Drone parenting

Drone parenting

Most of us have heard of helicopter parenting, but now a new aeronautical term, known as drone parenting, is hovering.  The essence of both parenting styles is that obstacles are cleared in the child’s path so they don’t encounter challenges and potentially, experience unpleasant feelings. And although drone parenting shares many similarities with the helicopter variety, being a drone parent takes surveillance to a whole new level.

Drone parenting is quieter and more stealth like than helicopter parenting.

Unlike helicopter parenting, which brings a whole lot of noise and bluster in its wake, children exposed to drone parenting tend not to be aware of how involved in their life their parent may be.   A common way to describe drone parenting is quietly invasive.  When hovering close to their child is not possible, technology using a mobile phone and GPS tracker is often be used to monitor their activities from a distance.  For a drone parent, the concept of boundaries between themselves and their child can be hard to understand.

What are the characteristics of drone parenting?

Like pilots, drone parents tend to be planned, targeted and precise in their goals. They start out with a mission in mind, quietly trying to make life as easy and unchallenging for their child as possible. This can be reflected in trying to micro-manage their child’s relationships with other primary adults in their life. For a drone parent, constructive and honest feedback about their child’s performance is often interpreted as criticism, even when coming from a professional. Teachers and sports coaches tend to be skilful at recognising the dynamics of drone parenting and can give examples of unpleasant confrontation.

What’s at the heart of drone parenting?

Love, love and more love with more than a healthy mix of overprotectiveness thrown into the mix. Every parent wants the very best for their child and does what they can to help them succeed in life.

Drone parents can have their own agenda which drives their compulsion to protect their kids from life’s challenges. Long-held resentments from their own childhood are common motivators – of unfairness, being bullied, lost opportunities – and finally the chance to try again through their child.

Often, drone parents aren’t aware of their behaviour and feel they’re being unreasonably targeted simply for wanting their child to do well. And it is exactly this lack of insight which halts changes in a parent’s behaviour.  It also causes them to feel they’re being unfairly treated by teachers and other influencing adults in their child’s life.

How would I know if I’m being a drone parent?

You may not know you’re ‘drone like’ until you’re advised to step back a little by your child or another adult. There are some classic signs which you might identify with.

Do you:

  • Find yourself overly anxious about your child’s achievements?
  • Feel strongly that your child’s performance is a reflection of yourself and how you’re being presented to others?
  • Use your child as a kind of barometer for how well you’re doing in life?

Of course, self-reflection is hard to do but change starts with acknowledgement and courage. There comes a point in time when as parents we need to step back and let our offspring make their own mistakes. There is no one perfect time for this to occur – there’s simply too many individual factors to consider.

What can I do to be less ‘drone’ like?

We do our children and ourselves a great favour if we accept we are all imperfect. Making mistakes, reflecting on them and trying to do better makes us human. Our children need to be allowed to practice, fail and then try again. Importantly, we need to remind ourselves that our children are not an extension of ourselves – our kids are separate beings and have a right to do their own thing in their own way.

Sometimes help is very close, if only we ask for it. Teachers, guidance officers and GP are all great places to start.


Most children benefit from being allowed to find their own ways of interacting with the world and other people. When they have the freedom to learn from challenges, they build skills in problem solving and   how to navigate independently through an often-complex world.

Written by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, October 2021.