By now, everyone has heard of the term “helicopter parent.” This has typically been defined as the parent who swoops in to smooth the way for their child. However, recently it has grown to include parents of college students and parents of job seekers. Are parents going too far in running their children’s lives? Should they take more of a laid back approach, providing only constructive feedback?
We’ve all seen the parent who is overbearing and over scheduling. Some call them helicopter parents. Some call them “lawnmower parents” who mow down any obstacle in their child’s path. They might fight their child’s battles on the playground (and hold a grudge long after their child has moved on). If the child did not get a significant role in the school play, the parent might demand to know why or even demand that casting changes be made. Lastly, there is the “Blackhawk” parent, which is the most extreme type of helicopter parent with the parent acting in a particularly aggressive manner.
While helicopter or hyper-parenting was initially viewed as a phenomenon just for young children, the trend has continued as children have matured. Hyper-parenting has continued into the college years, with the cell phone often called the “new umbilical cord”. For example, college students with helicopter parents might not make any decisions about classes without consulting with their parents first. A helicopter parent might drive to their child’s college, and clean their dorm room once a week.
Now hyper-parenting seems to be making its mark on adult children’s job search. In a survey by Office Team, executives were interviewed and asked what was the most unusual or surprising behavior they had experienced from the parent of a job seeker. One example cited was of a parent who wanted to sit in during their child’s interview. Another example was a parent who called to ask about their child’s potential work schedule and salary. In yet another example, a mother called to ask how her child had done during the interview.
Here are some of my observations and thoughts:
- If we behave, as a “helicopter parent” are we overly involved with our children? Perhaps, in a difficult and challenging world we are just advocating for them in a healthy and natural fashion.
- Don’t some children need more help than others?
- In a world that is intensely competitive, aren’t we just helping our children gain an edge? Then again, maybe we really are out of line, and should understand that our identity is separate from our children.
- Are we denying them the opportunity to develop resilience and pleasure in their own accomplishments?
- Is this really about taking responsibility for our own lives, rather than living someone else’s?
There is another approach to parenting that we should explore called “free-range parenting”, a hands off approach, which allows the child more autonomy. Free-range parenting first came into the public eye when Lenore Skenazy wrote about how she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride the New York City subway alone. It earned her the moniker of “America’s Worst Mom”. Yet, is there something to the idea of letting our children initiate their own play and grant them a bit more freedom, albeit in a safe manner?
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