Dear parents, take note! Over-controlling parenting, according to a study, can negatively affect your kid’s ability to manage his or her emotions and behaviour.
“Our research showed that children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with the challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment,” said Nicole B. Perry, lead author of the study.
“Children who cannot regulate their emotions and behaviour effectively are more likely to act out in the classroom, to have a harder time making friends and to struggle in school.”
Children rely on caregivers for guidance and understanding of their emotions. They need parents who are sensitive to their needs, who recognise when they are capable of managing a situation and who will guide them when emotional situations become too challenging.
This helps children develop the ability to handle challenging situations on their own as they grow up, and leads to better mental and physical health, healthier social relationships and academic success.
Managing emotions and behaviour are fundamental skills that all children need to learn and over-controlling parenting can limits those opportunities, according to Perry.
The researchers followed the same 422 children over the course of eight years and assessed them at ages 2, 5 and 10, as part of a study of social and emotional development.
During the observations, the research team asked the parents and children to play as they would at home.
“Helicopter parenting behaviour we saw included parents constantly guiding their child by telling him or her what to play with, how to play with a toy, how to clean up after playtime and being too strict or demanding,” said Perry. “The kids reacted in a variety of ways. Some became defiant, others were apathetic and some showed frustration.”
Over-controlling parenting when a child was 2 was associated with poorer emotional and behavioural regulation at age 5, the researchers found. Conversely, the greater a child’s emotional regulation at age 5, the less likely he or she was to have emotional problems and the more likely he or she was to have better social skills and be more productive in school at age 10.
Similarly, by age 10, children with better impulse control were less likely to experience emotional and social problems and were more likely to do better in school.
“Children who developed the ability to effectively calm themselves during distressing situations and to conduct themselves appropriately had an easier time adjusting to the increasingly difficult demands of preadolescent school environments,” said Perry.
“Our findings underscore the importance of educating often well-intentioned parents about supporting children’s autonomy with handling emotional challenges.”
Perry suggested that parents can help their children learn to control their emotions and behaviour by talking with them about how to understand their feelings and by explaining what behaviours may result from feeling certain emotions, as well as the consequences of different responses. Then parents can help their children identify positive coping strategies, like deep breathing, listening to music, coloring or retreating to a quiet space.
“Parents can also set good examples for their children by using positive coping strategies to manage their own emotions and behaviour when upset,” said Perry. The study has been published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology.