Common unhelpful thinking traps parents fall into

We are hearing a lot about the dangers of helicopter parenting these days, but society is structured in such a way that it can be hard to avoid, even when we are trying to. This article highlights some of the common thoughts that result in an overprotective parenting style so that we can challenge these thoughts and remain effective parents, as opposed to society perceived ‘perfect’ ones.

Helicopter parenting is a style of parenting that may seem protective and the right thing to do at the time but has long term adverse consequences for the child. In constantly protecting, watching, fixing and planning for our children we are depriving them of opportunities to develop and exercise their own judgement and learn from their mistakes, of developing confidence in their own abilities and comfort with the somewhat scary feeling of taking responsibility for themselves. More critically, we are withholding opportunities for them to develop the resilience that comes from experiencing adverse consequences, and overcoming them. We risk turning out young adults susceptible to anxiety and depression, completely unprepared for the challenges that the real world presents, having been raised in a protective cocoon until that point.

My child should not make mistakes and I need to protect them from it. There are consequences to bad decisions and they should not have to experience negative feelings or to miss out on anything.

It is ok for my child to not always be perfect and to make mistakes. Mistakes are the best form of learning and I am giving my child an opportunity to learn and grow and become confident in their own judgement and decision making ability.

It is embarrassing to both me and my child when they make mistakes. When I let my child make a mistake other people think I’m a bad parent.

There is a terrible parent shaming aspect to society today, which can leave you feeling damned if you do and damned if you don’t. By fully understanding the long term consequences of protecting your child from bad decisions verses allowing them to exercise their own judgement and experience mistakes, you yourself are better able to be confident and resilient in your decision to allow them that room, and to reject any parent shaming directed your way. It is not embarrassing when your child makes a mistake, it’s a learning experience you are there to support that is building towards an independent adult.

I’m a parent so I should always know what to do and not make mistakes.

Children do not come with instruction manuals, and it’s ok that sometimes we don’t know what to do, many times there simply is no best solution. Rather than waste your energy feeling anxious about the uncertainty, make the best decision possible, do it with confidence and forgive yourself when you get it wrong. Even the most experienced parent, teacher or psychologist can make mistakes, there is no certainty for anyone.

My child should always like me and love me and if they don’t I’m a bad parent.

Parenting is full of challenges to present learning opportunities and provide guidance to a child that you are encouraging to become independent. These life lessons do not always feel good and a child that does not know better is likely to lay blame on the parent. That is to be expected and accepted as a normal part of growth, not a reason to throw away any reasonable consequences you have imposed because your child just screamed “I hate you”. The teenager years particularly are full of boundary testing experiences, simply resist the urge to scream back “Well I hate you too” and know that you are doing your job as an effective parent!

It’s important to remember that in avoiding helicopter parenting we don’t go to the other extreme and become neglectful parents, children need age appropriate and clear expectations, boundaries and consequences for poor behaviour that we as parents enforce and follow through on. Parenting is one of the most difficult challenges you can face in life, you will not always get it right and that’s ok, just keep on trying!

This blog is associated with, a source of self-help resources and affordable support services via online consultations with a certified CBT therapist and counsellor


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