Helicopter parents are setting up their kids for failure

helicopter parents kid with rucksack holds hand of parent

If you don’t worry about your kids, you probably don’t have any. Our children tend to consume vast portions of our inner thoughts and concerns. Everything from the possible fall out of the tree to the potential child molester at the public pool has a spot in our heads that we assign time and energy to at some point in any given day.

We flurry around our children most of the time, helping them with the things they’re struggling with, warning them of potential dangers, thinking ahead for them in case the unforeseeable actually happens.

I’m guilty of this too. And I say ‘guilty’ because we’re really not doing them any favours.

This hovering over our kids and trying to create the perfect environment and circumstances for them to grow in is actually stunting their growth. Growth requires both support and challenge. Growth requires struggle and hardships and difficulty and things not working out as planned. Growth requires boredom and problem-solving and frustration.

I’ve given a lot of thought to why our generation has ended up as the helicopter parents, and initially I thought it was because the world really is a more dangerous place. Our kids can’t walk to school any more, it’s not safe for them to go to the local park or ride their bikes to their friends or hang out in the mall. We literally need to be there for them all the time.

But when I reviewed my own childhood I discovered that the same dangers were there then too. We all knew about the local paedo who hung out at the corner café. We had “safe houses” demarcated on our routes home from school because this was the time of the Van Rooyen kidnappings. I still remember walking home from school chatting to the army guys in the big tank that drove next to me because we were right in the middle of the pre-freedom riots.

So it’s not that, although that’s usually the reason we give.

I think that we haven’t stopped to appreciate the hardships of our own pasts. We haven’t healed out own wounds and understood that the things we thought were “bad” about our own childhoods actually helped us to grow, mature and become amazing independent human beings.

We also have more time, money and other resources now to focus in on our kids. While survival used to be a main focus in life, we’re now free to focus on our purpose but few of us know what this is and so we place all this excess energy onto our kids.

And then we’re bombarded with information. We have TV and Internet and smart phones and a constant barrage of parenting advice telling us that there is so much more we need to do for our kids to just be OK, never mind to really thrive. We go onto Facebook and we see everyone else doing these things that we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing, not realizing that what is posted on social media is only the ‘good’ stuff and gives a false impression of reality.

If we truly want our kids to succeed what we need to do is to STOP. To take 100 steps back, take some deep breaths, and let go. We need to stop focusing so intensely on our children and redirect that attention to ourselves – to loving ourselves and all of our experiences, to finding our purpose and throwing all of our energy into that, to enjoying our relationships and free time and starting to have more fun.

Our children will not succeed from extra lessons, or never falling over, or having us at their beck and call every minute. They will learn success by emulating us and seeing that we’ve made it through some pretty tough times and we’re still OK. That way, when they go through their own tough times, and they must, they will get up again. And isn’t the true definition of success not about not failing, but about failing many times and as many times getting up again?

Let them fall.

Click here to find companies that offer expert advice and guidance through parenting workshops.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, and would like to stay updated with more, you can:



Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

Subscribe to our free newsletter.

Stay updated, subscribe to the free Jozikids newsletter for parents in Gauteng.

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Unsubscribe anytime.

7 Responses

  1. Hello Mia

    Your perspective in this article, and various others, are very valid and insightful. I have been engaging in personal transformation workshops and human behaviour for over 14 years. We engage at a very deep level of sharing and we focus on aspects of parenting, the effects and impact that is has in defining who we become as adults. Helicopter parenting and ‘smothering’ impacts children and creates disempowered adults, impacting careers, relationships at home, family and in the workplace. We are seeing an increase in suicidal tendencies in both young and older adults who have no purpose in life and an increase in depression. This causes breakdowns at work and at home and ultimately, impacts children and in time, their own children. The effects of unconscious parenting needs to be addressed. I appeal to parents to do thorough research before having your children diagnosed as ADD/ADHD/Bipolar. We are hearing the effects from an adult perspective once the child has been given the open space to share and have their voice heard. Parents are muting creativity, dreamers, ‘boxing’ children in societal norms.

    Parents need to parent for children who are going to live in a very different world, a digital world and the 4th Industrial Revolution. Get informed. Read about Conscious Parenting (Dr Shefali), Future Proof your children (Nikki Bush) and others.

    According to Forbes “A child aged 3 today will retire in 2076. Starting school soon, they have 20 years of education ahead of them. By the time they graduate and are ready for their first job they will realize they’ve were taught the skills you needed in your lifetime, not the ones they’ll need in theirs…

    Technological innovation is changing the jobs around us, a change which will accelerate exponentially. Parents who grew up 30 years ago appreciate technology, but their understanding of what lies beneath is superficial. Our children won’t have the luxury of that.

    We find in our workshops that the issues are not with the children, it’s mostly parenting (stress, anxiety, fear, cultural, religious, societal and limiting belief systems, media, and unquestionably the adult’s past). Good family core values are still valid. Undoubtedly. Not the clichés and throw away lines that we were taught by parents and grandparents of generations ago. Break the “Babushka” parenting styles that were valid for a very different generation. Children MUST be seen and must be heard. They are our greatest teachers. Especially during early childhood and developmental years. Critical years that will define them for the rest of their lives. We’re seeing the evidence. In young adults. And it’s devastating and heart-wrenching.

  2. It certainly is difficult to be less guiding and to allow more falling over.

    It’s also true that we previous-generation parents see our skill set as still important for todays young ones.

    The problem is, as far as school goes, the children of today are still evaluated in more or less the same way that they have been for decades.

    It takes a brave parent to ignore patchy academic achievement knowing that the worst that will happen will be a repeat year in the same grade.

    I would like to be that brave but I haven’t managed yet.

    1. Thanks Guy! It takes huge courage to let go, but any small step in this direction helps!! And there are a lot of us working on changing the course of education… The current system has to fold and that time is coming soon…

  3. Amen! I have long said this same thing. Somehow it’s been easier for me, perhaps because I have 4 children and the more you have, the easier (by necessity) it is to let go. Or perhaps it’s just my personality, which is very non-controlling. Live and let live. I’ve been strict when my kids were little in terms of teaching them limits and more or less the opposite of instant gratification, as well as being respectful of others, but I rarely worry about them or hover or stick my nose into their affairs. And still, I think our parents’ generation did better with us, by simply staying out of our lives even more, much like you describe. Doesn’t mean we weren’t loved, but our parents had their own lives too. Great article!

    1. Thank you Mia and for everyone’s comments. The education system is totally outdated; at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, not conducive for a future generation & the 4th Industrial Revolution. Parents nurture creative thinkers, those labelled so easily as the ‘black sheep’ – they are the ‘Outliers’. They will shift humanity. Children born into the world today are coming in with wisdom to challenge the current status quo. Be mindfulness and expansive. Be very aware of language – children take it on literally. Telling a child that they are stupid will affect them for a lifetime, reprimand and highlight the action. Embrace the enlightened children, for they are here to teach us all. Never compare siblings. Let them be different and who they intrinsically are. Let the children discover their individuality. And please don’t worry about “what will people say (think)”. And not every stranger is a danger. Far too much fear is being instilled at such an impressionable age. Tell your children you love them. And hug often. Especially the men in their lives. We hear this over and over again from the adults, the sons to fathers (of all ages) : “all I ever wanted was to hear you tell me that you love me. I didn’t want another branded t-shirt or a golf trip overseas”.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Stay updated, subscribe to the free Jozikids newsletter for parents in Gauteng.

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Unsubscribe anytime.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Stay updated, subscribe to the free Jozikids newsletter for parents in Gauteng.

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Unsubscribe anytime.
Send this to a friend