Helicopter, Jetfighter, Snowplough Parent? Can We Please Just Cut the Labelling?!

Social media is awash with parenting terms: Helicopter, Jetfighter, Snowplough. What do they mean? Does it even matter?

And is it all just a case of unnecessary name calling?

So what the hell is a Snowplough parent?

Snowplough parent (also known as lawnmower parent) is just the latest name bouncing around on social media, along with Helicopter parent and Jetfighter parent.

For those of you (somehow) not in the know, a Jetfighter parent is the latest version of the Helicopter parent. Helicopter parents hover over their kids. All. The. Time. Which, according to the self-appointed parenting experts on social media, is unhelpful for kids learning to become independent little humans – and EXHAUSTING for parents.

A Jetfighter parent is like the Helicopter, but waits in the wings, and swoops in to save at the slightest sign of trouble. Less hovering, but the same constant vigilance and rescuing behaviour. And the Snowplough parent is an extreme version of the Lawnmower parent: they steamroll ahead of their child to ensure their success.

What’s with all the name calling?

All kids know name calling is unkind and unhelpful. Despite the old ‘sticks and stones’ rhyme, we all know that in truth name-calling can really hurt. And I think it’s the same with these parenting names.


Here’s why.

child upset at schoolNewsflash: Parents aren’t perfect

Parents are just people. Trying to bring up little people. It’s not a perfect system, because people aren’t perfect. None of us. And parents are people under a whole lot of pressure (hang out with a teenager or threenager and tell me that isn’t pressure!).

Which means parents are going to make mistakes. LOTS of mistakes. What we sure as hell don’t need when we stuff up is some guilt inducing label that says we are therefore evermore this type of parent.

Sometimes parents make good choices, sometimes they make bad choices. But making a bad choice doesn’t make you any particular type of parent. It simply makes you a parent. Who made a bad choice.

And in reality, most parents are doing their best. And questioning themselves every step of the way. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals (or receipts, making them non-refundable, which they should be grateful for given some of the shit they pull!). And despite an overwhelm of information, and awesome parenting books, the truth is we’re all winging it.

So for anyone worrying whether they are one of these parents, here it is made simple:
Just because you care and want to keep your child safe doesn’t make you a Helicopter parent.
Just because you support your child and want to see them succeed doesn’t make you a Snowplough.
And just because you try to help your child in times of trouble, does not make you a Jetfighter.
Wanna know why?

mum comforting daughter. helicopter parent

There’s no such thing as Helicopterosis

Despite all the social media hype, don’t waste your time wondering “Are you a Lawnmower parent?” or reading “10 ways to not be a Snowplough parent”. Because these things are MADE UP. They are not a formal diagnosis, with tick-box criteria. You won’t find them listed as conditions needing treatment. Your doctor or psychologist or any form of health care professional is not going to go “mmhmm, I see, well I think it’s a clear cut case of Helicopterosis” or “Here is a prescription to overcome your persistent case of Jetfighteritis”.

Why? Because someone made them up. And while some made up things – guys in red suits who travel by sleigh, and fairies with a tooth fetish – are made up to bring joy, these labels don’t. They might seem jokey, but they’re about judgement. These labels make good parents question themselves. They make parents feel guilty. And they make parents worry about how they look as parents to others, rather than what really matters: how they are as a parent to their child.

Let’s leave labels for lunchboxes

Parenting labels? I say let’s leave labels for school books and lunch boxes. Parents have enough to worry about caring for their kids. What type of parent that makes them shouldn’t be one of them.

Here’s something you should instead put your energy into to get the best for your kids in care: how to choose the best childcare for your child.

Avatar of Kerry Rosser

I love my three country kids - and all things writing! Like most mums, I wear lots of hats - writer, children's author, organisational psychologist and the pairer of the odd socks!

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