just depriving your child to acquire essential life skills, but it can also negatively affect a child's overall emotional well-being, notably her ability to manage her emotions and behavior — a life skill crucial for your child's school success and in adulthood.
The study, published in the journal Developmental Psychology, followed 22 children over eight years and assessed their socio-emotional development at ages 2, 5, and 10 through play. The result showed that at age 5, the kids who had over-controlling parents were lacking in emotional regulation, a term used to "describe a person's ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience. People unconsciously use emotion regulation strategies to cope with difficult situations many times throughout each day." Some showed frustration and defiance. They are more likely to act out, have a harder time making friends, and struggle in school.
"Children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with the challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment," lead study author Nicole B. Perry, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota said in a statement released by the American Psychological Association.
On the other hand, children who showed strong emotional regulation at age 5 were less likely to develop emotional problems. They were more likely to have better social skills and create friendships. By the time they turn 10, they are generally more productive and do better in school.
As much as parents should be instinctive of their child's needs, it's crucial to step back and let the kids figure out emotional situations that they are developmentally capable of. If it proves to be too complicated for them, then that's the time the parents can use these as teaching opportunities.
"Children who developed the ability to effectively calm themselves during distressing situations and to conduct themselves appropriately had an easier time adjusting to the increasingly difficult demands of preadolescent school environments," said Perry.
You need to let go a little if you find yourself always telling your child what to do, what to play with, how to play with a particular toy, how to clean up after playtime and being too strict or demanding. Let her make decisions instead of telling her what to do.
Be your child's first teacher
Perry also suggested that parents talk to children about understanding feelings, how their behavior may be affected by certain emotions and the consequences that come with those actions.
Parents can also teach their kids coping strategies, such as breathing techniques, giving oneself a timeout, meditation, or relaxing activities such as coloring.
Modeling emotional development or coping strategies is still by far the best way to teach kids how to learn this crucial life skill, Perry added.
The next time you get upset, make sure to be aware of how you react and resolve your feelings. Keep in mind, kids remember more what they see you do than what you tell them to do.