Parents Should Be More Hands-off, Family Experts Say

Just let them be kids.

That’s what Christian family experts are saying, after a new study released showed that kids whose parents hover on the playground get less physical activity.

Results from a study done by researchers at North Carolina State University Results suggest that children who are monitored too closely by hovering, or “helicopter,” parents were less likely to engage in higher levels of physical activity.

“It’s a catch-22 for today’s parents, unfortunately. Many parents are worried about the safety of their children, so they tend to hover,” said Dr. Jason Bocarro, associate professor at NC State, in a statement.

Besides the physical implications, such as rising childhood obesity rates, the study raises other parental concerns among Christian family experts.

“It’s a parenting trend we’re seeing all around us,” Juli Slattery, a family psychologist at Focus on the Family, said in an interview with The Christian Post.

“Parents that are hovering, that are watching every single movement instead of letting them play tag or run around – the level of play is far less. A kid getting scrapes and bruises and playing with other kids – that’s all just a part of growing up,” she said.

Steven White, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Colorado Christian Services, agreed.

“There’s always a danger in overprotecting children and taking on their responsibilities. We don’t give them a chance to learn from the consequences that way,” White said. “As parents, we should be available, but not intrusive – in any area.”

Slattery said she deals with “helicopter” parents all the time.

“I think hovering is a huge issue in society. It starts with toddlers and preschool, where the parents’ fear is more in the physical realm. Then, as they get older, that fear is less physical and more about not wanting their child to fail or be rejected,” she said.

Parents do a child’s homework, or their chores or try to excuse a teenager’s poor behavior, Slattery said. They don’t want their child to feel any negative effects.

“Even college professors are complaining that parents will call them up trying to explain why a student’s paper was late, or why they missed class.”

White said he sees the same trend.

“We definitely have a responsibility to our children. That said, it’s probably been overdone – we’ve become more child-focused, not marital-focused,” he said. “It is important that the child see the main family relationship is husband-wife – instead, we lose that and by default we end up being too involved in our kids lives and the parents needing them too much. It empowers the child.”

Besides parental concern, what is behind the tendency to overprotect? Slattery said it all comes down to God.

“It’s (overprotecting a child) based on fear. What do you base your confidence on? We used to have, as a society, a common faith in God. With that being gone, parents feel like they have to be God for their children.”

“It all comes down to who is God for your children. If you have to be God for your kid, you have to be pretty omnipotent.”