Who Are Helicopter Parents & How Can Teachers Deal With Them?

Helicopter parents
Who Are Helicopter Parents & How Can Teachers Deal With Them?

As teachers, we’ve all experienced our fair share of parents who’ve done the project for their kids or called excessively to check on their grades. As coaches, we’ve been asked why Timmy is sitting the bench; we’ve witnessed parents hovering around the dugout. We’ve seen the parents who push boundaries and may even seem a little too invested in their child’s actions.

We’ve wondered how to approach these parents—the ones we’ve ultimately coined “helicopter parents”. The phrase, first used by Dr. Haim Ginott in 1969, refers to a parent who parnts in a way that is “overcontrolling”. It can be easy to meet this behavior with hesitation, or even rolling eyes and endless internal questions.

“WHY? Why are they making my job even more difficult by overcontrolling/overanalyzing/hovering?”

“Don’t they know this is ultimately hurting their child?”

However, in order to develop a healthy relationship with parents who have “helicopter” tendencies, it’s important to understand they may have reasons for their controlling actions: a past accident, a medically fragile child, or emotional trauma of any kind.

With that in mind, it can be easier to tap into an understanding mindset during the frustrating moments. Once you’ve established an understanding relationship with the parent, these are some recommended actions to take:

1. Communicate expectations up front

Especially with younger students, it can be important to establish expectations with the parents at the beginning of the school year. Let them know how often they can expect updates; this way, you can resort back to procedures already set in place when questioned.

2. Set realistic and professional boundaries

It can be tempting to provide a cellphone number to parents since walking to the school office for phone calls can be extremely disruptive. However, it’s important to set boundaries between personal and professional life as a teacher. If a parent has your cellphone number or is able to send a message through social media, they are more likely to be in constant contact simply because it’s easier.

3. Keep the focus on the student

While it can be tempting to address the parent’s behavior, the chance that will get you very far is slim. Instead, focus on addressing how you can teach the child independence. This not only discusses the issue, but it keeps the focus where it should be—on the student.

4. Provide parents with a *healthy* role

Helicopter parents are often parents with much interest; their interest and energy isn’t necessarily a negative thing. This momentum can be an excellent tool for school activities or other areas where help is needed. Helicopter parents are often some of the first to volunteer. It’s important to remember that their “over-interest” doesn’t have to be negative.

5. Prioritize a calm mindset in the situation

Remember that no one controls your mindset; it can be easy to respond with anger when your teaching tactics are challenged or questioned. Be confident in your decisions and care of your students; ultimately, you know what’s best in your classroom. Chances are, a helicopter parent’s actions have very little to do with yours.

Who Are Helicopter Parents & How Can Teachers Deal With Them?

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Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, https://trainsandtantrums.blog/. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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