Helicopter parents are really helpful to their kids in the short-term. They act like personal concierges who assist their kids with everything from sports equipment to science fair projects. They rescue their kids when they forget their soccer cleats and they chauffeur them from one activity to the next.
Quite often, kids with that type of support are able to gain a slight competitive advantage. And that makes sense. Anyone with a full-time personal assistant is likely to excel when they're competing against individuals who do everything on their own.
But overparenting takes a toll on kids in the long-term. Kids who grew up with helicopter parents quickly lose that competitive advantage when they grow up.
Researchers who have been studying the long-term effects of helicopter parenting say these are the five biggest problems helicopter kids experience in adulthood:
1. They have more health problems.
A 2016 study from Florida State University found that helicopter kids are more likely to have health issues in adulthood. They found that most helicopter kids never learned how to manage their health because their parents always told them when to go to sleep, when to exercise, and what to eat.
Intrusive parents often worry excessively about their kids' health--and provide constant reminders about what to do. Studies show in the absence of those constant reminders, helicopter kids don't care for their bodies.
2. They feel entitled.
Helicopter parents dote on their kids so much that they tend to think they're the center of the universe. And that notion that they're extra special doesn't go away when they turn 18.
Researchers from the University of Arizona found that helicopter kids grow up feeling entitled. They're more likely to agree with statements such as, "I demand the best because I'm worth it," and "People like me deserve a break every now and then."
Other studies consistently link a sense of entitlement to chronic disappointment and ongoing suffering in life.
3. They have emotional problems.
Helicopter kids grow up without learning how to regulate their emotions--their parents did that for them. If they were sad, their parents cheered them up. If they were angry, their parents calmed them down.
Their lack of emotional regulation skills becomes a big problem once they leave the nest. A 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia found that college students who were raised by helicopter parents are more likely to be depressed. They also report less satisfaction with their lives overall.
4. They rely on medication.
Helicopter kids aren't used to tolerating discomfort. Their parents shielded them from pain and prevented them from dealing with hardship. In addition, they're used to immediate gratification.
That may explain why they're quick to reach for medication--they want their pain resolved and they want it gone now.
A 2011 study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that college students whose parents hovered were more likely to take medication for anxiety and depression. They were also more likely to recreationally consume pain pills.
5. They lack self-regulation skills.
Helicopter kids don't grow up with as much free time as other kids. Their environments are usually highly structured and their time is closely regulated.
Without opportunities to practice managing themselves, they lack the skills necessary to reach their goals. A 2014 study from the University of Colorado found that adults who grew up with helicopter parents are less likely to possess the mental control and motivation they need to succeed.
Other studies have drawn similar conclusions. Helicopter kids grow up to procrastinate and they lack the initiative and motivation needed to succeed.
Monitor Your Tendency to Hover
Helicopter parents intend to help their kids succeed. But, ultimately, hovering robs kids of the mental strength they need to reach their greatest potential in life.
Of course, letting your kids make some mistakes, allowing them to fail, and giving them opportunities to solve their own problems requires you to be mentally strong too. So it's important to work on building your own mental muscle so you can help your kids develop the skills they'll need to become healthy, responsible adults.