How This Bad Parenting Technique Can Turn Kids into Alcoholics

Parents today have a bevy of scientifically proven parenting methods to choose from when it comes to raising their children. Magazines don’t just talk about putting them to bed on time or making sure they eat their vegetables. Now, it’s all about how you do it that matters. Are you going to attach and hug the vegetables into their mouths? Are you going to free range and reason they’ll go to bed when they’re tired, school night or not? In the end, will they love you more or less for it? Dear God, what therapy am I preparing them for?!

Researchers at Brigham Young University recently determined that helicopter parenting can be severely detrimental to children. Unlike free range or attachment parenting, “helicopter” parenting, first popularized at the dawn of the millennium, involves parents “making important decisions for children, solving their problems and intervening in their children’s conflicts.” It makes sense that this level of over-involvement would have a lousy impact on a kid’s outcome. But, what is truly interesting about BYU’s latest findings has less to do with helicoptering and more to do with the emotional aspects of the parent-child relationship.

Now they’ve found that helicopter parenting combined with an absence of parental warmth is especially detrimental to young adults’ well-being. …Warmth is measured by parental availability to talk and spend time together. …Results showed that the lack of warmth intensifies both the decrease in self-worth and increase in risk behaviors in the young-adult children of helicopter parents. High levels of parental warmth reduced the negative effects, but did not eliminate them completely.

Helicopter parenting comes with its own set of problems. A lack of parental warmth, however, seems to come with baggage all its own. We all know that child abuse has negative long term impacts. But, do we stop to consider that,

“toxic” childhood stress has been linked to elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and other physical conditions posing a significant health risk. The researchers suggest that toxic childhood stress alters neural responses to stress, boosting the emotional and physical arousal to threat and making it more difficult for that reaction to be shut off. 

Physicians have noted the link between a child’s inability to emotionally connect with their parents and peer orientation. The emotional need that isn’t met at home is met through friends, resulting in “…a hostile and sexualized youth culture.  Children end up becoming overly conformist, desensitized, and alienated; being ‘cool’ matters more to them than anything else.” What else is cooler in your college years than binge drinking every Friday night?

Helicoptering, attaching or free-ranging are all trumped by the decision to intentionally cultivate an emotional relationship with your child. Perhaps that’s why it’s time to put down the textbook, stop staring at your smartphone, and just start talking to your kids.