‘Helicopter’ parents in the classroom

August 27, 2013

‘Helicopter’ parents are overprotective parents who relentlessly hover over their children, removing all challenges and potential dangers, and micromanaging their affairs. They want ‘happy’ children and often have unrealistic expectations of what the school can and should do for their child. 

‘Helicopter’ parenting can have a serious negative impact. Recent research by Lereyaa, Samarab and Wolkec (2013, in press) shows that children of ‘helicopter’ parents are more likely to be bullied, and anxious, and are less resilient than their peers. They also tend to be more self entitled, and take less responsibility for their actions. 

In order to become well adjusted, children need to experience the full range of emotions. Parents who continually ‘hover’ are doing their children a disservice. Children need the freedom to make mistakes and experience boredom, sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment and hurt in order to learn to cope with life’s minor challenges. Those who ‘have a go’ at sorting out most of their own issues develop the belief that they are able to cope with stress and solve their own problems.

‘Helicopter’ parents are often demanding, and approach the school frequently in an attempt to resolve even their child’s minor issues.

Below are some tips to assist you when working with these parents.

  • Be clear about your availability. Set clear times and methods for communicating with you and display these outside the classroom and include this information in a letter home. Set ‘parent teacher talk times’ on specific days and times before and after school. If offering other forms of communication, such as phone calls or email, set limits. For example, emails and phone calls will be replied to on weekdays within 24 hours.
  • Learn basic assertive statements. Use ‘I’ statements to state your position clearly without causing offence, and provide a preferred solution. For example ‘I would like to talk to you more but I have to teach now as class has started. The issue is important and I would prefer if we could talk during the ‘teacher talk time’ posted on the door.’ If the matter is urgent, suggest the parent sees the deputy or assistant principal or principal. See the Psych4Schools document, ‘Negotiation and assertive techniques with parents’.
  • Inform parents about normal developmental issues and tasks. At the beginning of the year, provide parents with a list of what is expected of the child academically, along with behavioural and social competency issues children are learning about for that year level. These may include friendship issues and conflict, completing homework, not eating all of their lunch, feeling tired after school, ‘telling tales’ or using a diary for the first time. Our members can read the Psych4Schools document ‘Creating a great working relationship with parents’, for a table that presents a sample of issues that may concern parents.

Download our free ebooklet now to read more about working with ‘helicopter’ parents including step-by-step guidelines for meeting with these parents.See

Working with parents who are overprotective (‘helicopter parents’)