Child-Centric Parenting (or is it Helicopter Parenting?)

September 5, 2014 under Syllabus 2014-2015


As a parent, you want what is best for your child. We may not be able to choose our children’s friends but if we make sure they are being surrounding by the “right” crowd, are we helicopter parents? And if so, is that a bad thing?


For nearly 150 years, the Church has unequivocally taught that parents have the right and responsibility

to serve as the primary educators of their children. In addition, parents are also the ultimate protectors of their children. Finally, the Church also teaches that parents are responsible for evangelizing their children.

Worrying and fretting about your children come with the job and can prompt needed action. Some parents, however, “over worry” and become “helicopter parents,” hovering over their children. As parents we are responsible for the process we use in raising our children- not the outcome. When all else fails (and hopefully before) turn it over to God. From their own experience, parents recognize that friends can have such a powerful influence over their kids – for good or for bad.  Because of that influence, some parents enter into the trap of trying to control who their kids can have as friends. 

Helicopter parenting refers to a style of parents who are over focused on their children. Often called over parenting, it is most often applied to parents of high school or college-aged students.

Some studies show that “helicopter parents” derived more happiness and meaning from parenthood that those who were less involved. A different term to describe these parents might be “child-centric”.

Even though parents may not effectively be able to control who their kids choose as friends, parents do have a lot of influence over building good relationships with their children’s friends (even the scary ones).  As parents show confidence in their children’s ability to make good choices in friends, and then bring their friends within the arms of the family, parents can have a great deal of influence over the relationships and situations in which their kids get involved.

Bible Readings

1. Luke Chapter 18, Verse 16

Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

2. Colossians Chapter 3, verse 20

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.

3. 1 John Chapter 5, Verse 21

Children, be on your guard against idols.

Catechism Readings

1. 2223

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.”31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.32

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.33

2. 2224

The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.

3. 2225

Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.34 A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.

4. 2226

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.35 The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.

5. 2227

Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents.36 Each and everyone should be generous and tireless in forgiving one another for offenses, quarrels, injustices, and neglect. Mutual affection suggests this. The charity of Christ demands it.37

6. 2228

Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.

7. 2229

As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.38 Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

Small Group Questions

1. Define a Helicopter Parent

2. Define an effective parent

3. Is one better than the other?

4. When do you cross over from being a responsible parent to a helicopter parent

5. Do you think this is good for the child or the parent?

6. Do you know a helicopter parent?

Recommended Resources

1. “What is Helicopter Parenting?”

2. “ ‘Helicopter parents’ have more meaningful lives, study finds”



1. Have a discussion with your wife about being a helicopter parent

2. Challenge whether you are being child-centric or a helicopter parent


Chris Bergman

Additional Resources

Helicopter parenting refers to a style of parents who are over focused on their children. Often called over parenting, it is most often applied to parents of high school or college-aged students.

Some studies show that “helicopter parents” derived more happiness and meaning from parenthood that those who were less involved. A different term to describe these parents might be “child-centric”.

Here are some tips that parents can consider if they feel their kids are starting to make “the wrong kind of friends”:

Parents can refrain from calling their kids’ friends “bad.”  Since most people are not all bad, parents tend to lose credibility with their kids by calling their child’s friend “bad,” especially if that friend has ever done anything good for their kid.

Parents can ask their kids what they like about that specific friend.  Not only will this show their child that they are interested in him or her and in their friends, but it will also give the parent information about what need the relationship with that friend is fulfilling for their child.  Then parents might do things in order to help see that that need gets met in positive ways.  Open, and non-judgmental, communication with kids about their friends can strengthen parent-child relationships and provide support for their kids as their kids learn to take responsibility for their own choices.

Parents can send messages to their kids that show confidence and leadership by saying things like, “That kid looks like he could use some good friends.  I hope a lot of you rubs off on him.  He is lucky to have a friend like you.  I think it would be helpful if I got to know him; why don’t you bring him around the house more.”

Finally, parents can wrap their arms around the concerning kid and help that kid feel included and a sense of belonging.  Many of the kids who concern parents may not come from stable homes or feel a sense of belonging or connectedness.  Healthy adults have a great opportunity to reach out to these kids and help them feel that they do matter and they do belong.  They can do so by inviting these kids to participate in family events or by simply inviting them to eat with the family.  Good food can have a powerful and comforting effect on kids who lack stability.

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