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What are Helicopter Parents?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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Many parents are naturally protective of their children, especially during critical rites of passage such as learning to drive, graduating from high school and getting accepted by the best college or university that meet their career goal. Some parents, however, have serious difficulties distancing themselves from their children's lives, and tend to hover over them over-protectively. This constant hovering and over-protectiveness has led to naming this phenomenon helicopter parents.

Helicopter parents are the polar opposite of absent or neglectful parents. They could rarely be accused of ignoring their children's needs or not preparing them for adulthood. Helicopter parents tend to micromanage their children's high school years, determining which extracurricular activities and course of study will improve their chances of acceptance at more selective colleges and universities. Instructors, school administrators and guidance counselors may be quite familiar with certain helicopter parents who apply excessive pressure to ensure their children are kept on the proper track for higher education.

Even after high school graduation, helicopter parents often continue to plot out strategies to improve their children's chances of getting into the best schools. An extreme subcategory of helicopter parents known as Black Hawks have been known to cross ethical lines by filling out their children's application essays themselves or exaggerating their children's accomplishments and honors. Black Hawks, much like the quick-responding military helicopters that inspired their name, will step in quickly at the first sign of trouble with a college admissions officer or recruiter.

The phenomenon of helicopter parents is not a new one in the education field, but the number of overprotective parents has grown exponentially in recent years. With a college education becoming a requirement for many career paths, more and more parents are looking at their child's college years as a substantial business investment. Their over-protectiveness and aggressive parenting style could be viewed as concerned investors taking an active role in the growth of their start-up "company."

While some family involvement in a child's education is considered healthy, the moral flexibility displayed by helicopter parents is not. Many colleges and universities have imposed bans on cell phones and other communication devices from classrooms not because of personal distraction, but because some helicopter parents, primarily motivated Black Hawks, have been known to transmit test answers or other materials to improve their child's grade point average. When helicopter parents begin to cross over ethical and moral boundaries to protect their children from experiencing failure, they risk teaching their children that cheating or manipulation of the rules is acceptable.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to PublicPeople, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon29501 — On Apr 03, 2009

The helicopter parent is not just restricted to "the best of the best" for their little darling. It has been my experience that it also extends to when their little darlings get into mischief (large and small). Their little darlings do no wrong, and also never learn that there are consequences for their actions. I see this from the playground to the dorm room life. I was a DA for the freshman dorm where I attended school as an older student. I have concerns about how the little darlings will deal with life as an adult.

By anon29468 — On Apr 02, 2009

I think this term refers mainly to parents of younger children--those in nursery & elementary schools. It's more about not allowing them to make choices, take independent action, and be themselves. Micromanaging is a good word for it.

By college, most kids have figured out how to escape from parental oversight.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to PublicPeople, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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