Characteristics of Helicopter Parents

The term helicopter parent refers to an overprotective mother or father that is constantly hovering over their child, which can have a profound impact on his development, including conflict resolution skills, according to Dr. Linda Sapadin, on her website, Psych Wisdom. Helicopter parents usually have several characteristics in common.

Unnecessary Fear

Overprotective parents feel an overwhelming and sometimes irrational fear when it comes to their children. Parents who are afraid their child might be abducted on the way to school or that their child might fall and break a bone at the local playground often react to this anxiety by unnecessarily limiting their child's activities. According to the staff at Copper Canyon Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for girls, this limitation can result in a loss of learning opportunities for the child. The unnecessary fear can rub off on the child, as well. Children often begin to fear the unknown, which can limit their desire to attempt new activities or even make new friends.

Instant Gratification

Many children live in a world of instant gratification. Instead of letting their child wait for a birthday to receive the latest video game, parents often fill their child's needs immediately, rather than delaying gratification. According to Dr. Sapadin, indulging a child's needs in the moment has a profound impact on that child's development. Instead of patiently waiting for or earning life's joys, children begin to expect everyone to meet their needs for them. The idea of instant gratification often goes hand in hand with parents constantly entertaining their children. Dr. Sapadin states that a parent who constantly entertains a bored child is setting up the child or adolescent for an adulthood filled with loneliness and a lack of imagination.

Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with boredom, frustration and emotional hurt are a natural part of growing up, according to Dr. Sapadin. To avoid inevitability, many helicopter parents will fight their children's battles for them. For instance, instead of helping your child accept a poor grade on a test, the overprotective parent will confront the teacher and demand that the teacher offer the child a chance to retake the quiz. If children aren't allowed to learn from their mistakes or how to cope with set backs and failures in adolescence, they won't have the skills necessary to deal with the bigger issues in adulthood -- issues that also come with greater consequences.


A major role of parents is to prepare their child to care for themselves, instead of performing every task for them. From completing a teenager's homework assignment to doing their adult child's laundry, the parents of young adults are still meeting the emotional and financial needs of their child, according to Indiana University psychologist Chris Meno. It's acceptable to plan every aspect of a toddler's life, but that same level of care isn’t' necessary as the child enters adolescence and adulthood. Instead, Dr. Sapadin recommends that parents back off and allow their children to work out issues and situations on their own. This could mean that you expect a teenager to perform his own chores or that you expect an adult child to help pay his way through university.