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Freda Briggs - Emeritus Professor in Child Development

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Helicopter Parenting

Exclusive - The Freda Briggs Parenting Series

Professor Freda Briggs | 05 July 2012

Stock Photo

over protection at one end of the line...
...and neglect at the other

Parenting styles can be seen as a continuum with over protection at one end of the line and neglect at the other. Over reaction to very rare cases of child abduction have led to a generation of ‘bubble-wrapped kids’ with helicopter (or hovercraft) parents who supervise their every move and prevent them from playing outside with friends. At the age of eighteen, some have never travelled on public transport. The adolescent’s inappropriate and criminal behaviour is excused, parents pay their fines and we saw recently where a mother paid over $5000 for a tennis star’s shirt because her daughter was upset that she didn’t get it. Over-protection and intrusion stifle children’s emotional, social and physical development and prevent them from gaining independence. They grow up lacking self confidence and the ability to make decisions for themselves because they have become dependent on their parents.

Helicopter parents deny children the opportunity to take risks and learn from mistakes. They think that by controlling every move, they are protecting children from harm but in reality they are denying them the skills to stay safe outside the extended family. Children beyond pre-school years need opportunities to experiment with parents teaching safety skills and acting as a safety net.

...Children beyond pre-school years need opportunities to experiment with parents teaching safety skills and acting as a safety net...

Over-protection is stifling but equally dangerous is giving children choices and freedom before they have the skills and maturity to use it wisely. Parents who want to be their children’s best friends and fail to parent store up problems for the future. Children need limits, routines and boundaries for sound development and a sense of security. Sadly, some parents don’t seem to care where their children are so long as they are “out of the way”. Girls of twelve say that they are going to stay at a friend’s place but, scantily clad, go to night clubs and stay out all night. With “come and get me” written all over them, they are ill equipped for dealing with the situations they encounter.

Although there are parent help-lines to assist with parenting problems, we do not seem to know what to do with feral adolescents. We can’t lock them in. Truancy officers no longer investigate school absences and parents can’t rely on over-loaded child protection services. There are few deterrents for anti-social behaviour. Parents face uncertainty about when to permit children to do things on their own and when to say, “No, you are not old enough”.

Such are the problems that there are millions of parenting sites on the internet. Good parenting involves getting the balance right between strong, protective parenting and helping children to be responsible for themselves. As they grow, the adults must step back but the timing is crucial. Much depends on children’s maturity, safety knowledge and skills. If in doubt, seek help from your state parenting service.

More information on parenting can be found in "Smart Parenting for Safer Kids" by the author, available from JoJo Publishers, Melbourne, all good bookshops or the internet.

Freda Briggs
Emeritus Professor in Child Development

Read more exclusive Parenting articles

Smart Parenting for Safer Kids

Dr Freda Briggs AO is Emeritus Professor in Child Development at the University of South Australia and author of "Smart Parenting for Safer Kids". "Smart Parenting for Safer Kids", reviewed by here, gives tips on keeping children safe in a wide range of situations from cyber space and sexual abuse to bullying. The book is available in all good bookstores and can be ordered by phone on 03 9681 7275 or online at JoJo Publishing
You can read more of Freda Briggs's Profile here.

This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of The views of the author are not necessarily representative of those of This article contains only general information, correct at the date of publication. For advice regarding your own personal circumstances, always seek individual advice from a qualified professional. Read the full Disclaimer here

What does it mean to be a single mum?Of course, the


are the most important thing in a single mum's life. Kids are the focus and always have been. But along with the children, there are other matters that can confuse a single mum's life.


plays a big part of a single mother's life, mainly because this is where a large percentage of single mums get their finances from. Centrelink are the source from where the

single mother pension

, or as it is otherwise known, the single parent payment comes from. The single mother pension is a subsistence amount, but just the same, it is money to live on, and so it is important, no matter if it is called single parent payment, single mother pension or whatever Centrelink welfare classes it at the time

Often, single mums come out of a


or defacto relationship only to find that their troubles have just begun, and find that their first step leads them towards Family Law - it's time to engage a lawyer.
There are more than just Centrelink finance problems to worry about, as mentioned before, but also

child custody

issues. Child custody is something that hits right at the heart of

single mums

. If a single mother's ex husband or ex partner has been a domestic violence perpetrator, the mum may be greatly worried about child custody. They worry that their kids won't be safe with their spouse, who has already proven to be abusive because they caused

domestic violence

, which resulted in a divorce or separation.

Even so,

Family Court

will often still order a form of child custody named

Shared Parenting

. Shared Parenting is a form of child custody division of time or parental responsibility between the parents. Mother's often look for a good divorce lawyer to try to avoid share parenting with an abusive ex-spouse after divorce, however in many cases Shared Parenting is still the outcome after the divorce, no matter how good the divorce lawyers have been. They will often settle for visitation at a contact centre or access centre where fathers or mothers are supervised during child custody access.

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