Professor: How not to be a helicopter parent.

Assistant Professor of Psychology KC Haydon teaching a recent class. Photo by Jim Gipe.

Research by Mount Holyoke College Assistant Professor of Psychology KC Haydon found that "helicopter parents" aren't helping their teenage children.

"There's been a big shift toward parents staying more closely involved [with college age children] than they used to be," said Haydon. "I see parents serving as the manager of their children's daily lives."

How a parent can walk the fine line between being supportive and being too supportive was among the topics Haydon discussed on a recent episode of the Mighty Married Moms podcast. One of the moms is Debbie Cundey Owen ’85, a parent and family coach, teacher, and mother of three.

In the podcast's "kitchen-table conversations" format, Haydon shared guidelines backed by her research study about how parents can help their teenage children make a smooth transition to independent adulthood 

Being close to your children and providing support when the child needs it is good parenting. "It's being involved to the point where parents take away opportunities from their children and thus deny them the opportunities to gain autonomy" that can be detrimental, said Haydon.

"Parents sometimes feel apprehensive about exposing their children to challenges and want to protect them from failure," Haydon said. But "the more parents can recognize and respect their children's growing autonomy in developmentally appropriate ways," the more easily their children will become autonomous. "Provide support as needed but don't protect children from the challenges," she said.

Read more about Haydon's study.