A National University of Singapore study exposed how helicopter “Tiger Moms” hurt kids
In a paper released in June 2017, Professor Ryan Hong studied 236 children over a 5-year period. What he discovered about over-intrusive parenting styles was horrifying.
Parents who hover over every aspect of their child’s life, expecting perfection, make their child mentally ill. Such parenting styles lead to increased anxiety, depression and suicidal thinking.
What is Helicopter Parenting?
Helicopter parenting became known as such when alluded to in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book “Between Parent & Teenager“. An interviewed teen commented, “Mother hovers over me like a helicopter“.
It is when parents decide to live toxically vicariously through their children. Parents will monitor every aspect of a child’s development and education to suit themselves. They stifle a child’s unique potential in order to realize their own outrageous expectations.
Even university educators scoff at the practice
Such parents will even interfere with their adult children’s tertiary education. Some report instances where parents will harass lecturers. They will demand involvement in the progress and results of their adult child.
It isn’t just the baby boomer generation in the West that is notorious for controlling every aspect of their child’s life
Parents in China and India have high expectations for their offspring too. In Japan, there are high instances of suicide in young people who fail to meet their parent’s unreasonable expectations.
So why do some parents believe they can determine the entire life of their child? Most believe they have pure intentions. They want their children to have an easy adulthood. Such parents define an easy adulthood as having a high earning career. They believe the only path to such a career is via a military style childhood.
Parenting and Cultural Expectation
In some countries, it is also the cultural expectation that you will parent your children in this style. But studies like the aforementioned, and others, beg to differ. This style of parenting is toxic and even deadly, as seen in Japan.
Law School Professor Amy Chua shot to infamy when she published her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother“. Chua feared that her own daughters would descend into the poverty her own parents raised her in.
So she decided to raise them with overwhelming strictness. She controlled and defined every moment of their education and free time.
Chua claims that she was overly controlling because she believed that they could be high achievers.
However, she admits to telling her 3-year-old daughter to spend time outside in below freezing temperatures.
Her toddler had not complied during piano lessons. Sadly the young child took her literally and went out into the deathly cold.
The child was ultimately unharmed. However, it is frightening that a parent’s narcissistic demands on a small child could put them in a dangerous situation.
Study: Tiger Parenting Stifles Child Development
Professor Su Yeong Kim of the University of Texas had been collecting data on parents such as Chua. The extensive data that Kim had collected caused him to feel great alarm at the actions of Tiger mom Chua, and others like her.
The American Psychological Association published Kim’s study. The shocking results revealed that such parenting leads to a sub-optimal adjustment in adolescents.
Excessive pressure from parents caused these teens to develop depressive symptoms. Such children experienced alienation and low self-esteem.
Kim explained the parenting styles she observed:
- Harsh parents produced the most psychologically damaged children of all. Fortunately, not many parents in the study fit into this category.
- Tiger Parents rated very closely behind harsh parents. This was alarming to Kim.
- Easygoing parents numbered about equally to tiger parents. This kind of parenting did not produce high achievers. But none of their children had depressive symptoms.
- Supportive parents appeared to achieve the best results. Their children were academically successful and exhibited no depressive symptoms.
Conducive Learning Environments
It is understanding that parents want their children to succeed in life. However, studies reveal that children thrive when parents support their unique talents and gifts.
Professor Hong gave some insightful recommendations at the conclusion of his study. Parents create learning environments that prevent children from developing maladaptive perfectionism.
When a parent asks if a child achieved a specific grade on a test the child will feel inadequate if they fail to meet expectations. To boost the child’s self-esteem, instead, ask the child how they did on the test.
This way the child can learn that making mistakes is a normal part of life. The parent can then gently guide them to correct their course of action. They can avoid accusing them of failure, which would damage their developing child.
All things in life succeed in moderation. Studies clearly show this includes the style in which we parent our children. Supporting a child to become the best that they are, in the way that works for them, is clearly the key to their success.