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Are You a Helicopter or a Drill Sargeant? Part 1

According to Wikipedia, a Helicopter Parent is someone who:

 pays extremely close attention to his or her child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. These parents rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them and will not let them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children’s wishes. They are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not.”


 Some practical examples of being a helicopter parent are:

  • Driving your child to school if he/she misses the bus images.jpeg
  • Taking your child’s homework up to school if he/she forgets it at home
  • Waking your child up every morning when they are old enough to use an alarm clock
  • Not allowing your child to fail at a project (finishing the project so it gets a good grade)
  • Giving your child more lunch money even though he spent it unwisely earlier in the week
  • Making excuses for the child why her homework wasn’t complete and begging the teacher to give the child another chance or a passing grade
  • Settling all normal childhood battles for the child

 Helicopter parents try to save their children from the hardships of the world and try too hard to make everything in the child’s life pain free and perfect. Helicopter parents love their children very much.  They don’t want to see their children sad or suffering and feel like helping them out is the loving thing to do. Unfortunately, the result of helicopter parenting is that children grow up without knowing how to be responsible (because mommy and daddy have been doing all the rescuing!) and believe that they are incapable of doing anything.  The children learn that they absolutely can’t make it in life without mommy and daddy. 


images-1.jpeg Drill Sergeant Parents believe that they can make their children do whatever the parent says to do. Drill Sergeant parenting incorporates threats and punishment in order to make the child do what the parent wants.  The parent wants all the control and believes that the more control he/she has, the more likely the child is to obey. Unfortunately, there are many things you cannot “make” a child do.  These parents have children who don’t really learn how to make good decisions—they only learn how to avoid getting in trouble or get a reward.  Children of drill sergeants have a difficult time thinking for themselves because their parents do all the thinking for them. 


Some practical examples of being a drill sergeant are:

  • Barking orders to clean up toys, bedrooms etc.
  • Yelling—especially at bedtime when the children aren’t going to bed like they are supposed to.
  • Continuous power struggles (homework, chores, talking back)

Drill Sergeants love their children too.  They just believe that they can make their children do what they want by bossing them around.  Unfortunately, the downfalls of drill sergeant parenting is communicating to the child that he/she can’t think for him/herself and that he/she isn’t capable of making it in life either. 

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  It is possible to be a helicopter to one child and a drill sergeant to a different child in your family.  I have recently discovered this myself.  I have been more of a drill sergeant to my oldest son-who by the way only digs his heels into the ground more when I try to boss him around.  And I am much more of a helicopter to my second child.  He is 4 and fully capable of putting on his own shoes and coat but there I am doing it for him because he starts whining that he “just can’t do it by himself.” So basically, I am a recovering helicopter drill sergeant. 

I have been taking a class called Love And Logic that has been marvelous and revolutionary in my relationship with my children!  Love and Logic was created by Jim Fay, Foster Cline, M.D. and Charles Fay, Ph.D.  They have several books available as well as some seminars you can go to.  There are certified Love and Logic teachers available all over the country who teach the course.

The goal of Love and Logic is to teach parents how to be Consultants to their children.  Consultant parents communicate to their children,  “You’d best do your own thinking because the quality of your life has a lot to do with your decisions.” Consultant parents don’t tell their kids what to do.  (Mind blowing-I tell you!) Consultants are excited about the opportunities that come along in life where children make mistakes—because it is an opportunity for the child to learn (not be rescued!).  Consultant parents are always there to give advice (not lectures!) but let their children make their own decisions and fail or succeed. 

121.gif Love and Logic is practical for toddlers through teenagers.  The techniques work and I am going save some of my own successes for another post next week.   They have books that help with teenstoddler-kindergarten, even for a classroom setting. Their website has some video clips that will help you get a taste of their style.  It won’t give you too much information though—just enough to make you ask for more. 


So, have you ever heard of Love and Logic?  Do you know anyone that does Love and Logic with their kids?  Are you a helicopter, drill sergeant, or consultant? Sound intriguing? 

12 Responses to Are You a Helicopter or a Drill Sargeant? Part 1

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Melissa
    February 5, 2009 @ 8:02 am

    Just curious, Amelia:

    How does L&L suggest you handle the missing the bus situation? Somehow, missing the entire day of school seems rather extreme…but I can’t figure out another way for the child to make it to school.

    Personal experience: I once missed the bus on purpose, and instead of driving me to school like I expected, my mom drove me the last stop in our neighborhood. I never missed the bus again. :)

  • Comment by Amelia
    February 5, 2009 @ 8:50 am

    That is a great question Melissa. There are several different options…what your mom did was pretty love and logic but some options would be:

    Saying to child: “Oh, sweetie–you missed the bus. What a bummer! (sincerely–not sarcastically) How do you plan on getting to school?” The child then has the opportunity to think about options for getting to school. Catching a ride with a friend, walking, taking public transportation. If the child asks the parent to do it, the parent can say something like, “Oh, well I have to do ___X___ this morning. If I take you to school it takes away from my plans. How are you going to make up the time for me later?” Child then has opportunity to think of how to make up time for parent and child learns that their irresponsibility can have an impact on others and it is costly to themselves.

    OR, you could set something up in advance–I know it sounds extreme but it is very effective. You could hire a babysitter to come to the house and when the child misses the bus and finds the babysitter in the house the child will wonder what is going on. The babysitter says something to the effect of….”hi charlie–you missed the bus. i’m your babysitter today. i charge $6 an hour to watch you–how will you be paying me?” Of course the child won’t like that very much and complain about not having that kind of money but maybe the babysitter can offer to take child to school for 6 bucks. So, the child is out $6 of lunch money or allowance for the week and again learns about being responsible. Love and Logic makes a great point about letting children fail and learn from their mistakes early when the price is very affordable (i.e. missing several mortgage payments = foreclosure later in life==if child learns about doing things on time much younger it saves them from paying a higher cost later on).

  • Comment by Amanda
    February 5, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

    I haven’t heard about this course or book. It sounds really interesting! The Parenting, Inc. book I read talked about the difference in today’s parenting, versus parenting in the seventies. The author pointed out that today’s moms are very much like the helicopter moms and that we need to ease up a bit.

    Daniel’s book ‘Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters’ even talks about teaching your child to cope with bad situations and letting think through things on their own. Not just doing things for them.

    I think I would be more of a helicopter parent now, because she is still a toddler and can climb and get into crap. We’ll see. My mother yelled a lot when I kid, so that is something I don’t want to duplicate.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Morgan
    February 5, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

    I’ve heard of the Love and Logic. A friend of mine really likes the book. Does the book address how to handle different situations, or do they only talk about how to be but not any specifics for what’s going on?

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Deb
    February 5, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

    Great post! That class sounds really interesting. The thing I find fascinating is having conversations with helicopter parents and drill sergeant parents together. It’s amazing to me how we can justify just about anything and are so willing to criticize each other and swear that our way is right. I’m so confused that I’m everywhere all over the board. I will have to look into Love and Logic, thanks.

  • Comment by Amelia
    February 5, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

    Morgan: The book is VERY practical. The one for birth-6 has a lot of examples (what to do with whining, not cleaning up toys, getting into stuff…). The main book has several examples too and it especially great for older kids. I like the young one because my kids fit in that category. We aren’t dealing with missing school buses or homework yet. Even the main book has several practical examples.

    Deb: You are right about all the criticism. It is easy to swear our way is right. Parenting is definitely a journey with on the job training. I have read a lot of parenting books and usually end up finding a few things from each that are helpful. So far I like L&Ls practical stuff the best and l like how effective it is.

    If you can find a L&L teacher in your area then I would definitely recommend the class. The books are wonderful but when you are in the class you have a group of people who can help each other out with situations and it totally reinforces what you read in the books. their website has dvds and cds that are probably pretty good. If you go to a church, you might be able to convince your children’s ministry to purchase a few for the church library. I tried looking on ebay for some used ones but didn’t have any luck. I would love to watch more of the videos but I don’t want to pay full price for them.

  • Comment by Dawn
    February 5, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

    On my good days, I see some of my consulting style techniques come out: “Lucy, let’s be careful not to keep the water running too long when we wash our hands. We don’t want to be wasteful.” Of course, there’s plenty ‘o drill sergeant in me too: “Lucy, come on, stop wasting water!!” As the kids get older, I’m sure I’ll see it more. I credit a lot of this to being a teacher (I taught 6th grade) – the concept of teaching kids about choices & consequences in a loving, logical way is very much what a good teacher does. I certainly saw my share of helicopter parents in my stint with public education – Time magazine did a great article on this topic when I was still in the classroom – and it has given me plenty of perspective on parenting. I had countless lazy students who’d just sit back and let mom do all kinds of maneuvering to make sure he/she’d get a better grade. (“I don’t have to do my homework, Mom will just come in and tell the teacher tomorrow that I didn’t have to finish.”)

    Not long ago, I heard someone complaining about a big project their 3rd grader had to do before Thanksgiving break. There was some bad-mouthing of the teacher. I couldn’t help but come to that teacher’s defense. The dad was making it seem as though he was up all late working on his son’s project. Helicopter parenting at its finest: doing the child’s work AND teaching the child to complain about his teacher. I have zero tolerance for that.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Elizabeth
    February 5, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

    That was so incredibly interesting! I think I’ve finally found my way to being a consultant parent. Whew….I feel better.

  • Comment by Sharon M
    February 8, 2009 @ 1:47 am

    Amelia, I’m kind of like you; I tend to be more “drill sergeant” with my eldest — I think part of it has to do with figuring out the whole parenting thing. Everything’s new for both of you. I am curious about the book now. Maybe I can figure out a way to get it over here.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy
    February 9, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

    I’ve always tried to let Ben (who is about to be 6) be as independent as he can. He gets a warning when things are about to change, especially if something is going to be expected of him.

    “Clean-up is in ten minutes, then straight to shower, and off to bed!”
    “We have to leave the house in fifteen minutes. I need you to potty, brush your hair and teeth, and have your socks and shoes on by then.”

    I’m very predictable. And he’s learned how to follow my lead. Because if he can’t show this responsibility, he doesn’t get the outing we’re on our way to or he loses a favorite toy for the day, whatever’s appropriate.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kandi
    February 11, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

    This is terrific! Thank you – I’m going to post it on my blog and link it back to you! How insightful!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by David
    April 16, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    If you’re interested in discovering your parenting style based on the latest research, please check out the Parenting Style Application by Signal Patterns on Parenting.com.

    The underlying model developed by our team of psychologists reveals an underlying complexity far richer than just ‘strict’ or ‘relaxed’ classifications.

    And what’s particularly interesting is that you can take the test for a spouse and see where potential conflicts might lie and get advice on how to deal w/them. You can also compare results to your friends’.

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