Someone Asks ‘What Do Kids With Helicopter Parents Look Like As Adults?’, And Here Are 30 Illuminating Answers
You've probably heard of helicopter parenting, an approach to raising kids where parents pay extremely close attention to their kids' lives, before.
The chances are you may even know someone who had their mom and dad become overly involved in their lives. You may have experienced it yourself. And while helicopter parents walk the fine line between wanting what’s best for their kids and making their childhood miserable, the practice is still rather common.
Recently, someone on Ask Reddit drew attention to this topic and asked people “What do kids with helicopter parents look like as adults?” The stories started rolling in one by one, and it’s an eye-opening and thought-provoking read you may want to pull your seat closer for.
My older brother and I both moved out as soon as we turned 18. He moved to the opposite side of the country, I moved three states away. He still keeps low contact and is still on the East Coast. I came back home when I became homeless at 25 and noticed that while we were gone, my mother (the helicopter) had done a lot of soul searching and realized that her controlling nature pushed her kids away.
She's been in Co-Dependents Anonymous for almost eight years now, and I'm happy to say for the first time in my life I enjoy spending time with my mom. Took a bit, but I was able to transition out of low contact.
To find out more about helicopter parenting and how it affects the wellbeing of a child, Bored Panda spoke with Helen Marlo, a licensed clinical psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst who provides psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and consultation. Marlo is also a Professor of Clinical Psychology and the Department Chair at Notre Dame de Namur University. She frequently sees the deleterious effects of this kind of parenting in her clinical work, so she feels passionately about this topic.
Marlo explained that helicopter parenting is destructive because it is a self-involved style of parenting that lacks empathy. “It is dominated by relating through action which takes away from the parent genuinely engaging with the child. This parenting style prevents the child from experiencing which is, often, the best teacher in life.”
They tried to ground me after I came back from serving in the Marine Corps. Tried to take the keys to the car I own and prevent me from getting an education.
Told my mom she can pound dirt and told my dad that if he didn't fix himself and stand up to my overbearing mom, I'd never talk to the two of them again. Then I got in my car and drove off. I was homeless for a minute until I saved enough for an apartment.
You'd think that me moving out and being homeless instead of living with them would be the thing that made things click.
About a year after my move-out, I'd reconnected with my family and agreed to take my mom to her aerobics class one day since her car was in the shop.
Well, I drive about 10 minutes before she lays into me about my life choices, etc. I pulled the car over, looked at her, and said, "Get out." She looked stunned. I just repeated myself and added, "Now."
She got out. I drove off to my apartment, played some Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and she got her much-needed exercise.
My mom was a pretty bad helicopter mom. I'm 27. I was fortunate to have aunts and uncles who modeled a different kind of parenting when I stayed with them, and good friends in college/just after college who taught me a crash course in life. When I went to college, I couldn't make more than box mac and cheese. I couldn't drive. I had never done my own laundry. Phone calls paralyzed me.
Somewhere around age 20-21, it dawned on me that my mom was misrepresenting how scary being an adult was. She made everything more difficult for herself: paying bills by phone instead of automatically, double checking her checkbook by doing the math by hand first and then with a calculator, washing dishes by hand and then putting them in the dishwasher, letting laundry pile up and then doing 5 loads a day for two days.... etc etc.
When I payed my own taxes, filed my own FAFSA, unclogged my own drain, and just tried recipes without caring if I messed up, something clicked. You can give many things a try with minimal permanent consequences. Dumber people than me can cook, drive, vote, pay taxes, etc. So why couldn't I?
I now have two graduate degrees and am about halfway through a doctorate. I am happily married and do the bulk of the cooking and running the household. I can drive, even though I'm still a fairly nervous driver. I make phone calls all the time. I can have my advisors point out something I did wrong without having a meltdown. I kept a cat alive for two years and she's doing great.
I gave my mom's anxiety back to her and let her handle it. I'm doing just fine.
Anxious. Suffocated. Helicopter parents have this unrealistic expectations but refuses to accept that their children are now adults.
I'm 23. Last year I rented an apartment near work (I could finally breathe properly) but still I have to text her when I step out of the unit, when I reached the office, when my shift is done and when I finally got home.
If I forgot to text, or if my message didn't go through; she won't stop calling me until I answer. The signal in my apartment is poor so I really have to go outside to get a single bar. One time she kept calling me but I was asleep, and since there's almost no signal then I'm not receiving any of her calls. When I finally went out that's when my phone rang, she told me she's already on her way to my workplace just because I didn't answer her calls.
Now my hand shakes and my heart always drops when I hear a text or call. Even if it's not from her. That's how my mother is affecting me.
Moreover, helicopter parenting can be especially destructive “because it involves activities that may masquerade as forms of ‘good parenting,’ and involve actions that lead to greater outward success for one’s child,” Marlo argues. She added that this can make it a hard style for parents to modify.
According to the clinical psychologist, helicopter parenting involves actions which are, seemingly, on behalf of the child and their alleged needs. However, in reality, they “more often are motivated by the parent’s own anxieties, expectations, hopes, wishes, and needs.”
* Unwilling/unable to make decisions
* "I didn't do that because nobody directed me to"
* Doesn't take a single step without getting specific approval from someone
* No problem-solving ability whatsoever. Just waits around to be told exactly what to do
Friend of mine has a big time helicopter mom. He has never paid taxes, he’s 23 his mom handles everything. Recently he moved from his hometown to Austin so he can attempt to be an adult. His mom moved to Austin less than a week later. But other than that he’s the most depressed guy I know.
My best friend grew up with controlling, helicopter parents and there's a lot of things she never learned because they never taught her. My husband and I have been teaching her basic financial literacy because her parent's never helped her build credit, never let her have her own bank account, never let her apply for a credit card. They controlled everything so she ha to unlearn a mindset of spending any money you do have on hand ASAP.
She also struggled with honesty. In her household lying was second nature. The best way to get out of any problem was to lie. This caused a lot of problems for her because she would lie to fix things, cover things, and get out of things in her other relationship. That took a long time and a few destroyed relationships to really unlearn.
She also struggles with impulse control. She's much better now but she used to make a lot of bad choices simply because she could. She wouldn't stop to think through if it was a good idea or not.
We're in our late 20s and my husband and I have served as a lot of her safety net and support over the years. Her relationship with her parents and herself have gotten way healthier so now she's living on her own, supporting herself, and making smarter choices but oof, those early 20s were a rough time.
It’s important to understand that helicopter parenting is not just a mere parenting style, but that it can be intrusive and controlling of the child, their experience, and their self-expression. This self-involved style of parenting prevents the parent from seeing their child and from being conscious and attuned to their child’s needs.
Marlo told us that “it can interfere with the natural development and unfolding of one’s personality, coined by psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, as the process of, ‘going-on-being.’ When ‘going-on-being’ is impinged upon, it can lead to the development of a ‘false self.’”
Honestly just an anxious mess. Every job I've had I've been constantly afraid I'll mess something up and be a disappointment. It's honestly paralyzing.
Eventually when I got married I just kind of gave up on having a career and became a housewife. Still constantly anxious I don't measure up but at least my husband is willing to reassure me.
Read the book *The Coddling of the American Mind*, and/or the article in The Atlantic by the same name. Kids who were treated that way seem to have higher suicide rates and more depression, more anxiety, and an unusually poor ability to deal with conflict (hence the craze for "safe spaces" and cancel culture that is sweeping HR departments and universities the world over).
My wife has helicopter parents and I constantly have to argue with them. We are in our mid thirties.
When we visit they plan our itinerary to the 15 minute block. Stopping for lunch as a family is not allowed unless previously approved.
They have tentacles that reach out though churches to check on us. When my daughter was born a stranger to us came up to us in a restaurant, picked up our new born and walked away with her. I had to chase her down. She told me my wife’s mother had told her to do so. She was over a thousand miles away.
We attended their church once. Again, we are in NC and they were in Maine. A strange family came up and questioned why my wife uses a breast pump and told her it makes her less of a mother. There is no way they could have known without someone telling them.
My wife’s siblings are all struggling. Can’t do anything for themselves. I own their cars and they make payments to me, I pay for their car insurance.
During one medical emergency while I was at work the parents called their friends at church to go get my daughter and no one called me. When I finally heard from my wife we didn’t know where my child was. Grandma had control.
Marlo explained that, for example, “helicopter parenting can quash dimensions of the child’s personality and innate capacities, and foreclose emerging, influential experience, by preventing or intruding upon the child’s spontaneous behaviors as well as by sending strong messages about who the child should be, which often goes against their being and leads to the development of a false self.”
She added that helicopter parenting is a form of parenting that involves acting and doing in contrast to relating and understanding. “It consists of actions that can supplant and take away from communicating and being with the child.”
One of my cousins had the worst helicopter parents. Her mother took her to school and for the entire year, waited outside the classroom door while class was in session.
The next year she volunteered as a teacher's assistant for baby's class. This went on until baby graduated high school and applied for college - out of town.
Mom and dad sold their house and bought a new one in the town where baby was going to college. Twice. They did this twice.
Baby is a well-adjusted young lady. She's lovely, has a college degree and is in training to become a helicopter pilot. I'm not even kidding. The helicopter baby is becoming a helicopter pilot.
I dated a guy like this. I was 49 years-old, he was 57. He resented his parents, always complained about them. He could not make decisions, so never made one. It was up to me to make all the dating plans.
He was helpless in that he had no life skills. He was laid off from his mechanical engineering job and could no longer afford rent, so I took pity on him, and let him move in with me. He could not cook or clean and expected me to do all that work for him. Even after all that, he started resenting me, probably because he was so dependent on me.
I kicked him out and he's now living with his parents. That was 4 years ago and he's still there, still resenting them.
They go one of two ways usually. Either helicopter parents themselves, or completely wild childs that majorly screw up once they taste freedom.
I was #2, and it took a while to calm down.
Moreover, “a helicopter parent can mistakenly convince themselves that doing for their child or being anxiously preoccupied about their child is a form of engagement and love.”
We also asked the clinical psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst what the children of helicopter parents are like. Marlo explained that they often “show a limited capacity for tolerating stress and they can become easily overwhelmed by stressors since helicopter parenting generally prevents them from having to face and cope with the usual stresses of life.”
When I was 18 I just left. They didn't have legal guardianship, they couldn't say s**t. Things were rocky for a couple of years but so worth the freedom. As I got married and had kids they tried to be controlling over them and my spouse and I set extremely firm boundaries and made it clear that they would never see any of us again if they played that game with me. I was about two seconds away from filing a restraining order when they finally got the message.
Unfortunately, I have to use their tactics against them and threaten extreme things in order to get them out of our personal lives. The one thing I took away from all of that is with people like that, you have to be willing to fight and accept that you may very well have to cut them completely out of your life.
My parents weren't [helicopter parents]. But a friend moved to a different state and got engaged, and my friend's mom still managed to be a helicopter parent. Visiting at least three times a month and contacting either her or her SO constantly.
It ruined the engagement because the significant other finally had enough [...] Even though my friend was annoyed with her mom as well, she couldn't cut her mom off completely... I don't know all the details, but it must have been superr annoying if someone was like, "I love you, but f**k having in-laws like this."
She is now single and has moved back home. It's unfortunate...
Really good liars because they had to master it at a young age.
Having a helicopter parent often leads a person to develop a sense of specialness and a feeling of entitlement, Marlo argues. “That is, they develop an expectation that they should be treated differently from others, and that others could and should do things for them, often, because they are so unique or special.” Moreover, they may develop a feeling of superiority, “often in compensation for feeling so inadequate, insecure, or useless because everything is being done for them,” she added.
The clinical psychologist also noted that while having a helicopter parent who takes care of everything can feel good in the moment, it can backfire. “The person often winds up feeling incompetent, useless, or without purpose and that leads to increased depression and anxiety.”
Failure to launch syndrome is something I mainly work with in my clients as a therapist. Lots of avoidance of conflict, not able to do basic life skills, executive functioning defects, and parents still overly involved in their lives well into adulthood.
I can answer this!
I'm scared of my parents, specifically my dad. I'm the youngest in my family and grew up conditioned to always be a delicate little flower who had to be protected at all costs. As I grew older and by them being particularly strict about what I could or couldn't do, my adult brain registered the 'couldnt do's as threats to my safety.
It's caused me a lot of issues. Here's a list-
- I have 2 separate personas around people. When I'm with friends, I swear a lot, I joke around, I deliberately try to p**s them off for a laugh. I'm not afriad to admit I enjoy playing video games or watch cartoons. Near my parents? I'm as quiet as a mouse. Even when I do speak near them I don't swear or try anything to bother them.
- I can't bring myself to update my social media where my parents can see it because I'm frightened they'll come in and tell me I have s bad opinion or I should delete my posts. If something minor is even put up, it gets taken down.
- As a result of being scared of my dad, I developed a severe anxiety disorder revolving around riding in his car as a passenger. If I'm carsick, he'll be mad. And that happens frequently. I'm getting better at not having a panic attack in his car. Gradually.
- They are so deluded in seeing me as a delicate little flower that they fail to encourage or acknowledge my real interest in playing video games. Like it's embarrassing to them. I do my best not to bother them by playing my games very discreetly.
- It's impolite to be loud. I listen to the TV at the lowest volume, I've trained myself to burp by like. Breathing it out through my nose so it's silent. People around me can belch loudly if they wanted. I don't know how to anymore. If I accidentally make any sort of unsavoury sound I have to apologize profusely.
- I'm afraid of the outside world at dark. Even at twilight. I was forbidden from riding a train home at 5pm to protect me from scary people. But now? I'm always frightened. It makes it difficult to go out in public at night without constantly being on edge. It's made people who are just having fun drinking with friends look like monsters who intend to kill me instead.
- ^^^ I'm too anxious to drink because I don't want to disappoint my parents AND all drunk people are dangerous and intend to hurt you.
I'm seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist and both of them told me my mental health will improve drastically when I move out. They say right now, I am an independent adult...but I'm very much a robot conditioned at a young age to stay safe to the point of never really experiencing the world and learning to make mistakes so as a result I am always anxious and terrified of disappointing my parents.
My parents track my location at all times now. I’m 27.
That way they don’t call the cops if I don’t pick up within 30 min... which has happened multiple times. [...] I once fell asleep on the couch and my parents couldn’t get a hold of me for an hour. They concluded I had hit my head in the shower and died.
My parents are immigrants and only have me, so I’m not sure if that has to do with their anxiety.
Helicopter parenting often shapes subsequent relationships, including how the person relates to others and who they connect with in relationships. “In relationships, they may, for example, be drawn to someone who replicates a pattern of being intrusive and controlling, leading the person to become less competent, confident and more dependent.”
“Similarly, they may be drawn to others who treat them as special, which is not conducive to maintaining healthy, long-term relationships, particularly by failing to learn to manage inevitable human disappointments, limitations, imperfections, and boundaries,” Marlo concluded.
My ex has an overly doting mother. He couldn't crisis manage, troubleshoot or handle anything on his own. He also ONLY trusted her advice, I suggested something, he refused she suggested the same thing and he obliged. He lacked motivation to do better for himself, look for a better job, get our own place, etc because his mom always took care of him financially. He had no faith in his abilities or talent because he never had the chance to prove to himself he could handle anything.
Child free and an absolute f**k up and failure. Still trying to make up for lost time of my adolescence and I'm almost 30. I'd rather be dead some days.
Thanks for asking.
Anxious, never believing they're good enough, always feeling as if they're being watched and judged. Sheltered life so no experience of the real world because the parents taught them everyone is out to get them and they won't survive "out there". Might have one personality for the parents that's inoffensive and childish and one for everyone else. Terrified of making decisions or doing adult things.
The best thing I ever did for myself was to go to university too far from them to be able to live at "home" and refuse to move back in with them when I graduated. I don't think I'd have made it to 25 if I had to live under their roof again.
Kids with helicopter parents tend to become adults with helicopter parents. No boundaries are set so the parents never take a step back.
My husband deals with this with his mother. We make decisions as a married couple, then later everything changes after they talk to each other. Even situations dealing with our daughter, like I have no say even when he and I were on the same page before decisions were put into action.
He is so desperate to please his mom, he turns his back on me. When I confront him, he blames me for causing drama or being petty.
His mom acts like she is his wife and he lets it happen. It grosses me out.
My college roommate had a helicopter mom. It was so bad she brushed her hair herself for the first time in college. She couldn’t take care of herself. She had never spent a night away from home and she cried every night. She ended up dropping out after the first semester.
I had one working for me at an architecture firm as an intern. Gave her work that was slightly challenging for someone starting out (where she had to figure some things out on her own). Failed miserably. Resorted to giving her redlines to pick up— literally a print out of a drawing with red pen showing what needed to be changed— move this wall over 8”, fix this typo, etc. She finished about half of the changes and brought it back “done”. I went back and told her the way to track her work was to go over the red marks with a highlighter as she finished each change, to make sure she picked it all up. Still brought it back partly done, but with highlights indicating she had done all of it. Couldn’t understand why that was a problem. She wasn’t dumb, just couldn’t fathom that no one would be picking up after her, or that errors in the drawings could cost tens of thousands of dollars in lost time and materials down the line.
It all fell into place for me the second day, when she drove up in a new car her parents had bought for her (she had been driving it for a month). I had been thinking of getting a similar car, so I asked her what she thought of it. Was it designed well? We’re there any annoying features? All she could tell me was that the brakes were “sticky”. I kind of gave up on her after that. If she had been inexperienced but wanted to learn and asked questions and made an effort to get things right, I would have put in the effort to teach her.
I saw a post on relationship advice from a guy whose mum was a helicopter parent.
He was nearly 30 and still lived with her, she used to check his bank account and turn up to his work to make sure he was there. He'd never had a relationship and wanted advice on moving to new city and going no contact. Does this help?
i’m 21 years old and my dad still tracks my location when i go out. if i hang out with my friends past midnight (pre-quarantine) he’d get mad and try to call until i left.
they’re also on my case about applying for a job, which i’ve been actively doing. they’re not necessarily supportive, they just think “she’s gotta do it.”
i live with them still so i never make phone calls while i’m in the house because they’ll walk in and interrupt me, asking who i’m talking to and what i’m talking about. it’s super embarrassing if the person on the other end hears them.
i have an entire separate “brand” of social media that they don’t know about because they follow all of my personal socials and always comment if i post something they don’t like, so i feel like i don’t have free range to post about certain things (sexuality is a big one but i don’t even like using bad language or talking about alcohol) even though i’m an adult and can make decisions for myself. vanishingpals allows me to post what i want and just be myself online. i’m still terrified they’re gonna find out about it someday.
i still feel like every decision i make revolves around them and their reactions. i don’t go shopping often, i don’t make plans with friends easily, i don’t use facebook because my dad still has my password and i hated using it after that. he tried to get my email password too, but i refused to give it to him.
my mom apparently comes into my room to check out my stuff either when i’m asleep or when i’m not there. she used to come in to check my phone for messages so i started shutting my phone off at night. (and i just found out my dad checks to see if i’m awake by using the Find My Friends app to see if my phone is on.) one time, she noticed something in my room and asked what it was. i told her i didn’t want her to know (because it’s private and mine) and she said “you know i’ll just come in when your not here and look at it.” i’ve never wanted to punch someone more, if i’m being honest.
this affected my brother too. he just got married without telling any of us (separate story, he had a good reason) and now he feels super uncomfortable talking to our parents about it because of this horrible helicopter thing they’ve done.
helicopter parents are the absolute worst and at times, it’s straight up abusive. i have absolutely zero sense of privacy and it’s honestly driving me over the edge. the lack of boundaries makes me not want to pursue anything they won’t like and i feel like i don’t have total free range or control of my life, even though i’m an adult who could handle everything on my own. i think they’re trying to keep me safe and secure? but it’s just invasive and the fact that they don’t even think twice about it (especially my mom; sometimes i call my dad out and he listens) just makes it especially horrible.
tl; dr: please don’t track your kids like this, i really, really, really hated it growing up and still have a space for resentment for them.
They are unable to fend for themselves, have crippling anxiety, poor social skills, and a fear of failure. They have a hard time coping, are risk adverse, and generally can't make decisions.