Helicopter Parent to Co-Pilot: Resisting the Urge to Solve Every Problem

helicopter parent

Most of us have heard the term Helicopter Parent; they are the parents who are quick to rescue their children for the littlest things, sometimes even going as far as completing homework or other tasks to ensure their kids are “successful” and happy. However, when we solve all the problems for our children, this decreases the their ability to develop confidence and competence to solve their own problems. 

Why We Helicopter Parent

In the defense of all moms out there, the reason we hover is because we don’t want to see our kids fail or get their feelings hurt. Or we may be overcompensating for the lack of parental involvement during our own childhood. Even with good intentions, the long-term outcomes of helicopter parenting can be barrier for our kids to develop basic social and life skills. 

For example, one of my kids had unexcused tardies a few times one week for the same class. Upon asking him why this was happening, he tells me that he’s unable to get into his locker because the student next to him always blocks his way. When I asked him if he has said anything about this to the other student, his response was “no” in a mom-you-are-so-annoying tone. My Helicopter Parent Mode appears, and my first thought is to go to school and help express my son’s concern to the school staff.

Co-Pilot Mom

But there’s another mom that showed up: Co-pilot Mom. Co-Pilot Mom is more likely to assist her child, and resists the urge to take over command. My next thought with the problem above, then, is to work with my child to identify a solution. 

Kids today are often pegged as not having “soft skills.” Soft skills are things like people skills, social skills, or emotional intelligence. These help people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals. These skills are needed to succeed in many areas of adolescence and adulthood. Whether we want to blame this lack of social skills on social media use or not, we as parents need to help teach our kids the skills they need to be independent and succeed

Knowing this, I believe we can take the Co-Pilot Mom role instead of the Helicopter Parent role to provide suggestions and support with soft skills. This will allow our child to move forward as the head captain of their flight. For 10 years, I provided Occupational Therapy services to young children up to teenagers, and his is what I did during every therapy session. I was their co-pilot, and we worked together to read their “problem map” and identify how to find the best route to success. 

What a Co-Pilot Mom Does

  • Asks more in-depth questions to solve the problem
  • Writes down different scenarios as solutions
  • Role plays the situation to help the child build confidence
  • Supports their child in their ability to think critically
  • Encourages their child to do what they think is right
  • Mentors their child to take the necessary steps they need

There may be situations when you witness first-hand the deficit of soft skills in your own child. And other times, we may need to ask more in-depth questions in place of, “How was school?” since the answer always seems to be “good” or “fine.” Ask the hard questions that will create that opportunity for us to teach our children soft skills. 

You got this, Co-Pilot Mom!

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Trudy lives with her husband, Derek, and their three children; Oakley (2006), Jayla (2008) and Tenlee (2012), along with their golden retriever, Jax. She was born and raised in North Dakota, where small-town fun involved kick the can and playing sports. Whether watching her kids and nephews playing sports or watching on it on TV, she accredits her love of sports to her childhood. Her professional career has been providing occupational therapy services to children in the school setting, psychiatric inpatient setting and in an outpatient clinic setting. She loved building relationships with the children and families, celebrating goals and milestones. Recently Trudy had a career change where she is now the Child & Youth Program Coordinator for the North Dakota National Guard soldiers. Being a military family, this career change was close to home. If you are looking for Trudy, you will find her at a sporting event, social get together, playing league volleyball, or at the lake with her family. You will not find her ice skating, rollerblading, spending hours in the kitchen or swimming in the ocean!


  1. Trudy! I loved this. I’m going to be reading the rest. I hope there is one for over dramatic little girls.. kinda joking but completely serious😐


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