Passionate About Boston
and the Moms Who Live Here

The Propeller Parent :: How to Helicopter Less and Trust More

Much has been written about the dreaded helicopter parent. You know, the parent with the best of intentions who hovers over her child incessantly, holding him as he rides down the slide, interjecting with opinions before the child has a chance to speak, and generally allowing little to no freedom for that child to fail, get hurt, make mistakes, or tolerate any discomfort.

While I have played that role (much to my chagrin), especially when my children were younger, I realize now that this was detrimental, if not to my kids, then to me! I have also learned — from my husband — the virtues and benefits of what I’m now labeling a “propeller parent.”

A propeller parent, unlike the helicopter parent, trusts the child to take risks and also has confidence in their own competency as a parent. A propeller parent propels their child forward instead of keeping them in place.

As a former helicopter parent, I can tell you that a lot of the hovering that goes on has less to do with the child and everything to do with the insecurities and fears about parenting in the first place.

Here are the differences between the two:

The helicopter parent hovers.
The propeller parent pushes forward.

The helicopter parent speaks for their child.
The propeller parent listens for the child’s unique voice.

The helicopter parent micromanages the child’s diet.
The propeller parent offers healthy foods and trusts the child to make balanced decisions.

The helicopter parent fears they or their child will do something wrong or make mistakes.
The propeller parent expects things to go wrong and has confidence to deal with the situation.

The helicopter parent is tentative or inconsistent with discipline and setting boundaries.
The propeller parent sets strong boundaries and expectations and follows through with age-appropriate consequences when those are not met.

The helicopter parent gets anxious and intervenes when the child gets frustrated.
The propeller parent gently encourages but allows the child to self-sooth and problem-solve on their own.

The helicopter parent has tough or uncomfortable conversations on behalf of the child.
The propeller parent teaches their child to confront those situations on their own.

It’s not natural or easy to be a propeller parent, in my opinion, especially when we witness other parents hovering and shadowing their children. It can feel like this is the norm, and the ideal. But, as a recovering helicopter parent, having witnessed my husband’s consistent propeller parenting, I believe it has allowed my children to flourish and build confidence and self-esteem in a way that would not have been possible with pure helicoptering alone.

What do you think? Are you a propeller parent?

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