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Helicopter parents could alleviate stress by giving kids more independence

A study suggests that giving kids more freedom can be just as beneficial for parents

Photo (c) RomoloTavani - Getty Images
While researchers have found that helicopter parenting can make kids less independent as they grow up, a new study is exploring how parents themselves are affected by these habits. 

According to researchers from Edith Cowan University, stress levels are likely to decrease when helicopter parents give their kids more room to explore on their own and don’t interfere as often. 

“As parents we tend to go and ‘save’ our children when they start to struggle with something, instead of letting them try to resolve their own challenges,” said researcher Mandy Richardson. “But if the children aren’t looking for help, perhaps they can be left to do their own thing and work it out themselves.” 

Encouraging independence

For this study, the researchers put parents to the test. Over the course of six weeks, parents attended weekly classes for their toddlers where their little ones were encouraged to play with toys and other kids in whatever way they wanted. 

During the classes, parents were encouraged to follow the Resources for Infant Educators’ (REI’s) recommendations, which highlights the Respectful Approach. This is the mindset that children deserve as much respect and independence as adults give to each other. So, for the entirety of the class, parents let their kids explore on their own without trying to jump in or interfere in their activities. 

At the end of the six weeks, the parents were the ones who noticed the most improvements from this new approach. The researchers found that in letting their kids be independent, parents felt less stressed and more focused on just engaging with their kids. 

“Participants in the study reported worrying less about performance pressure after attending the classes, which let them refocus on their relationship with their children,” Richardson said. 

Ultimately, the goal is that giving kids this kind of freedom from a young age will make these skills even sharper as they grow and develop. The study findings suggest that the approach is a win-win for both kids and their parents, as parents can adopt better communication habits with their kids from an early age while also reducing their worry in social situations. 

“Traditionally, early behavioural interventions have predominantly focused on modifying undesirable child behaviors,” said Richardson. “By building good communication and a close parent-child bond, we can potentially prevent problems occurring in the long term.” 

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