Can ‘helicopter’ parenting be detrimental to child’s development?

It’s a natural reaction to want to do everything we can as a parents to keep our children safe and free of harm.

But can an overbearing parenting style spell problems for a child later on?

According to one recent study, it’s possible.

The study looked at 422 children and followed them over a period of eight years – at ages two, five and ten.

Researchers found that over-controlling parenting of a child at age two was associated with poorer emotional and behavioral regulation at age five.

Likewise, the children who had better emotional regulation at age five were less likely to have emotional or social problems at age ten, and were also more likely to fare better in school.

Vanessa Jensen, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, did not take part in the research, but said parents should allow their children to make mistakes.

“It is important to let your child make mistakes,” she said. “If you are the parent constantly bringing little Johnny or little Judy back in as soon as they’re going too far from the nest, like a mamma chick – there isn’t the chance to make mistakes, and we all know that we learn from mistakes.”

Dr. Jensen said we’ve all seen the parents who look like they’re hovering a little too much, but she cautions about being quick to label parents who are trying to respond to their child’s needs.

“Often times, you have a parent who is simply responding to their child’s behavior and needs, she said. “Also, it is important to be somewhat protective, and to be cautious, especially in our current culture.”

Dr. Jensen said different children require different parenting styles, even siblings within the same family.

“If a child is more outgoing – more impulsive or more likely to get in trouble – then you may need to be a parent who puts more limits on,” she said. “If your child is more cautious and stays closer to you, you might be the opposite – you might want to encourage them to take more risks.”

According to Dr. Jensen, the most important aspect of parenting style is to know what a child’s challenges and strengths are, and to be able to adapt the parenting style to the needs of the child.

She said it can be helpful to reach out to other parents for advice, but not in a judgmental way, especially for a first-time parent. Talking to the parents of a child’s peers about what they allow at certain ages can be beneficial for parents who are concerned about being too protective or too lax in their parenting styles.

Complete results of the study can be found in Developmental Psychology.