In 1969, Dr. Haim Ginott came up with the concept of the helicopter parent who ‘hovers’ over their child in moving through their academic life. Today, it’s mushroomed into the crazy notion of parents who monitor their offspring in every imaginable faction of life: Friends, family, school and university life, occupational choice, no place is too far off distance. The helicopter parent manages the life of their children in many positive ways. However well managed, there is a down side. What gets lost is the chance for a young person to falter, to even fail, and learning from her or his own mistakes.

Psychology tells us that the individual will not develop and transition into adulthood without taking responsibility for themselves, without self reliance. For a child to individuate, that is to become a healthy individual, she or he needs to see themselves as a ethical and smart person– using their own judgment to make decisions, and if a parent is making all of those day-to-day decisions for them, then they can’t individuate and become a healthy adult.

I have found that many times the parent’s role is misconstrued to mean a partner rather than an instructor. It isn’t a joint life the parent & child are living, it’s a singular one for each to enjoy together from time to time. Unfortunately, helicopter parenting leads to failure to launch to adulthood, addiction, and other stunting of development. It can create so much anxiety for kids that they become unsure and afraid to do anything, and don’t trust their own instincts.

Dr Burdick helps families to learn how to individuate by recommending programs. Summer programs, camps and such are fantastic opportunities for kids to find themselves, leaving parents behind to enjoy their own summer. They bond with other kids and adults to learn from each other how to grow up successfully. Boarding schools also are unique in this way. If parents follow the basic rule of thumb of stepping back and letting the children do it on their own, even if they fail, they can learn important life lessons.