Are you a Helicopter or a Jet?

By Rachel Hoeing

By now we have all heard the term helicopter parent. By definition, these are parents who seem to “hover” over their children quite a bit. A helicopter parent is often fearful of letting a child do something on their own or fearful of letting them fail. Helicopter parents tend to do many tasks for their child that the child could very well complete on his own. Many helicopter parents are proud of their status claiming that it is their job as a parent to guide, protect, and nurture their child. Other parents may not realize that they may be defined as a helicopter parent because it is just a natural instinct for them to hover and intervene in daily routines of their child.

There have been many articles published about the pros and cons of helicopter parenting. Some pros include children feeling more loved and cared for, while some of the cons include children who feel smothered, or grow up being unable to complete basic tasks on their own.

As always, there are extremes, and helicopter parenting with moderation seems to be the best bet for those who choose this parenting style. But, I have noticed there is another kind of parent out there, who I have named “the jet.” This parent is the complete opposite of an extreme helicopter parent.

From what I’ve noticed, the jet parents fly in and out of their children’s lives without stopping. The jet parents over-schedule sports and playdates, the jet parents over-schedule themselves with work, volunteer opportunities, and other obligations. The jet parents fly around all day dropping off, picking, up, rush rush rush to the next appointment or event so they can squeeze as much into the day as possible. The jet parent may realize at the end of the day that they never stopped to look their child in the eyes or listen fully to their words.

These children of jet parents are often very self-sufficient, very well-rounded, but sadly they often feel like just another part of life that gets scheduled. The jet parent doesn’t allow for time where the family just relaxes on a rainy day. The jet parent doesn’t allow time for sitting on the porch and laughing with their children. The jet parent often has their face in front of a smart phone while their child stares at them wishing for a little attention.

As you are reading, have you decided which kind of parent you might be? Throughout my 12 years of parenthood thus far I have been a little of both. Depends on the day, depends on the situation, but …

My goal is to be neither. I have decided that my goal is to be a Hot Air Balloon parent.

This parent watches from above, sometimes close-by but sometimes from afar. This parent understands that it is OK for their children to fail because they will allow them try again on their own, or slowly lower down to pick them up and allow their child to ride along in the hot air balloon for a while until they are ready to go off on their own again. This parent can float high above the ground away from the child to let him grow, learn, and become independent. This parent can lower to the ground to offer assistance, love, and guidance when needed. This parent isn’t rushing through life to get to the next event or commitment, but instead slowly participating and enjoying each moment as it comes. This parenting style is what I am  to achieve.

Different strokes for different folks. Each family is different. Each child is different. When it comes down to it, just about every mom out there is trying to do what she thinks is best for her child. What is best might be a helicopter, it might be a jet, it might be a hot air balloon, or it might be a mix of all three. But what I think it most important is for parents to take a step back and recognize which parenting style you have been using. Then take another look and decide if this style is actually the one works best for your family and will benefit your children most in the long run. Think about the pros and cons of each and then decide which one you will aim to be.

Please share your thoughts below.

3 thoughts on “Are you a Helicopter or a Jet?

  1. Abby

    Rachel, well said! I definitely see myself as more of a jet parent during the week days, but will strive to be a hot air balloon parent from now on. Thanks for your perspective!

  2. Kari

    Your Hot Air Balloon parenting theory/method is similar to the Montessori philosophy. You guide indirectly and don’t swoop in to interrupt a child while they are learning. They are capable of so more than we sometimes think. They need to experience their world and work in it in order to master it. All the while being assured they are loved and that they belong simply b/c they exist, not because they excel at something we deem important. This allows them to be mentally healthy and well and allows them learn their purpose. I love it Rachel! Great article!

  3. Katie

    I love the “hot air balloon” concept! I feel guilty that I am too much of a jet parent sometimes – but as they get older – it’s hard to slow down some weeks. And then I also feel guilty that I’m not more of a helicopter mom – but again – as they get older – it’s nice not to have to be so hovering. Being a hot air balloon seems like a great middle ground.


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