So what kind of parent are you? Are you one of those parents who micromanages your children by hovering, constantly attempting to instruct...

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So what kind of parent are you?

Are you one of those parents who micromanages your children by hovering, constantly attempting to instruct, oversee, correct and control their every movement? Or do you parent from a distance, more like a satellite?

Helicopter parents are not only vigilant in their approach to guidance but are inexhaustible when it comes to exercising their influence; they fail to respect the fact that each child has a mind of his own.

When children embark on a new experience such as learning to ride a tricycle or bicycle or drive a car, hovercraft parents breathe down their children’s preschool-age, school-age or adolescent necks. They oversee and anticipate every movement in order to protect the child not only from harm but from flubbing up in any way.

There’s also a tendency with helicopter parents to overschedule children so that if they aren’t the ones doing the hovering another adult will be. They want their child to receive formal instruction most of the day, fearful that there’s no benefit to downtime, free time or playtime. They fear that their children won’t use every minute productively for optimal opportunities to reach their intellectual, athletic or artistic potential.

Even when playing a game, helicopter parents tell their children how to play and what strategy to use. They don’t realize that given experience, a child will determine how to succeed all on her own.

The child of the helicopter parent sometimes wants to scream, “Leave me alone, will you? I can manage some situations all on my own.”

Satellite parents, however, are too permissive. These parents leave their children to raise themselves with a “do your own thing” attitude. The children feel abandoned. At least children of helicopter parents know Mom and Dad care.

Satellite parents today are busy with their own agendas. While they might sign their child up for soccer, they’re too busy to attend practices or games. They might take their children on vacation but fall short when it comes to laying out expectations for proper behavior on the airplane or at a motel. They might choose a nice neighborhood with a good school but fail to check out their children’s friends or oversee homework.

No parent is clearly a helicopter or satellite parent. What’s the appropriate balance? At different stages of development you hover but then step back playing the part of a satellite. A baby needs Mommy and Daddy hovering until the baby begins in short spurts to entertain herself. When this occurs, there’s no need to intrude.

Toddlers, for safety’s sake, need a helicopter parent. After all, this age group is on the go with no inner controls. Then one day the toddler will determine a job which might involve piling all the stuffed animals in a corner. At this point, you’re there to watch — no need to interfere.

A preschooler needs a parent to hover while visiting the doctor. Once home, when the child pretends about the visit, refrain from interfering. The child knows how to play in order to come to terms with the trip to the doctor’s office.

School-age children need parents hovering as they acquire the discipline to complete homework assignments. When interacting with friends, although you might keep a watchful eye on them, you’re to stay away unless hurtful behavior occurs.

Once teens, you’re mostly a satellite parent, but when it comes to safety issues — driving a car, taking long-distance adventures or attending unchaperoned social activities — you’re in their face until you’re satisfied that where they’re going and what they’re doing sits right with you.

Ultimately you’re better off being a Blue Angel parent. This parent is in sync with each child knowing when to come in and make an effective parenting maneuver, and when to disappear trusting that the child is fully equipped to use his mind, body, emotions and social skills to manage and learn from the situation at hand.

Jan Faull, a specialist in child development and behavior, answers questions of general interest in her column. You can e-mail her at or write to: Jan Faull, c/o Families, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at