Former Stanford Dean: Helicopter Parenting Hurts Kids


Recent studies are suggesting that being an overinvolved parent, or a “helicopter parent,” comes with a number of negative side effects for children, including mental health issues.

“Often brilliant, always accomplished, these students would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that these outwardly successful situations were their miserable lives,” Lythcott-Haims writes, referring to her days as a college dean.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean at Stanford University and author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Sucess,” writes in Slate that a 2014 study from researchers at the University of Colorado–Boulder suggests that children who grow up in a highly-structured environment are less able to make their own choices concerning goal-oriented actions and when to choose which one to carry out, writes Elisa Lala for The Philly Voice.  “As parents, our intentions are sound — more than sound: We love our kids fiercely and want only the very best for them,” Lythcott-Haims writes.

However, she says that children who are unable to make their own decisions tend to lack the ability to rely on themselves, causing a lowered level of self-confidence once they reach the college level and a fear of failure.

She suggests that if children are not given opportunities to explore and make their own decisions from an early age, they lose the chance to learn important problem-solving skills.  According to a psychologist from a large Midwestern university whose name has been changed:

“They don’t learn to be confident in their own abilities, and it can affect their self-esteem. The other problem with never having to struggle is that you never experience failure and can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others. Both the low self-confidence and the fear of failure can lead to depression or anxiety.”

Her book looks into a number of studies performed between 2010 and 2014, all of which suggest that children who have overbearing parents typically have increased levels of anxiety and lower self-esteem.  In addition, the children were more likely to receive medication for anxiety or depression.

The article comes at an important time in higher education, as depression and anxiety are reportedly affecting over one-third of college students.  In her new book, Lythcott-Haims aims to connect this increase to being raised by over-involved parents.

Lythcott-Haims writes that ultimately, “your kids have to be there for themselves.”