Dads Are Not The Antidote To Helicopter Parenting

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shutterstock_108189845__1399305634_142.196.167.223I guess it’s kind of a no-brainer that if a child has two parents around they may flourish – as long as both parents are healthy and emotionally stable. But what happens when a child is raised in a home without a father? According to the writer who wrote the piece for the NY Post, Dads: The Antidote To Helicopter Parenting, the whole goddamn world falls apart, because women are fearful, baby-talking, busy-bodies who aren’t preparing their kids for anything because the are too busy hovering over them. This writer manages to take some valid points made in a few studies, and project them through a very sexist looking glass.

For example, a study from the University of North Carolina a few years ago found that fathers speaking to children has a more significant effect on language development than mothers. Makes sense to me, since fathers are much less likely to use babytalk in communicating with children. (Why did I keep asking my 1-year-old if she wanted her ba-ba? Just because she couldn’t say “bottle” doesn’t mean she didn’t know exactly what it was.)

This is interesting. She obviously didn’t actually read the study, which says:

Many studies have found that fathers do not talk as much to their children as mothers, particularly when the child interaction included both parents. Similarly, fathers in the current study spoke less overall than did mothers.

The two existing studies comparing parents’ vocabulary found no significant differences between mothers and fathers. In this study, mothers used more total different words than fathers.

Previous studies of language complexity comparisons resulted in little consensus. This study found no differences between mothers and fathers.

The study actually showed there was little difference in the way mothers and fathers interacted with children, the difference occurred in the amount; mothers consistently interacted more. In the households where father’s vocabulary with the child was as varied as the mother’s – the child had advanced expressive language development. This has nothing to do with women using baby-talk and everything to do with the amount that a father engages with his child.

Dads are also more likely to let their children take risks. It’s not just that they’ll actually let go when teaching kids how to ride a two-wheeler (something that I instinctively did not want to do when my kids were learning). Fathers are also more likely to put their kids in the deep end of pools and to let them talk to strangers—doing more to prepare them for the real world.

Yes, fathers tend to interact with more physical play, and mothers tend to interact with more caregiving tendencies, but strong bonds are what are required for children to feel secure and adventurous outside the home. Kids may bond in different ways with their parents – but it could be the bonding itself and not the way in which they bond that makes the difference when it comes to confidently exploring the world:

According to proponents of attachment theory, the strength of the bond between parent and child determines the degree to which a child is open to exploring the world around him. [8] Children who are securely attached to their parents are more confident, self-reliant, resilient, resourceful, empathetic, cooperative and popular among their peers. [9] According to some experts, mother-child attachment is forged mainly through caregiving-related activities. For fathers, experts suggest this relationship is forged mainly through physical play.

Numerous studies have shown that a father’s presence in the home is important – and I’m not arguing that point. But to say that dads more effective parents because they engage in more physical play is just not accurate. Also, if she’s going to use a bunch of anecdotal evidence to support her point, I can too; there was a father at my neighborhood playground who insisted on climbing the jungle gym with his kid every single time. The antidote to helicopter parenting is for parents to relax a little – and both moms and dads can be guilty of being over-protective.

(photo: vita khorzhevska/ Shutterstock)


  1. Kendra

    May 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I’m not sure I fully understand what the original article is trying to say, but I do know that without a doubt, there is no “one answer” when it comes to moms vs dads in parenting. Every family is going to do something different and each child is going to react differently. I am the “bad cop” in my house, as far as enforcing rules and that kind of stuff. However, despite this, my daughter responds 10X better to her dad’s discipline…if he tells her “no”, she listens. I suppose this is most likely because of the infrequency in which he says “NO” vs how often I say “no”. It is very clear to me individually that she already can play to the parent she is with. She knows the differences between us already. I think it’s just really unnecessary to try to make parenting so black and white, like this articles do. Nothing about parenting is black and white.

    • rrlo

      May 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      I don’t get the thesis of this article either. It sounds like the author saying “having an involved dad is a good thing in a child’s life” – and if a child has a dad this nugget of wisdom is a no brainer.

      Beyond that I have no idea what the heck she is trying to say. What is up with saying feminists getting fathers to behave like mothers? What feminist is trying to get fathers to behave like mothers? Why would feminists care how random strangers interact with children? And why would a father care what a random feminist is saying? I totally don’t get that….

      And is she implying that mothers are willfully and purposely preventing the fathers from being involved? That in every parenting decisions the father always gets vetoed and the mother gets the way? If that is the case, which I am HUGELY skeptical about, doesn’t that just say fathers in general must be too weak-willed or don’t care enough to fight for what is best for their children?
      Stupid article. What a waste of so many words…

  2. Rachel Sea

    May 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    The Post is a rag. Getting parenting advice from them is like getting sex tips from the Watchtower – both doom you to sad, sad failure.

    • Kay_Sue

      May 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      You know, I am going to get rich from all the t-shirt ideas you guys give me. I promise to mention y’all in a special dedication spot on my website once I’m making millions.

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      May 5, 2014 at 1:28 pm


      Kay’s leaving me behind and making a fortune off the internet without me

    • Kay_Sue

      May 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      Psssh, I am gleaning some of my best quotes from you. Mwahahahahahahahaha.

      Signed, Evil Genius

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      May 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      It’s ok, I don’t mind being used, if it’s you

  3. SunnyD847

    May 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    My husband is WAY more over-protective than me. I had a lot more experience with kids and since I was home with the girls, I was more aware of what they were capable of. He was constantly hovering over them at the park and wanting to fight their battles for them.

    • Amanda

      May 6, 2014 at 2:54 am

      Agreed. The shenanigans we get up to while he’s at work… But I KNOW that they know how to jump off the top step of the deck and miss the corner. I know they’ll be fine alone in the yard for the length of time it takes to make and drink a cup of coffee (or longer, if it’s nice enough to keep the window open and at least keep them in earshot). I’m okay with paint at the kitchen table because I know how easily it wipes clean, and I know they’ll stay out of the road if I let them ride their bikes as far as the corner.

  4. AP

    May 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    My dad was often more overprotective than my mom, but I’ve taught a lot of Parent-and-Baby classes over the years, and I can assure you that, on the whole, dads are more laid back/roll with the punches/deal with it than moms tend to be.

    Moms: Oh NO you got WATER on your FACE!
    Dads: Yay swimming WOO!

    I’ve seen plenty of parents break the stereotype, daredevil moms and helicopter dads, but a class full of daddies is usually more fun to teach because dads don’t fuss over the small stuff.

    • C.J.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:15 am

      I’m sure most dads are more laid back. I actually had to teach my kids to swim while my husband was at work. He was too nervous and every time one of them got a little scared he wanted to immediately take them out.

  5. Kay_Sue

    May 5, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Someone misused and misquoted studies to support a sexist viewpoint that alienates single mothers?

    Say it ain’t so, Maria!

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      May 5, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      IKR? Must be a womanly thing!

    • Rachel Sea

      May 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      That’s what happens when one tries to write about science on a Femputer.

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      May 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      That’s why I keep telling you ladies, let your hubbys take care of it for you.

      If you’re a lesbian, have the more masculine partner take care of it.

    • Rachel Sea

      May 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      It’s so hard though, I can never quite figure out which one of us is the man in the relationship. I operate heavy machinery and deal with spiders, but she likes to debate, and you’ll never catch her in a skirt. We must need a Real Man(tm) to sort us out.

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      May 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      In that situation, I declare you both Femumans.

      Have your sperm donor take care of it for you both.

    • Lackadaisical

      May 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      Have boy children and make the eldest head of the house at 5 years old. If you have no boy children or they are too young then there will be years of flustered panicking until you can raise a boy child to defer to

    • Lackadaisical

      May 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Have boy children and make the eldest head of the house at 5 years old. If you have no boy children or they are too young then there will be years of flustered panicking until you can raise a boy child to defer to.

    • Kay_Sue

      May 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      I think so. It comes with the ovaries, I suppose.

    • Lackadaisical

      May 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Gosh, it all seems so complicated when you put it like that. Could you tell us all what to think when you have used your manliness to decide for us?

  6. K.

    May 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    The author of the article (which is in that bastion of American journalism, the almighty Post) seems to generally write from a Conservative perspective in an already right-leaning paper, so whatevs.

    But, as point of interest, I look at my own home situation and relationship with my husband as an example of how it’s patently untrue that dad’s are more comfortable with their children taking risks. My theory is that dads are more likely to be comfortable with their children taking risks **if they are not the ones who have to deal with the fallout of those risks**. My husband and I are both consciously trying to be more “free-range” parents, but I noticed that when I was the primary caretaker, he was all about “let’s run around barefoot!” “let’s practice spinning in the middle of the living room!” “nah, no need to wash hands before eating!” As soon as I went back to work and the tasks of bandaging cut feet and throwing away broken knickknacks and taking care of a flu-ridden kid more evenly distributed, Dad became a little less laissez-faire.

  7. LiteBrite

    May 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    “Dads are also more likely to let their children take risks. It’s not just that they’ll actually let go when teaching kids how to ride a two-wheeler (something that I instinctively did not want to do when my kids were learning). Fathers are also more likely to put their kids in the deep end of pools and to let them talk to strangers—doing more to
    prepare them for the real world.”

    Ha ha. Not in our house. In our house, my husband is the overprotective one. I’m the more “free-range” parent. Oh, and the boy talks way less to strangers when he’s with my husband than when he’s with me. But that’s because my husband doesn’t like people.

    • Katherine Handcock

      May 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      Ha! I was just coming to say the same thing. My husband didn’t want my daughter (who’s 3 1/2) to get a bike to ride on the playground asphalt pad this summer, because somehow in his mind that is the same as getting a bike for a 10-year-old and letting her ride on the street. He’s the one who frets about things like, “Should we be working on Ben’s letters more?” or “Shouldn’t Alicia be speaking in longer sentences?” or who gets upset when Alicia decides dinner will be two swallows of milk and one bite of chicken. Our household would DEFINITELY have broken their curve.

    • LiteBrite

      May 5, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      I think we’re married to the same guy.

    • Katherine Handcock

      May 5, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      I think there are just more of them out there than guys like to admit 😉

    • C.J.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:13 am

      When my girls were little my husband used to literally follow them around, constantly. I asked him why he followed them around all the time. He said in case they fall. Me response was that’s why God make kids short, the don’t have as far to fall! He finally stopped. Daddy is definitely the overprotective one at our house too. Now if they ask to do something he just looks at me. He would say no to everything because he never wants to take a chance they will be hurt. At least he knows that is not a good way to think and leaves those decisions to me.

  8. Greta Young

    May 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Hi, Single Mom here. I wish I could have this author shadow our family for a week or two. I engage in way more “physical play” and “risk taking” than my kid’s dad. He has a pool at his apartment complex, but that’s about the extent of their physical activity together. From what I can tell they have a lot of cuddle/movie time on his couch. :-/

    I started taking my daughter to the rock climbing gym about a year ago; they’ll allow kids as young as 18 months in there. One of her earliest sentences that I remember was “I go rock climbing, use my big muscles!”

    The other night, I took her out to dinner and ordered a dozezn mussels… Later when I was doing the recap-of-what-we-did-today, I reminded her about eating them and she stopped dead in her tracks to flex and exclaim, “BIG MUSCLES!” Wrong mussels, but made for a cute story. 🙂 I was chatting with my dad later and told him about it. He chuckled and said, “Ah, must have picked that up at Daddy’s house.” Nope. But thanks for the gender stereotyping anyway, Pops…

  9. CW

    May 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I’ve seen plenty of “helicopter dads” over the years. I’d say the biggest influence on whether a parent will be “helicopter” vs. laid-back is the number of children in the family. Parents of only kids (or first-born twins) tend to be “helicopter”, while those with 3+ tend to be much more laid-back.

  10. Lackadaisical

    May 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    In our family my husband is the one to wrap the kids in cotton wool and hover over them protectively, partly because his own parents are similar and partly because he spends less time with them so is less aware of their limits. With things like letting them walk to school on their own, sending then to the shops alone and sending them to play out I ended up letting them do it for a bit before I told him as it sent him into a massive panic. The other day we went to the play park as a family with friends with kids the age of our younger ones and they were stunned at how protective he was and how much he hovered over them. I also had to teach them all to ride a bike despite never having learned myself (although I did learn finally a couple of months ago) because he was convinced that none of them would be able to do it. He was convinced one was too young, one was too heavy and the eldest to thin and not strong enough. Load of bobbins! All of them managed fine, obviously.

  11. Lindsey

    May 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    My sister has a 1 year old and his dad keeps moving this car toy they have because the baby trips over it. Yep, that one inch fall is really going to cause some damage. I’ve met just as many dads as moms.

  12. Ms. Anne

    May 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I love that this article is right next to the “Purity Balls” article. Hmmmmm… overprotective fathers, anyone?

  13. fatherless

    May 6, 2014 at 3:40 am

    i just wish my son had a dad

  14. myherbalnutrition

    May 6, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Nice article…

    Herbal products

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