Isn’t a helicopter parent one of those people who drive their children crazy with anxiety by paving every path, fixing every problem, ensuring they perform perfectly on every homework, exam, and interview? Yes.

But, don’t we all help our children to some extent?  Isn’t one of the central paradoxes of parenting that we guide our children, but not too much?   Keep them safe, but not overprotect?  Let them learn to fly, but support during their first flights?

How far away from them must we navigate?   How do we know when we’re nearing a mid-air collision or risking a near miss in our fly by?

As they say – it takes one to know one, so I’ve seen plenty of active hovercraft. The difficult truth is, we never quite feel like a helicopter parent if we can point to someone who is hovering even closer. Consider these confessions shared in my community …

You might be a helicopter parent if …

  • You call another parent in your child’s grade school class to find out what she got for the answer on math homework problems … because they were really tricky.
  • During high school open house, you ask the teacher “What was the average of the first chapter exam?” Upon hearing that it was a “65/100” you reply “Well that’s unacceptable!” Meaning it’s unacceptable for the teacher to fail so many children, especially your child, who studied so hard … with such concentrated effort … for such a long time.
  • After putting your student on the school bus, you notice her phys ed clothes left on the table in the kitchen. You jump into the car to take the clothes to her school, so there’s no mark down on her grade for class that day. After all, gym class is one of her favorites … you want her to continue to enjoy physical activity but a negative mark might impact her enthusiasm.
  • You log into your college student’s online course system to see if he’s doing his homework and check out his latest test scores.You pay the college bills and want to make sure he’s doing his part. You’d ask directly, but there’s no reason to bring up something contentious if he’s doing OK … especially in the precious little time you have together since he moved to the dorm.
  • You volunteer to help out in your child’s classroom because the teacher really needs support handling so many children. It’s just an unexpected bonus that volunteering will also give you the chance to stop the class bully from leading your child astray.
  • You institute a family rule that requires your children to call or text you every time they arrive at their destination, every time they move destinations, every time they breathe. And, then for added safety, you followup with GPS tracking of their mobile phones. Because, really, doesn’t every concerned parent peek at the GPS tracker to make sure his child returned safely to the dorms each night?
  • You check the online lunch system at school each day to see what your child is eating. You reason that it serves multiple purposes:  you verify there’s enough money left in the account, you verify that you won’t be serving him the same thing for dinner that night, and  you ensure his meal choice varies every day.
  • Your child calls home from college nearly every single day, and if your child doesn’t call each day, you call him. Just in case.
  • You have the cell phone number of all your children’s teachers and coaches. And, you use them.
  • Add your confession … contact BeckyB

If this is a ‘copter parent, you’re not one because you’re not that bad, right? Every ‘copter parent wants to point to someone worse. I did, too. The first step in safely landing is admitting that you occasionally fly.