With parenting comes a massive responsibility; one may argue the biggest responsibility any person could take on. A parent is supposed to care for, nurture and bring up a healthy individual that is ready to take on the challenges of life. But when parents abandon this role of being the main caregiver and move on to become an invasive, hovering eye over their child’s every move, it becomes rather problematic.
What is Helicopter Parenting, Egypt?
Helicopter parenting is when a parent is involved in their child’s life, in a more controlling manner, in an intrusive way that inhibits the child’s individual self from developing, which later on translates into many identity issues that could possibly lead to mental illness.
Helicopter parenting could occur at any age, but is more visible and harmful during the teenage years of an individual, starting from high school up until graduating college and entering adulthood.
The negative effects of helicopter parenting have been discussed ever since 1969 in child psychologist’s Dr. Hiam Ginott famous book “Between Parent & Child”, wherein his interactions with children and teenagers they would complain about their parents hovering over them like a helicopter.
Ever since then, the harms of this type of parenting have been documented and discussed widely. In a recent study conducted in 2014, on college students in the US, over one-third of the participants indicated having mild to severe depression due to their parents over-involvement and control over their lives, even when they are living away from home.
General Side Effects of Helicopter Parenting
Another side effect, of this parenting technique, is higher levels of anxiety amongst children and teenagers living in the constant fear of taking a decision on their own or making one that wouldn’t specifically overjoy their parents. This lack of independence and decision-making skills then translates into a lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
This is especially highlighted as the child grows and enters college or starts working where he/she will be surrounded by fully developed young adults, carrying themselves with a certain confidence or lightness that the child doesn’t understand and even worse, is intimated by.
Helicopter Parenting in Egyptian Families
When we come to apply this to Egypt we can visibly see the harms of the widespread, and almost popularity, of this type of parenting. Egyptian parents take pride in having full control over their child, or knowing what they are up to every second of every day.
This goes back to the common idea in Egypt that children are supposed to constantly give back to their parents (in this case, in the form of utter compliance) due to their parent’s many blessings onto them (usually financially or economically). This often leads to feeling less satisfied with familial life (which directly affects the psychological need of belonging), leading to feelings of loneliness and the internalization emotions and problems, clinical depression, and at times reaching the extent of suicide.
Reasons behind Helicopter Parenting in Egypt
Another reason for the spread of helicopter parenting amongst Egyptian parents is a mixture of culture and religion, which mainly harms the females in our society. Due to various religious misconceptions (mainly stemming from a wrong interpretation of the Quran) many families in Egypt take on an extreme form of helicopter parenting with their daughters. They need to be aware of their daughter’s whereabouts at all times, and the mother should be by her daughter’s side making all her decisions for her, due to the fear of her daughter doing an “unbridled” action, based on society’s unwritten standards.
Once again, this leads to many girls in Egypt, and other Arab countries, falling subordinate to males and feeling like they are unable to make their own decisions.
Due to the controlling methods that parents take on in Egypt, there are many instances of a 21-year-old adult feeling a severe lack of autonomy that should be integrated into his/her identity by this age. This lack of independence and feeling restrained on taking one’s own actions, due to growing up in an overly controlling household, could lead to a sudden urge to rebel, which is quite common amongst most Egyptian teens and young adults.
This could lead to an identity crisis at a critical age. A famous motivation psychological theory is the self-determination theory, which states that there are three basic needs innate within any human being and are critical for healthy self-development, these are: autonomy (explained above), competence (feeling confident and capable of achievements) and relatedness (feelings of belonging to a genuinely caring relationship).
These three are under the danger of being wiped off or underdeveloped in a system of helicopter parenting, leading to serious mental health problems in the child receiver of this parenting.
Parents are righteous in feeling protective over their children; feeling that they want to secure their child from the dangers of the world, however, they need to come to the realization that taking on this method of parenting will do no good to their child nor protect him/her from the real world. Egyptian parents should come to understand the difference between guiding a child onto the right path with a watchful, supportive eye; rather than almost living through the child, a life that they think is best for them, making all their child’s decision for them on the way.
Egypt has high percentages of teenagers suffering from mental health issues, identity problems and social dilemmas due to the way they were raised, leading them to psychological underdevelopment. Most teenagers that have undergone this parenting go through a continuous cycle of dissatisfaction with many aspects of their life that have been altered and molded by their parents.
I will end this piece by urging all parents to read and absorb the words of the famous poet Khalil Gibran’s, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”.