The Seven Habits of Highly Protective Parents

By Katherine Ozment | Boston Magazine |

YOU KNOW you’re a helicopter parent when….

1. You find yourself talking to your kids during every waking moment.
Talking incessantly to your children is psychologically intrusive. Family psychologist Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a B Minus, advises her clients to use the WAIT method: Ask yourself “Why am I talking?” before speaking to your children. If you don’t have a good answer, bite your tongue.

2. You don’t let your brood out of your sight.
Hovering parents diminish kids’ sense of adventure, and can even keep them from getting exercise. Researchers in North Carolina found that children who were accompanied to the park by a parent were 45 percent less likely to be active than those who went alone or with friends.

3. You can’t keep your hands off your little one’s math homework.
Steering your kids toward the right answer — or penciling it in yourself — doesn’t help them. Successful students aren’t afraid to fail, and they benefit from learning to correct themselves. Let them make a few mistakes and figure out where they went wrong.

[sidebar]4. You can’t stop raving about their perfect report cards.
In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck says kids who are constantly told how smart they are sometimes develop a fear of failure, which can leave them unwilling to challenge themselves. On the other hand, kids who are recognized for their hard work tend to try new things, and keep at them. Teach them that achievement is about what you do, not who you are.

5. You call your little dude your best friend — to his face.
Young children need to idealize their parents, not see them as equals, says Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd. You may love spending time with your tot, but that doesn’t mean he should be your BFF. Go ahead and pal around, but be the grownup, too.

6. You use a nanny cam — on  your sixth grader.  
Forty years ago, children would walk to the store and back by themselves — and that was when our streets were actually more dangerous. Shift your focus to teaching your kids how to recognize and avoid peril, then set them free.

7. You have your kids putting in 60-hour workweeks.
The extracurricular arms race robs children of the one thing they need most for their development: free, unstructured play. “Open play is a phenomenally creative process through which children gain inner resilience, internal confidence, and security that you don’t get any other way,” says Lesley University professor and Taking Back Childhood author Nancy Carlsson-Paige. They’ll be happier and learn important skills if you let’em run wild for a bit.


  • Ellen

    I COMPLETELY disagree with some of the things listed here. I fully admit to being an overprotective parent. But how can I not be…with kids like the little boy in brooklyn who begged his parents to let him walk home from camp…and the first day they gave in, he never made it home! Those poor parents…

    Seriously not letting my kid go the park alone or with friends (she’s 10) means I’m preventing her from getting exercise??? What’s the exercise going to be…running from a pedophile?! No thank you! Set her free….again, how many children are set free and then don’t come home? I’m good with being an over protective parent. I’d like to see my child grow up!

    • Gail

      Well, how does your kid feel about this? And how many kids are set free and do come home? I did. I have for the past 6 years. My parents let me walk to my friend’s house (which was only 2 blocks away) when I was 10, and I’m fine. Just last week they started letting me drive alone. It’s okay to want them to be safe, but you don’t have to hover all the time. Just check in every now and then, and I assure you they’ll be fine. In fact, kids with overprotecting parents are more likely to rebel as teens and adults. You WILL see your child grow up. Just give her space.

  • Brian Kubi

    thaaaannnkkk you. My mom won’t let me go outside or to any of my friend’s house it is so annoying.