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Helicopter, Drill Sergeant, and Consultant Parenting Styles

Helicopter, Drill Sergeant, and Consultant Parenting Styles

At Love and Logic, we often compare and contrast three basic parenting styles—helicopter, drill sergeant, and consultant parents. Helicopter parents tend to rescue their kids whenever they run into trouble. Drill sergeant parents tend to bark commands and try to control the behaviors of their kids. Although, helicopter and drill sergeant parents love their children and are trying to help them in the way that they know best, we believe that these parenting styles do not give kids the tools they will need later in life. In contrast, consultant parents ask their kids questions, offer them choices, and let the consequences of their decisions do the teaching. We think that consultant parents are much more effective at teaching kids to be responsible and respectful, as well as helping them grow into adults who make healthy decisions.

The single most powerful tool for combating the tendency to be a helicopter or drill sergeant parent is to memorize the following:

Oh, no. That's got to feel ______. What do you think you are going to do?

The next time someone else’s problem comes your way, experiment with saying these words with sincere empathy. Simply fill in the blank with whatever emotion you're guessing the person is feeling. Then give suggestions while allowing the person to own and solve his or her problem.

With our kids, we hold them accountable for their poor decisions. We can expect them to own and solve the problems they create. Sincere empathy allows us to do these things without losing their love and respect. It also allows us to discipline without having to feel guilty. Sincere empathy makes all the difference in maintaining healthy relationships with our kids while helping them learn to be responsible for their decisions.

Consultant Parenting (Love and Logic Parenting)

Consultant parents know how to zip their lips too. They are willing to share alternative solutions to problems. They are willing to describe how they would solve the problem, if it were their problem. Then consultant parents say, “It’s your life. You get to decide. Good luck!” Nothing more is said.

One crucial difference between consultant parents and helicopters or drill sergeants is ownership of a problem. Helicopters and drill sergeants both claim ownership of a child’s problem. Consultant parents let the child retain ownership. Allowing a child to keep ownership of a problem sends an implied message. That message is, “You are wise enough to make good decisions. I trust you to know how to handle this.” This implied message will build kids up instead of putting them down.

Three Rules of Consultant Parenting

Used regularly, these three simple rules can prevent power struggles. If you’d like to try being a consultant parent, I suggest you experiment with following these three rules:

1. Take good care of yourself.

2. Provide your child with choices you can live with.

3. Take action.

When taking good care of yourself, you inform your child of what you are going to do, rather than tell them what they will do. When you provide options and alternatives, children use their energy to control their own lives. They use their brains to weigh their choices, and are too busy thinking to argue with you.

In next week’s blog, we will offer some basic guidelines for becoming more of a consultant parent.  You can also find more about the different parenting styles in our audio, Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants