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Helicopter Grandparents

Posted on: June 14th, 2013 by bubbyjoysandoys 6 Comments

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We’ve all heard about helicopter mothers, the moms you see in the soccer field cheering their kids on from the stands, and if said kids do not happen to be on the winning team, these moms get very upset.

Hovering Grandparents Swooping Down...Be Careful....

Hovering Grandparents Swooping Down…Be Careful….

Helicopter Moms  —  coined by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, have  received a bad rap – and for good reason. These parents hover just above their kids’ heads (and hearts), watching their kids’ every move, and basically living their own life  through that of  their suffocating and frustrated children.

But what about Helicopter Grandparents? How do they fit into the picture? Do Helicopter Moms (and Dads) who are unchecked (and haven’t worked on themselves to undo their annoying helicopter behaviors) grow up to become Helicopter Grandparents?

My definition of a Helicopter Grandparent is “one who  hovers over his or her grandchildren’s choices of schools, and other lifestyle choices;  one who busies oneself with the myriad details of what is going on with the adult children and subsequently their kids.”


As a new grandmother, I have tried hard not to meddle in my adult kids’ lives, and especially in their little boys’  lives. But my grandsons are ages 5 1/2 and under, so it’s not that hard yet for me, is it? They are still cute and irresistible and don’t do anything wrong. So it’s all pretty easy for me to be a non-meddling grandma.

Just wait till they get a bit older; then the test of my maturity will begin.

And how do the Helicoptered Grandkids fare? Do these adult kids – who often are married and have their own families – tune out their grandparents and (pretend to) obey them for the sake of the peace? Or do they disown said grandparents? Do they get into fights with them? Do they simply lie to them and not tell their grandmothers and grandfathers what is really going on in their lives?

Do they care?

How does it work with Helicopter Grandparents and their Helicoptee’s?

I’ve been wondering about this phenomenon, as I’ve spoken to many grandchildren to find out their relationships, perceptions and opinions of their grandparents. I’ve done some informal research about grandparents’ attitudes and find that just as there are many flavors of helicopter parents, there are many types of helicopter grandparents.

And just as there are different ways to deal with one’s helicopter parent (basically you are stuck with him or her, kiddo! You’re a kid, remember?), there are several ways that grandchildren tend to deal with their grandparents who mix into their lives.

These ways depend upon the culture of the family, the persistence of the grandparent (some are very stubborn) and other factors. In future posts, I will discuss various examples of Helicopter Grandparents.

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6 Responses

  1. Chavi says:

    Think there’s a difference! Grandparents can probably have a bigger impact. The word then wouldn’t be meddle- that’s for the parents, a step closer..would be involved, for grandparents!

  2. OmaOrBubby says:

    Yes, you are correct, Chavi. There is a fine line for us grandmothers between being involved (which as you say can have a wonderful impact for grandchildren), and being possibly over-involved….and crossing into meddling. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Missy says:

    I’ve witnessed this first hand. My Mother and I do not speak because she has crossed the line so many times with my children, that I have learned to hate her. She has no regard for me, as her daughter and has their Mother, and we have been in competition to have the kids like one of us better. I finally gave in. I can’t compete with a Mother, their grandmother, who gives them everything they want, and tells them everything they want to hear, just so she can feel “needed”. She goes as far as to tell my kids we are wrong when we nag or try to discipline them. They always have a way “out” so they turn to her. My son is now 21, and drop out from college, in which she told him that I forced him to go to and now he has loans. He has no motivation and if I nag or tell him he needs a future plan, he runs to her and she even told him to move in over there by her if it gets too bad. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

    • OmaOrBubby says:

      It seems what you are going through is unfortunately very common. Crossing boundaries can cause a lot of damage to families and relationships. Good luck to you – it is very hard to cope, and I wish you well.

  4. […] we overprotective as parents and grandparents? Or are we more so with one child (or grandchild) than the […]

  5. […] tendencies. This is a time for spending quality family time and creating memories. Try not to offer disapproval and prompting (hey, why is he not toilet trained yet?) or advice (maybe he shouldn’t be using […]

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