Helicopter Parenting Is Probably Paleo

Philip Dhingra
Mar 12 · 2 min read
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Photo of helicopter against white sky by Daniel Klein on Unsplash

We make fun of helicopter parenting without realizing that it’s largely what makes us human. One of the hallmark features of the human species is the length of time we spend taking care of our young. If we are outliers in this regard, that means we are descended from a lineage that probably includes something like 10,000 mutant over-parents. Each over-parent had a new allele that lengthened the time they spent taking care of their children. Likewise, each over-parent had to brave the scrutiny of fellow parents who derided their parenting practices. Think of the first mom to hold her child in a sling. She must have been criticized by her fellow parents. Maybe she was given a nickname: “You Slinger! Let your kid be a kid!”

A million years ago, there must have been a mother who held and played with her seven-year-old, speaking kiddie talk until the wee hours, to the derision of others. Someone might have scolded her, “By that age, our children are hunting, fighting and even having sex. Kids need to be kids!” But then this “helicopter” mom kept it up, and all this stimulation during the child’s formative years helped cultivate imagination and creativity.

All the time her child spent playing in the sandbox later gave them the bright idea of storing grains in a dry place or for burying raw meat in ice, and then when the child became an adult, their tribe stayed healthy during a rough winter or maybe an Ice Age, whereas the other ones died off. Their knowledge became valued, and if the child was a boy who became a man, he reproduced often and then had many daughters who had the same “over”-parenting gene his mom had. The daughters continued to care for their children as long, if not longer until we wind up in the situation we are in today, with those resisting over-parenting, and those who can’t help it.

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