How 'helicopter parenting' is reaching dangerous new heights

TES Professional

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Every school has helicopter parents, but one independent boarding school recently had a father who took things to new heights: he literally used a helicopter to fly on to school premises to argue that his son should be in the top maths set.

This is one of many tales of heliparenting – which is when parents involve themselves in their child’s education to an excessive degree – revealed by teachers in the 8 May issue of TES. Other stories include a primary school teacher who was told by a parent that the way her daughter was taught to write the letter "r" would mean she “failed her exams”.

Fiona Hughes, the freelance writer and parent who wrote the article, says the situation is getting out of control. “Some argue that heliparents undermine all the hard work teachers do to shield primary students from unacceptable pressure and the stress of ‘failing’,” she writes. 

Judy Reith, parenting coach and author of 7 Secrets of Raising Girls Every Parent Must Know, agrees. She says that heliparenting suffocates a child’s sense of self-worth. As a result, they don’t learn how to deal with criticism or how to learn from their mistakes. 

But what of the alternative, asks Hughes. It is really any better for parents to be seen but not heard?

“I like to think there can be a balance between the two extremes – that we can be present in our children’s education but not ever-present,” she writes. “Sometimes that will require teachers to encourage absent parents to be more active, but sometimes it will involve talking heliparents down.”

She concedes that the latter is not easy, but offers five tips from teachers to assist a soft landing. Three are below; for the rest you will have to read the full article in the 8 May issue of TES.

Use good, assertive communication skills

Being sure of your approaches and communicating these clearly will come across well. If you don’t appear confident, it’s hard for others to have confidence in you.

Work with management to produce a message about how parents can best work with the school

Include everything from contact information to events, and outline the benefits that parents can bring to the institution. 

Invite feedback from parents at set times

If there is a designated time and place for this to happen, even if it’s part of another event, you can refer parents to that rather than needing to have rushed conversations at the beginning or end of the day.

For the final tips and the full story, get the 8 May edition of TES on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

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