I'd like to know what words or phrases use when describing the following situation.

Consider a boy trying to build a sandcastle, for example. He in all probability can't make it at the first attempt, the building might be destroyed quickly. Now if his parents instead of guiding him and help him to learn by himself, make the sandcastle themselves. They did this just for sympathy that their child doesn't experience failure, but in fact, they degrade the child's self-confidence and ... .

I called the parents' action in such situations "destructive sympathy", the action is done for sympathy but in practice is destructive. Again, I'd like to know what words or phrases are used to describe the parents' action.

Thank you in advance!

  • 2
    I doubt there's a single-word term for what you describe. We have "verb-derived" nouns like mollycoddling, pampering, cossetting,... but they usually imply being overindulgent in a general sense, not just being too quick to offer sympathy. But whatever noun you go for, adjectival counterproductive is probably better than destructive for the context. Oct 2, 2021 at 15:16
  • I think this comment is better than the two answers. Care to make it an answer?
    – gotube
    Oct 3, 2021 at 5:49

2 Answers 2


These are called helicopter parents.

What Is Helicopter Parenting?
Helicopter parents are parents who pay extremely close attention to their kids' activities and schoolwork in an effort to not only protect them from pain and disappointment, but to help them succeed. Helicopter parents are known to hover over their children and become overly involved in their lives. Meanwhile, popular media uses the phrase "helicopter parent" to describe parents who are overprotective of their children.

helicopter parents


"Sympathy" isn't quite right, and "destructive sympathy" could be defined as a term, but it is a term that you are inventing. It doesn't have the specific meaning.

It is possible for you to define terms:

In this essay "destructive sympathy" means when parents ...

There are a couple of adjectives and verbs that you might find useful:

To "mollycoddle" means to act overprotectively (in our sexist society is more often applied to boys than girls) "His mother mollydcoddled her son. When he scraped his knee she called the school to complain about their breaktime supervision."

To "baby" is to treat someone as a baby, giving them protection, but denying freedom. "Don't baby her, she needs to learn from her mistakes"

To "spoil" is to cause a child to become bad, by treating them too kindly. "Grandma always lets Jo have as much cake as she wants. She spoils that child." You can use "spoiled" as an adjective to describe a child who expects everything to be done for them, because they have never had to do anything for themselves.


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