Parenting Propellers: The Overbearing Whir Of Helicopter Parents

“You are your mother’s daughter”, my mom often says to me when I do or say something she can relate to. When I crave a sweet treat after dinner, I am my mother’s daughter. When I get a good grade, I am my mother’s daughter. But to what extent do our parents’ scholastic history and […]

“You are your mother’s daughter”, my mom often says to me when I do or say something she can relate to. When I crave a sweet treat after dinner, I am my mother’s daughter. When I get a good grade, I am my mother’s daughter.

But to what extent do our parents’ scholastic history and current concern for our academic success affect the effort we put into school?

Ava Durnell (‘24) describes a “helicopter parent” as “overbearing and too involved in their child’s life and their decision making”.

“Someone who doesn’t let their kids go out in a public setting without constant contact from their child” said Lucas Carrillo (‘24). Does a “helicopter parent” have the intended effect of creating a disciplined and driven kid? It seems that this type of parenting can push a child into a hard-working groove or rebellious behavior. 

I have found three categories of parent-child relationships through an academic lens: laid back but supportive, conditioned from a young age, and very involved. 

Cassie Dugan (‘25) expresses her parents’ perspective as relaxed. She feels their “hands-off” approach makes her a good student because she knows she can go to them if she needs something, and when she gets a bad grade, she is confident they will do nothing but support her in doing better next time. “They don’t come to me about grades — I go to them,” she says.

Cassie is able to thrive with this room to breathe and has been consistently successful in school. The pressure she is under is self-administered, driving her to work hard. “They don’t pressure me — it’s more me putting pressure on myself and wanting to impress them,” she says of her parents. The lack of “helicopter parenting” Cassie undergoes has proven to benefit her relationship with her parents and her success in school. 

Ava has always had the impression that school comes first. She has been pushed to take hard classes and get good grades because college is the end goal and academics are the priority. Her mother has always been a very academic person, so it was clear to her that her child should be the same. Ava manages her schoolwork independently and never feels her parents will be upset when she does poorly, as some of her peers’ parents may be.

“When I do bad on something, I don’t feel my parents are going to be mad at me because they know that I’m already mad at myself,” the senior says. “They don’t check my grades — I tell them. They trust that I’m not going to leave a bad grade hanging.”

Ava has found her parents to be more trusting in other aspects of her life because her work ethic reflects great responsibility. “I think they trust me a lot more than a lot of my friend’s parents,” she shares. Ava is willing to make sacrifices for academics and chooses to cooperate with her mother’s views.

Making school a priority is a concept planted in Ava from a young age, and her personal drive proves effective in making herself and her parents proud. 

“My mom’s thing is school comes first, and if you’re not putting school first, then you need to put other things on hold until school comes first again.”

Lucas is pushed by his parents, specifically his mother, to do the best he can, and when he is successful, he finds he is rewarded with more freedom in his personal life. “She definitely looks at my Schoology a bunch. She’s always asking if I got my homework done,” Lucas says of his mom. “Sometimes I’ll ask to go out and she’ll say the number one priority is that I get my homework done. If I do bad on a test, she wants to know why and how I can do better, even when I don’t feel that way.”

While he feels put under pressure at times, Lucas finds that his parents’ desire to be involved in managing his schoolwork helps him keep academics a priority. “It has made me do better in school, not because I want to, but because I want to have more personal freedom.”

But sometimes too much pressure makes him want to rebel. “Sometimes I’ll be less responsible just to spite them,” he says.

Lucas is a hard worker, but like all high school students, he likes to have some fun. “For all parents, if checking your kid’s Schoology every day is a main priority, it’s probably creating more stress in your life than theirs.” Lucas may not agree with some of the hovering he undergoes from his parents when it comes to school, but it ultimately has proven to be a useful push in enhancing the strong work ethic he puts forth. 

The success of any relationship is all about communication. What may have worked when our parents were kids may not work for us now. Keeping an open line of communication about academics, mental health, priorities, etc. is what is really important. Feeling you have an ally when things aren’t working out and having the room to struggle without the fear that you’ll get punished for it is what will push things in a better direction.

Ultimately teens and parents all have different temperaments. One may be more laid back, while someone else might be more excitable and driven. We’re all going to be employees or employers one day, and understanding how to motivate someone is a life skill. While a “helicopter parent” may push a child in a direction of anger and rebellion, a balanced amount of interest and assistance a parent shows to their child is effective in maintaining motivation as a student. 

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