Why helicopter parenting backfires on kids
Childhood is an important developmental feature of being human. Helicopter parenting disrupts that.
Heather Heying is an evolutionary biologist and former Professor at Evergreen State College. She applies the tool kit of evolutionary theory to problems large and small, some seemingly intractable, some possibly trivial—what to eat, how to teach and parent and be an upstanding citizen, what to avoid, and what to seek.
Heather came to prominence after she and her husband, Bret Weinstein, stood up to supporters of an enforced “Day of Absence” for white staff and teachers at Evergreen State College.
HEATHER HEYING: Childhood is a feature of being a human. It is a big part of what makes us so incredible. It's a big part of what allows us to be the conscious, creative, analytical, mathematical, moral animals that we are. So what then is childhood for? The simplest answer is childhood is for learning to be human. And so if you prevent a child from learning on their own—either by doing all of their thinking for them and solving all of their problems for them, in the style that has been called helicopter parenting—or, and this is related but different, or if you keep them from experiencing physical environments such that the only things that they are experiencing are social or virtual environments, if you keep them from either of those things learning how to solve problems on their own, learning how to solve their own problems on their own, and being exposed to the physical world with all of its messiness and its undeniable reality you will create children in either of those situations, and especially if you do both to them, you will create children who don't know how to solve their own problems and don't know what actual harm is.
So, to be an animal on the planet is to move around the world and to risk being hurt. And if you have grown up never having been hurt, never having experienced gravity—if you watched the Road Runner cartoons and watched the Road Runner chase Wile E. Coyote off the cliff and saw gravity not take effect until the coyote noticed that he was actually over thin air and then he fell, that's funny, right? That's funny in a cartoon. But if you've actually never experienced gravity, if you haven't played enough on trees or on swings or whatever and fallen off and gone down and hurt yourself, you may not actually believe in the reality of it. And so kids will grow up if they've been prevented from experiencing the outdoors, which is unpredictable and cannot be fully controlled, they will grow up and anytime they feel hurt of the emotional sort or of the intellectual sort they will think: 'This is harm. This is harm.' And it's not. We need to create children who are in fact anti-fragile, and who grow more from actually being exposed to ideas with which they disagree and strong emotions that we might say are negative, and indeed to situations where physical harm could come but hopefully it won't. Maybe it's sport, maybe it's carpentry, maybe it's cooking a meal without using a recipe—using real ingredients. Anything where there's a physical result in the world that you cannot game, that you cannot convince yourself, 'Yeah I did that well.' Either you fell or you didn't. Either you caught the Frisbee or you didn't. You built the table or you didn't. The food is edible or it's not. And so having real-world results for the actions that you take allows people to realize, you know what, it's not all just a social construct.
Helicopter parenting, and all of its associated forms, prevents children from exploring their emotional and intellectual landscape and often their physical landscape as well such that they become adults in body only. They haven't actually learned how to be human—they are still being coddled. Children who are coddled, who are protected from injury and insult as children, won't grow up into adults who know how to deal with injury and insult when it happens to them.
- "Helicopter parenting, and all of its associated forms, prevents children from exploring their emotional and intellectual landscape, and often their physical landscape as well, such that they become adults in body only," says evolutionary biologist Heather Heying.
- Childhood is an important developmental stage that trains kids for messy, uncontrollable reality. If adults don't teach kids how to solve their own problems, or if they prevent them from experiencing harm, children become less capable adults who don't know how to deal with real injury and insult.
- Parents can help their children by teaching them to be anti-fragile. Children grow from being exposed to ideas with which they disagree, encountering negative emotions, and engaging in activities with real-world outcomes like sport, cooking, and DIY.
- What Drives Helicopter Parenting? Not Control, But Fear. - Big Think ›
- Here's why helicopter parenting is bad for your children - Big Think ›
- Helicopter Parents Are Causing Their Kids' Mental Health Problems ... ›
New study of gamma rays and gravitational lensing points to the possible presence of dark matter.
- Analyzing data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, researchers find hints of dark matter.
- The scientists looked to spot a correlation between gravitational lensing and gamma rays.
- Future release of data can pinpoint whether the dark matter is really responsible for observed effects.
An inside look at common relationship problems that link to how we were raised.
- Fear of abandonment or other attachment issues can stem from childhood loss (the death of a parent) but can also stem from mistreatment or emotional neglect as a child.
- Longitudinal studies have proven that a child's inability to maintain healthy relationships may be significantly impaired by having an insecure attachment to a primary caregiver during their early development.
- While these are common relationship problems that may be rooted in childhood experiences, as adults, we can break the cycle.
Tech is rising and America's middle class is vanishing. Here's what to do.
- The rise of new technologies is making the United States more economically unequal, says Professor Ramesh Srinivasan. Americans should be pushing the current presidential candidates hard for answers on how they will bring economic security and how they will ensure that technological transitions benefit all of us.
- "We are at an inflection point when it comes to top-down control over very many different aspects of our lives through privatized corporate power over technology," says Srinivasan. Now is the time to debate solutions like basic income and worker-owned cooperatives.
- Concurrently, individuals should develop digital literacy and get educated on the potential solutions. Srinivasan recommends taking free online and open courses from universities like Stanford and MIT, and reading books and quality journalism on these issues.