Back Off Helicopter Parents, You May Be Making Your Child A Target For Bullies

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shutterstock_135465260__1367074757_142.196.167.223I think I was guilty of being a bit of a helicopter parent with my first child. I still have to remind myself to let him fall, bump his head, or have a battle-of-wills once in a while. A new study shows that hovering over your kids may do more harm than good, so I better get my mom-reflex in check.

From Health Day News:

“Although parental involvement, support and high supervision decrease the chances of children being involved in bullying, for victims overprotection increased this risk,” Dieter Wolke, one of the review authors, said in a university news release.

“Children need support but some parents try to buffer their children from all negative experiences,” he said. “In the process, they prevent their children from learning ways of dealing with bullies and make them more vulnerable.


Children with overprotective parents may not learn as easily how to assert themselves. If mom and dad are always taking care of you, you may not learn as easily how to take care of yourself. Parents of bullying victims also tend to be more overprotective – which may actually make the problem worse. This seems like a pretty awful catch-22 because I can definitely understand a parent being more protective of a bullied child.

These results are from an analysis of 70 different studies that included over 200,000 children. What shocked me the most about the findings was that being too overprotective appeared to be almost as damaging as being abusive or neglectful in terms of the probability that your child would become a bullying victim.

The study proves that it is necessary to allow children some negative interactions with their peers so that they learn how to handle these interactions. I think this can start really early. I try not to get too involved when my toddler has a battle of wills on the playground, but I am very aware that not all parents agree with this type of parenting. More than once I have had a parent jump in when I was observing from the sidelines to rectify a playground battle. My thought is – I’m not getting between two toddlers. Sorry.

Children of parents who establish clear rules about behavior but are also supportive and emotionally warm are least likely to be bullied, the study authors said.

“These parents allow children to have some conflicts with peers to learn how to solve them rather than intervene at the smallest argument,” Wolke said.

I love it when I accidentally do something right.

(photo: Luis Louro/