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Meddling Parents

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"They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you."
Philip Larkin, "This Be the Verse"

Older adults who are far too eager to be involved in their grown children's lives, give them advice on how they should live, etc. Often they will try to take care of their child's problems for them, especially when it comes to educational opportunities and advancement. In most cases, their efforts may be more detrimental to their child than beneficial in the long run. They view this as "helping" and can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want help and become offended if their help is rejected. May be especially critical of their son-in-law/daughter-in-law.


In real life, parents can act like this as well, making this trope an example of Truth in Television. These parents are called "helicopter parents" due to their tendency to "hover" over their children and are the bane of every teacher and admissions officer on the planet. A lesser-known but equally appropriate term is "curling parents", due to their habit of "sweeping" any obstacles in front of their children. Helicopter parents can effectively be put in these categories:

The Agent, aka The JetRanger : Having an Agent helicopter parent is like having Max Clifford working for you round the clock—for free. They operate like a footballer's agent: fixing deals, arranging contracts, smoothing out local difficulties. It's the Agent's job to represent his or her client at events which, for whatever reason, the client feels are simply too tedious to attend. Specializes in nimble, agile bargains and deals.


The Banker, aka The Halo: Accessible online, face-to-face or via a personal hotline, the Banker is unique in the world of financial services for charging no APR, asking few if any questions, expecting no collateral, and being psychologically inclined to say "yes" no matter how illogical or poorly articulated the request. The Banker is also resigned to never seeing loans repaid. That's assuming they don't just do the shopping directly, and just show up with the gear.

The White Knight, aka The Dolphin: Imbued with an almost semi-mythical status, the White Knight parent appears at little to no notice to resolve awkward situations. Once resolved, the White Knight will fade anonymously into the background. Intervention is accomplished silently and with minimum fuss. They may pretend to be a Hands-off Parent.


The Bodyguard, aka The Hind: The primary function of the Bodyguard is to protect the client from a range of embarrassing social situations - such as cancelling appointments and soaking up complaints on behalf of their client. Particularly skilled in constructing elaborate excuses. When not protecting life, limb, and reputation, doubles up as a chauffeur and personal assistant.

The Black Hawk: Named after the military helicopter that specializes in clearing the way for delivering elite troops. Dreaded by teachers and educational administrators (Especially the sadistic ones), the Black Hawk is unique among helicopter parents due to their willingness to go to any lengths - legal or illegal - to give their offspring a positional advantage over any competition. Particularly lethal when elected to parent-teacher associations. Lack of a civilian name emphasizes their warlike nature: always on the attack.

The Projector: Typically an underachiever in their own life even if they're highly educated, the projector throws everything behind their child's development, tying their own ego to their child's success. Their behavior is highly protective towards the child's projects, feelings of achievement, and ego because, of course, it's really about their own ego. When failures occur, they can be often more upset than the child is and may lash out, blaming the scenario or environment or people involved. Emotions are running at 11 on a constant basis, wearing out the kids and everyone else with their toxic insecurity complex. 

See also Evil Matriarch, My Beloved Smother, Overprotective Dad, and Fantasy-Forbidding Father. I Want Grandkids is usually a subtrope. Compare with Anti Climactic Parent or Knight Templar Parent for still-actually-kids kids.

Basically the family version of Executive Meddling.

And no, this is not where meddling kids come from (at least, not always).

Sometimes a biological parent will abandon their kid (see Parental Abandonment) only to try to intrude into the kid's life years later (without intention or ability of actually taking good care of the kid) after a conscientious and loving parental substitute has already formed a bond with the kid. Examples: Look Who's Talking and A Place For Annie. In film, the bad biological parent is often readily identifiable either by (1) stubborn insistence on chain-smoking cigarettes around her toddler-aged child, (2) responding to any advice or concerns about parenting techniques with "it's my kid; don't tell me what to do!" and/or (3) total indifference toward spending any considerable amount of time actually interacting with the kid, much less taking on the "less fun" responsibilities of childcare (changing diapers, etc.). It is then the parental substitute's job to angrily school him on how what he's doing is only going to hurt the child.


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    Comic Strips 
  • John and Elly Patterson of For Better or for Worse exhibited these tendencies, big-time, as the strip progressed.
    Fan Works 
  • The saniwa from Touken Danshi and The Order Of The Phoenix is squarely in Black Hawk category for his adoptive son Harry. His actions upon meeting Dumbledore to discuss Harry's schooling include openly insulting Hogwarts and harassing Dumbledore into allowing Harry a team of guards with him at all times despite the headmaster's worries about Harry's becoming alienated from other students, coupled with nicely promising to station an army of about 50 swords on Hogwarts grounds if Dumbledore doesn't comply.
  • In August Rush Lyla's father is so obsessed with making sure she is a successful violinist that he intentionally separated her from her son by forging her name on the adoption certificate and told her that the baby died. He does redeem himself by telling her eventually what he had done although he kept the secret for 11 years, making him a classic "Black Hawk" parent.
  • Neil Perry's stern authoritarian father can be considered a Black Hawk version in Dead Poets Society when he has a parent-teacher conference with Headmaster Nolan, who decides, at Mr. Perry's consultation, to discontinue Neil's participation on the yearbook staff so he can become a successful doctor, and forbidding him to voice his objections, and even forcibly withdrawing Neil after he participates in the play, enrolling him in military school. Unfortunately, this results in tragedy when Neil commits suicide, and his father launches an investigation to have Mr. Keating removed, believing that Keating was the chief instigator, with most of the students rising to their desktops in defense of Keating.
  • Every mother depicted in Stick It was The Agent variation of helicopter parent; and some were a particularly abusive twist on that — more focused on their daughter's gymnastic success than in their happiness or mental well-being.

  • In the Dubliners short story "A Mother", the eponymous character behaves more like her daughter's agent than a parent.
  • Discussed and Played for Laughs at the end of Game Night; while we never see the actual 'parenthood' part, the two main characters are a married couple who have been struggling to conceive a child, in part due to the husband's hang-ups. The two are also intensely competitive tabletop gaming freaks, and at the end when he's ready to accept the responsibilities of fatherhood they spend a few moments delightedly bragging about how their future kid is going to be the most awesome kid in the world, with the clear implication that their future son or daughter is going to have to deal with a couple of these in the future.
  • In Last Sacrifice, Daniella Ivashkov tries to meddle in her son's Adrian life to resolve one potential problem. When Queen Tatiana Ivashkov, her aunt-by-marriage, is killed at night, Rose Hathaway stands as the most likely suspect. But Rose spend that night with her boyfriend Adrian, providing her with an alibi. Daniella decides that the alibi is not solid enough and Adrian could be accused as an accomplice to murder. So she bribes a janitor to testify that Adrian arrived in Rose's apartment later than he actually did. Providing him with an alibi and incriminating Rose. Daniella does not care that Rose could end up executed for regicide. Her help is not appreciated by her son. Her plan eventually backfires as she is imprisoned for interfering with a murder investigation.
  • Played for Laughs in The May Donut Knows, the third Spinoff novel from the Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note series, which is set three years after the original series. Aya complained to her sister Nako that their mom wants the former to marry one of the KZ's boys (she's still with them, the viewer considers it Reverse Harem while Nako sees them as her sister's boyfriends, but Aya still thinks they're Just Friends). Mom goes on discussing some of the boys in a completely utilitarian way, stating, for example, Uesuki's genes are worth inheriting, or Kozuka is Nice and is unlikely to cheat. Later that novel mom also wants Nako—11 at the time—to consider dating from her circle of boys but made it clear she won't like Mei.
  • Moomin Mama and Moomin Papa in The Moomins are an inversion of this. They let their son go comet hunting with only a flask of raspberry juice and a money-grabbing, egotistical mouse kangaroo for company.
  • Agnes' parents from Run are of the hovering variety, always interfering with Agnes' life out of fear that she'll get hurt, and eventually admitting that deep down they don't think she'd ever be able to leave Mursey after high school. Fortunately, they get better.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Richard and Emily Gilmore in Gilmore Girls are constantly trying to "help" their daughter and granddaughter — or, if you prefer Lorelei's interpretation, control their lives and suppress their free will. They are, in fact, so manipulative that it is often bordering on impossible to believe that they legitimately care at all, and aren't just trying to ensure the outcome that will bring the least disrepute to the family name.
  • Angela Petrelli of Heroes. Willing to let one son blow up New York so her other son could become President one day. And that's just Season One.
  • Parental Control was an MTV pseudo-reality show in which parents hated their child's current significant other, and each would each pick out a new date for them to go on in hopes of breaking them up with their current boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Jerry's parents on Seinfeld.
    I'm used to a 1200 mile buffer zone. I can't handle this. Plus I got the dinners, I got the pop-ins. They pop in! It's brutal!
  • Bunny, the mother of Sex and the City's Charlotte's first husband Trey, who tried to interfere in every decision the couple made, from redecorating their apartment to what kind of mattress they should buy, to snootily declaring, "The MacDougal name will be carried on by sons of your own, not daughters of the South Pacific", regarding the couple's plans to adopt a Chinese baby due to their fertility struggles. This was the last straw for Charlotte, who promptly divorced Trey.
  • Soaps love this one, to the point of them often being an obstacle that the average Super Couple has to deal with:
    • One Life to Live's Dorian Lord to downright pathological levels. Low points include creation of a false sexual harassment complaint against Cassie's father-in-law so that Cassie would shun him and pay more attention to her. When Cassie became so upset at learning the truth that she miscarried, she then tried to take over her medical care despite having lost her license years ago, then tried to help Cassie quickly adopt another baby to the point of trying to help Cassie flee the country with the baby when the birth mother changed her mind, trying to bully the girl into handing her child over, demanding that Cassie leave her husband after learning of his emotional affair with Cassie's friend, etc.
    • All My Children's Adam Chandler loathed his daughter Hayley's boyfriend Brian and pushed her into a relationship with the wealthy Will Cortlandt...who turned her into an alcoholic and tried to rape her. To his credit, despite his disapproval of nearly all her other boyfriends, Adam learned his lesson from this disaster and did his best to not interfere in her life anymore.
  • Sarah Connor of the Terminator franchise, most notably the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is definite Black Hawk. It's justified in that her son grows up to save all of humanity.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Simon's mother wants what's best for him, which manifests as her involving herself in his life and worrying over him more than he would like. They do have a strong relationship otherwise, but Simon wishes she would back off once in a while.
    • Nadine's mother has been known at times to try and interfere in her life, especially given that she's split up with Nadine's father, which usually just sours things between the two women.
    • Benjy's mother is a benign example, as it's shown in a side-story that she delights in giving him advice on his love life, much to his embarrassment.

  • Logainne's fathers in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are obsessed with forcing her success in both the bee and life in general. One goes as far as to sabotage another contestant.
  • In Bye Bye Birdie, Albert is a grown man who is still under the thumb of his racist, controlling mother Mae, which almost destroys his relationship with his significant other Rosie, the frequent object of Mae's vitriol.
  • Hucklebee and Bellomy in The Fantasticks fabricate an elaborate Feuding Families situation in the hopes that their children will fall in love because kids always seem to want to do the opposite of what they think their parents wish for them.
  • In Gypsy, Mama Rose may be one of the ultimate examples of this trope in her relentless quest to make her daughter June (and later her daughter Louise) a star. Her refusal to allow her daughters to grow up and be independent drives both of them away in the end, leading to Rose's iconic Sanity Slippage Song "Rose's Turn".
  • In Once Upon a Mattress, Queen Aggravain devises rigged "tests" for eligible princesses interested in marrying her son so that she can continue to dominate her family, and by extension the kingdom.

    Video Games 
  • Morgan Fey of Ace Attorney really, really wants her daughter Pearl to be the next Kurain Master. To the point of tricking Pearl into nearly murdering the contender to the position by asking her to channel the vengeful spirit of Morgan's other daughter Dahlia, who would then kill Maya using Pearl's body. It's unclear if Pearl ever really understands what's going on, and given her young age, it's probably better if she doesn't.

    Western Animation 
  • In Daria, Helen Morgendorffer constantly tries to feel she is meaningfully engaged with her children when not at work, regardless of whether her daughters want it or not. However, the trope occasionally subverted, with her help being appreciated, whether it is helping Daria with a story project or defending her in a legal matter.
  • In Sofia the First, royal sorcerer Cedric's parents (also sorcerers) keep an eye on him via a magic portrait of themselves and occasionally teleport to his workshop to give him advice.

    Real Life 

Alternative Title(s): Helicopter Parenting