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Helicopter Dads Are Burning Out Their Kids

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Helicopter Dads Are Burning Out Their Kids

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or unable to hear because of the rotors roaring over your head you likely already know that helicopter parenting is bad for kids. But a new study adds a twist: helicopter dads are burning out their kids in a way moms aren’t.

In just the latest in a series of such studies finding fault with overly involved parents, researchers from Florida State University (FSU) have found that helicopter parents are creating a generation of kids who burn out in their educations and are unable to cope with the pressures of the adult world.

The helicopter parent, whose end game is currently playing out in the college admissions scandal, is omnipresent in every aspect of their children’s lives. The reasoning behind the phenomenon seems to be that the world is a scary, competitive place and parents can keep their kids safe and give them a step up over the juvenile competition.

Father Maybe Doesn’t Know Best

Alas, this approach too often backfires, and FSU’s Family Institute is just the latest organization to demonstrate how. The authors found that kids who self-reported “I think my father/mother is too involved in my life” suffered higher levels of burnout in school and struggled more in transitioning to adult life.

Specifically, researchers found that these coddled kids lack self-control, suffer higher levels of stress (even if they don’t show it), and are far less resilient in overcoming obstacles and challenges.

Helicopter Parents: Bad for Kids' Health

And this includes the helicopter parent who is always there encouraging his/her child to ‘get back up on that horse.’ Meaning, kids regularly need 100% parent-free time so that when obstacles and challenges do occur, they can troubleshoot, overcome, or sometimes simply suffer the consequence of their own bad decisions.

The result of all this conscientious, omnipresent parenting? Kids start to feel “increasingly helpless, hopeless, and resentful, exerting less effort on their studies, which leads to lower grades,” wrote Frank Fincham, director of FSU’s Family Institute.

But where the report shines new light is on the role of dads. While the authors aren’t clear why helicopter dads lead to higher levels of burnout in kids, they suspect it’s because moms have always played a more involved role in their kids’ lives.

Maybe it’s related to uniquely paternal pressures or it’s the doubling up of both mom and dad drowning their kids in attention, but either way, researchers say more study is needed.

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Doug Rekenthaler Jr. is the founder and CEO of Kidzu. In addition to a long history as a journalist, technology consultant to nonprofits, and marketer, Doug spent years coaching multiple sports and learning just how important kids' clubs are to youth development.

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