The link between helicopter parenting and obesity

By Drum Digital
25 July 2014

We’ve all heard about “helicopter parents” – those highly strung moms and dads who hover above their offspring lest they scrape a knee or, heaven forbid, fall out of a tree. But a recent study has claimed those parents could be keeping their kids from healthy play, leaving them at risk of developing obesity.

According to Time magazine a new study by PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed online publication, is the first to prove a link between helicopter parenting and obesity. The study found fussy parents who show too much concern while their children are playing outside actually cause them to be less active and rather spend more time in front of the computer or television.

These so-called helicopter parents often interrupted their children’s spontaneous play, consequently making them more sedentary. “The fear of predators is part of what’s making kids fat by keeping them inside, sedentary and near the fridge,” says Lenore Skenazy, public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids.

So to make sure no one can accuse you of being a helicopter parent and to avoid childhood obesity here’s what you need to know about raising a well-balanced child without being an overprotective SuperMom!

Traits of helicopter parenting:

  • You’re always swooping in to help when your child is faced with even a small challenge.
  • You make a list of possible emotional, psychological, social, academic or physical dangers in every circumstance.
  • You always try to immediately alleviate any discomfort your child is experiencing.
  • You have to be involved in everything your child does.

How to stop being a helicopter parent

1.       Be a submarine mom or dad instead. Instead of hovering around your child, stay close by but mostly out of sight so your child gets out of the habit of running to you to solve every problem.

2.       Remind your child only once about the surrounding dangers. No one likes a nag and no one likes being a nag. So give a single reminder when you must and then step back and let your kids rise to the occasion.

3.       Focus on equipping your child with the skills they need. You’re not with your kids all day long. Instead you have to trust you’ve equipped them with the skills to do their job, and when you see they’re struggling step in and help them gain the skill they’re missing.

4.       Recognise the paradox. Let your kids learn from their own mistakes. It’s not bad parenting; it’s all about preparing them for adulthood. Remember: one day your child may need to cope without you.

5.       Count to 10 before liftoff. As long as your child's not in danger you should count to 10 before answering their cry for help. In that time you may realise it's not necessary, and your child may decide they can actually do whatever it is that needs to be done all by themself.

-Janine Nel


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