Are You a Teacup Parent?

September 8, 2008 Updated: June 12, 2012

We have all heard of helicopter parenting. You know, the kind of parents that are super involved in every aspect of their child’s life and sort of buzz and run circles around them as they grow up.

I work with a lot of parents and kids, I hear from many parents and kids, and I spend all day reading about parents and kids today. Something about the term helicopter parenting wasn’t fitting right with the kinds of questions and problems that parents and youth bring to me and talk about.

Teacup parenting is a much better fit. Why?

Teacups Break Easily

Many of the kids I mentor can break at any moment. When they don’t get their way, like don’t get a class schedule they want, they can literally crumble.

Once It Gets Chipped, It Feels Ruined

Many members of my generation feel the need to be perfect all the time. When something bad happens or don’t get a perfect grade, they feel unworthy, like a bad person and ruined.

Want to Display a Beautiful Set

There is absolutely nothing wrong with parents who brag and talk about their kids, but recently I see parents putting their kids on display like they are going up for auction: “Carrie is applying to Harvard and Yale, she has a 4.2 GPA and a 90 percentile SAT score, she plays tennis in the Junior Olympics, any takers, anyone? Going once, going twice…”

Only Feed it High Quality Tea

Many parents are obsessed with the idea of only high quality, organic, positive energy, luxury, natural foods and products on, in or near their kids. Unlike a teacup, we don’t get stained when we eat a Big Mac!

The Quality Reflects Your Taste and Status

Teacups or a tea set often reflects the owners taste and status depending on the price and style of the set. I know that kids our a reflection of their parents, but if kids mess-up, kids mess-up.  Let us get a little dirty and wear mismatching clothes if we want to—it is our way of experimenting.

The best way to deal with your own teacup parenting qualities or any teacup parents you know is to be aware of the traits and to talk to your kids about this phenomenon.   Becoming aware of your patterns is the first step to changing them!

Vanessa Van Petten is the author of the book “You’re Grounded!” Her parenting tips as a family peacemaker have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fox 5 New York, and CBS.

Please check out her site: and email your questions for future columns to