People who grew up with helicopter parents often display these 12 subtle behaviors

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Some parents are too involved in every aspect of their kid’s life, hovering around, making decisions, and basically not letting them breathe.

Although they just want to be protective, they sometimes end up causing more harm than good, messing with their kid’s independence and decision-making skills.

That’s why, unfortunately, people who grew up with helicopter parents often display the following subtle behaviors: 

1) Low self-esteem

Constant hovering can make a person doubt themselves. They’re always questioning if they’re good enough because someone was always there saying, “Are you sure about that?”

Their parents were always there, ready to give their opinion or intervene. 

Now, when you never got a chance to trust your own judgment or make decisions independently, self-doubt becomes a constant companion.

You start questioning your abilities because, for the longest time, someone else has been the judge of what’s right or wrong.

And that’s perfectly understandable, right?

2) Dependency

Imagine growing up with someone always there to catch you when you fall, handle every problem, and make decisions for you. 

You had a safety net under you at all times. Now, on the surface, that might sound comforting, but it sets the stage for something not-so-great: dependency.

If everything’s been handled for you, breaking free from that and standing on your own two feet can be a bit of a challenge.

Learning to do things solo is like learning a new language for you because you’re so used to having someone constantly in the background.

That’s why, if unchecked, dependency extends to relationships. When someone is used to having everything taken care of, relying on others becomes second nature.

And now, instead of their parents, a person starts relying on their partner for all their needs.

Heck, I know a person whose wife had to cut the meat on his plate because he was so dependent.

Needless to say, the marriage didn’t last too long. 

3) Over-reliance on validation

Growing up with helicopter parents means your every move is scrutinized, assessed, and often guided. 

Whether it’s the way you tackle school assignments, choose your friends, or decide on a career path, there’s this constant presence of someone evaluating your choices. 

And what happens when every decision is met with approval or disapproval? Well, seeking validation becomes a way of life.

Instead of trusting your own instincts, there’s this inclination to look around for someone else to say, “Good job.”

4) Social awkwardness

Helicopter parenting can also inadvertently hinder the natural development of social skills. What’s the result? Social awkwardness.

When you’re used to having someone else manage your social interactions, entering a room full of people or engaging in casual conversations can feel like stepping into a conversational minefield. 

It’s not that you lack the capability, but you haven’t had the chance to hone those skills independently.

Social skills are like a muscle; they need regular exercise to stay sharp. Helicopter parenting unintentionally puts those social muscles in a bubble wrap. 

5) Fear of failure

Failure is a part of life’s curriculum, right? It’s how we learn and grow. But for someone accustomed to having a safety net, the mere thought of making a mistake can trigger intense anxiety. 

It’s not just about the fear of falling short; it’s about the fear of disappointing not just themselves but those who have always been there to prevent failure – their parents.

Yes, even if you don’t live with them anymore, there’s always that lingering thought of what they will think of this and of you.

This fear of failure extends to different parts of life – academic, professional, and personal. 

The pressure to constantly succeed, coupled with the fear of not meeting expectations, creates a mental battleground where the stakes feel unnaturally high.

And that’s where the following comes into play:

6) Decision paralysis

So, you’ve grown up with someone always there, ready to analyze and guide every decision you make.

Now, fast forward to when you’re on your own, facing a decision without that familiar guidance. That’s where decision paralysis can kick in.

The irony here is that the fear of making the wrong decision can sometimes lead to not making a decision at all. 

You’re caught in a loop of overthinking, analyzing every possible outcome, and ending up stuck in the same spot.

Overcoming decision paralysis means you need to build confidence and work on your ability to make decisions. 

7) Difficulty handling criticism

Your parents, with the best intentions, have aimed to shield you from harm, disappointment, or failure. 

However, the unintended consequence of this well-meaning protection is a vulnerability when it comes to facing criticism.

When a boss, friend, or colleague tells you you did something wrong, you fall apart and think that they aimed this at you with bad intentions. 

You don’t get that constructive criticism is there for you to learn something out of it and become better the next time. 

I’ve worked with too many colleagues who would draw the bullying card at their colleagues or supervisors whenever someone critiqued them.

That’s not how you improve and go forward. 

8) Not handling stress good

When I think of my childhood, I see caring but busy parents who, if they didn’t work at their job, constantly spent time in the garden tending to veggies and making sure we have fresh food to eat. 

Naturally, I wanted them to spend more time with me, but that obviously wasn’t always possible. 

Still, I had a great childhood because I spent so much time outside unsupervised. Now, if you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you might not be aware that these times are gone for most kids.

I see kids these days less and less on playgrounds, football pitches, and basketball courts and more sitting at home playing video games and spending time on social media.

They don’t interact with other kids in real life outside school anymore, and that, as a parent, has me worried about the way they’ll handle stress when they’re adults. 

But also that they won’t be taking as many risks as we did. 

9) They avoid taking risks

Taking risks? Nope, not for them. Helicopter parenting tends to breed a cautious approach to life for their kids. 

They’re not exactly thrill-seekers. They like playing it safe on a permanent basis.

When decisions have been made for you or guided by someone else for a significant part of your life, developing a sense of independence and the confidence to take risks just isn’t there. 

Taking risks inherently involves stepping into the unknown and out of your comfort zone. 

That’s why people raised by helicopter parents are more inclined to avoid situations where outcomes are uncertain and murky.

10) They don’t set boundaries

Boundaries? What are those? Helicopter parenting often results in a blurred line between personal space and invasion, so setting clear boundaries is a foreign concept for their kids well into adulthood.

Defining your own personal needs is, therefore, a bit ambiguous. As you may know, setting boundaries means you must understand and communicate what you need, and this is a skill that needs development or is completely lacking in people who grew up with helicopter parents.

Many also have a fear of disapproval that makes it challenging to declare limits, as they still perceive this act as a form of rebellion or a deviation from their parental expectations.

11) People-pleasing

Growing up with helicopter parents often involves a constant desire for approval and avoiding conflict at all costs. 

This results in an unhealthy tendency to prioritize making everyone happy, often at the expense of your own needs and desires. 

You’re simply hardwired to steer clear of conflict or disappointment because that’s the familiar territory that comes with helicopter parenting.

As we know, people-pleasers often find themselves saying yes to every request, taking on more than they can handle, and neglecting their own well-being in the process.

12) Too critical of others

Finally, those who grew up in a helicopter parenting environment can be pretty critical of others. 

When you’ve grown up with constant scrutiny, it’s easy to project that onto those around you.

And, although my parents were never helicopter parents, they were (too) critical of me, and, guess what, I’m now too critical of others, especially those who should have more leeway and not less – my family. 

Final thoughts

I like to end all my articles with a bit of actionable advice. Breaking free from the influence of helicopter parenting as an adult can be a transformative journey.

Take time to reflect on your upbringing and recognize the patterns set by helicopter parenting. 

Understand how these patterns are impacting your thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making as an adult.

Clearly define your own values, goals, and aspirations, and set clear and healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life.

And, most importantly, gradually build your independence by making decisions on your own and work on building your self-confidence.

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Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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