Are you a helicopter parent?

In our latest Zaobao column, we wrote about helicopter parents.

While parents want the best for their kids, overprotecting them may not be the best for them, ironically. Here’s the translation and story:

Are you a helicopter parent?

Helicopter parenting,referring to overprotecting/overcontrolling a child in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting, has been a buzzword recently. Even Ministry of Education, Singapore put out memes on its Facebook site, reminding parents not to do so.

Recently, in a bid to reverse such a trend, schools including Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School and Bukit Timah Primary School have put up signs to advise parents to discourage parents from dropping off their children’s forgotten items. To be fair to parents, they only mean well and want the best for their kids.

It’s fabulous that parents are taking great care of their children, but overindulgence in their daily lives without drawing a line may have adverse effects for the child. Especially in this overcompetitive world we live in, a “helicoptered child” who is sheltered since young will not be able to survive the real world. As an educator, I have seen many different types of parents- from parents who do homework for children to ones who complain because their children can’t find brackets to fill in answers in worksheets.

It’s important to let go for the following reasons:

1. You need to let your child grow up.

As lucky as your child may be, there’s a likelihood he will outlive you. How would you feel if your child couldn’t live without you? I know many parents feel insecure, worrying that this may happen one day but it’s selfish to want your child to depend on you, as attractive as the notion sounds. You don’t really want him to be handicapped without you, do you? Your child needs to be able to live independently without your aid ultimately. You are great as a parent- just because your child will one day not need “your services” does not make you any less a parent. You are not his helper. You are his parent. The love between the two of you cannot be replaced.

I have a friend whose mother still packs his luggage for him when he’s travelling overseas. He’s in his mid 30s. It’s pretty appalling to know he couldn’t find his underwear because he wasn’t the one who had packed it. I have also heard of stories how parents would complain to SAF officers for “mistreating” their children. Shouldn’t the children be fighting their own battles, in this case literally, when they are in the army? You can’t really fight on their behalf during an actual war.

2. Loss of social skills

Growing up is painful- there’s too much stress from the daily school work, they are facing puberty which include the changes to their bodies, and they have to make friends etc. Remember, too much love from you may make him more inept at friendships. I remember a secondary school classmate whose mother would take the bus to school with him daily, carry his bag to his classroom and wait for him at the canteen. Imagine the trauma he had to put up with because the other nasty 14 year-olds would be making snarky comments about his reliance on his mum. I am not endorsing such juvenile acts, but there are times we need to learn to let go, for the child to face this “harsh” world. The mother later complained to the teacher who advised the mother to try to let her son go to school by himself.

3. Lack of respect for teachers

Teaching is neither a glamorous nor an easy job. In Singapore, with 40 kids in a class, the teacher would have to maintain discipline and teach at the same time. When a parent stands up to a teacher on behalf of the child all the time, regardless whether he is correct, students will start to have the notion that the teacher is simply a “paid worker” under him and it just makes teaching harder. A good example would be the recent case of a parent suing his child’s school for confiscating his son’s phone. Imagine if the court hadn’t overthrown the case, it would open floodgates for more such interferences from parents.

4. Hurting parent-child relation

Ironically, just when you want the opposite, your extreme love will hurt your relation with the child. You must understand a child isn’t like a caged bird or an obedient dog that will abide by your instructions, just because you shower him love. Just like flying a kite- the harder you pull on the string, the harder it is for you to maneuver the kite. I know of parents who are very strict with their kids, worrying about every aspect of their lives. The kids would rebel in the end and they had to go through counseling- it was as though the children acted out just to spite the parents. That’s the last thing you want with your child.

A few days ago, while I was jogging, I witnessed a grandmother teach her grandson how to cycle. The conversation went like this.

GS: Let go. Let me try so I can learn to ride. You are still not letting go.

GM: You will fall if I let go.

GS: But I have to try it myself.

The child may fall indeed. However, who doesn’t have a few falls when he’s learning how to ride a bicycle. It’s the same with life- your child will only grow stronger after his falls. Learn to let go.


近年来,直升机父母(Helicopter Parenting)这个形容词开始盛传。直升机父母是指过分介入儿女生活,保护或是干预其生活的父母,他们就像直升机一般,不时在儿女身边盘旋。 教育部几周前在面簿上解释,为何家长应该放弃这类教育方式。国专长老会小学、武吉知马小学,以及一些政府学校为了禁止父母过度关心孩子,甚至在校园内放置告示牌,劝请父母切勿帮孩子把忘了带的东西送到学校。 把孩子照顾得无微不至,不是错,但是过度溺爱、超过界限的疼爱,对孩子并没有好处。 天下父母心、望子成龙、望女成凤——这些形容词都说明家长无不关心自己的孩子、希望他们得到最棒的福利和待遇。然而在这个竞争越来越激烈的社会,一直保护孩子,到底是利还是弊? 作为教育工作者,我见过不同类型的直升机父母——孩子太忙,出于疼惜而帮他们做补习作业;也有家长每周质问孩子受教育的进展,连作业簿的说明少了空格也要投诉。



受到关心与呵护的孩子确实幸运,可是,父母能够陪伴和照料他一辈子吗?若干年后,当你离世时,你希望你的孩子会因为没有你而感觉不足吗?若是,这显然反映了当初爱护子女的动机是出于自私。 我有个朋友的母亲从小就爱帮他打理一切,在他投入社会工作后,妈妈还是帮忙收拾行李、折内裤。有些家长甚至在孩子服兵役时,经常写信投诉军官。孩子保卫国家应是成人了,难道一旦新加坡军人为了保家卫国必须上战场时,父母也要在后面守护他吗?