When it comes to parenting, can there be too much of a good thing - too much attention, guidance and problem solving?
Yes, says University of Arizona communication Professor Chris Segrin, who has been studying the effects of over-parenting, also known as “helicopter parenting.”
An example of a helicopter parent is seen when a student graduates college, and a parent helps the adult child negotiate with employers for a salary, Segrin says. Another example is parents who call their children’s college professor to argue about exam grades.
“It is likely that over-parenting has its origins much earlier on, but it becomes a lot more visible in later adolescence and later adulthood,” Segrin says.
It is appropriate to give children a lot of guidance when they are 6 or 7, he says. But it’s the failure to back off when they are 17 or older that creates problems.
Most times, Segrin says, parents are acting with the best of intentions. However, over-parenting creates a sense of narcissism, entitlement, poor coping skills and dissatisfaction with family communication skills for children.
“The children often see themselves as the center of the universe, if you will, because they are used to being treated that way,” Segrin says.
The first step to stop this problem is for parents to be aware of it, he says. It is in the adult children’s best interest to solve problems on their own, which is an important part of developing coping skill, self-efficiency, and learning to be a mature adult.
“By protecting the child from failure, the parent is effectively preventing the child from learning very important life lessons,” Segrin says.