Putting an End to Helicopter Parenting


Published:

Not so long ago, life was simpler and children were sent out to play until the street lights came on. There were no trophies given to every member of the soccer team and no "room moms" for each middle school homeroom. Teenagers went to the mall and didn't come home until dinner.

Then, a whole new generation of parents came of age, and the pendulum began to swing the other way. As technology made it easier to keep in touch, parents started to get more involved in their children's social and school lives, and never loosened the reins when their kids reached young adulthood. Constant involvement somehow became a way to express love, and now we've become a society in which it's not uncommon for college students to e-mail papers to their moms and dads for proofreading or to ask them to call a professor to negotiate a grade.

There's a fine line between offering support and advice and being overly involved in your young adult's life. When you cross the line, you're doing more harm than just being annoying. You're holding your teen back from easing into the independence adulthood affords.

Learn to Let Go
So how do you know if you've become a "helicopter parent" to your high schooler? Well, do you often hover, ready to swoop down and rescue your teen at the first sign of trouble in school or problem at his or her part-time job? Do you still constantly remind your child not forget important permission slips or appointments?

Or, do you allow your teen to navigate some of these things on his or her own ... and then deal with the consequences? When was the last time you let your teen struggle to learn from a mis-step?

It's important to give children enough space to learn to make good choices on their own — even at a young age. There is value in letting a young adult take on some responsibility and earn your trust by making sound decisions and maturely dealing with the consequences.

In my experience working with teenagers in a clinical setting, I've known parents who micromanage. Technology makes it easy to check in with a text or a quick phone call. Recent studies indicate college students communicate on average at least 13 times a week with their parents. This is a stark contrast to previous generations that viewed the high school years as the jumping off point toward independence, and parent contact was limited to weekly phone calls and a once-a-semester campus visit.

In working with students, I've seen the lasting effects of helicopter parenting. Moms and dads who were involved in every aspect of their high schoolers' lives don't let go easily, and their teens are ill-equipped to navigate the adult world independently.

Be a Listener, Not a Rescuer
Great communication is vital to a healthy family dynamic, but some trust and freedom goes a long way toward letting your teen find his or her way in the world. And as your child matures, your work as a parent becomes a lot easier.

Set boundaries together that make you both feel comfortable with how you'll communicate. Ask your teen what sounds reasonable about touching base when he or she is away from home — how often you'll get a text, call, or e-mail. (And keep in mind that sometimes "no news is good news" when he or she does connect but doesn't really want to talk.)

Remember: You are there to be an advocate, not a savior. Ask your child how he or she would like to "use" you when help is needed. And when you're tempted to step in and insert yourself into a situation, stop and evaluate if you truly are needed. Many times you'll find you're just out to manage your own anxiety.

With most kids it's a safe bet to trust in the quality of your parenting and have faith you have instilled the values and expectations necessary for your teen to develop into an independent, responsible adult.

Making independent decisions and dealing with the outcome are essential parts of maturing. It can be hard for parents to accept, but older teens really are young adults, and, therefore, entitled to their own private lives. They need the time and space to make mistakes, and to learn when to ask for your help.

While it can be terrifying to let go bit by bit, this process is a gift to your child. This is how your teen learns about who he or she is and wants to be in the world.

Melinda Harper, Ph.D., teaches psychology at Queens University of Charlotte. Her private practice at Charlotte Psychotherapy & Consultation Group focuses on children and adolescents.


What Would You Do?
When your teenager comes home from school visibly upset, will you be a "helicopter parent" and rush in to ask, "Oh honey, how can we fix it?" If you do, you're reinforcing a dynamic of learned helplessness, allowing your child to remain overly dependent on you and not be able to think for himself or herself. This is great if you're living in a TV sitcom.

A healthier way to respond — for everyone involved — is to seize the opportunity to help your teen become a more competent and thoughtful decision-maker. Acknowledge that he or she is upset, and ask, "What do you think should happen next?" Share that you trust your teen's judgment and ability to come up with a creative solution.

And as your teen talks, listen for clues that he or she is thinking through the potential consequences for the proposed actions. Remember, though, to allow your teen to lead the conversation.

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July 2020

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BB&T Stadium
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Superior Play Systems
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Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Cost: $11 for one hour

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8116 University City Blvd.
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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Where:
Superior Play Systems
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Explore the Mint Museum's exhibitions without charge.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
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420 S. Tryon St.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
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Website »

More information

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700 West C St.
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Website »

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Cost: 250

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801 N Tryon St
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View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
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View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Website »

More information

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Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

Where:
Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
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View map »


Website »

More information

Kids, are you ready to run off with the circus... for a week? Whether your child is ready to join the circus for the first time, or wants to push their circus skills to the next level. Our Aerial &...

Cost: 250

Where:
AerialCLT
801 N Tryon St
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View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

More information

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Website »

More information

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Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
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Cost: Free

Where:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
Concord, NC
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George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
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Telephone: 980-430-4587
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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Bring the family to hear live music in Davidson this summer! Dates: April 18, May 16, June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Cost: Free

Where:
Circles at 30
Jetton Street
Davidson, NC
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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