Helicopter Parents Need to Fly Away

Any loving parent would never want to disadvantage their child.  Far from it.  They would want to make sure the very best is coming their son or daughter’s way.

Helicopter Parents – those mums and dads who hover over everything to do with their child’s education – obviously want the best, but it’s likely to result in the opposite.

An article in The Guardian on January 2 caught my attention, because it seems that Helicopter Parents are now going further by embracing the job market for their kids.  They’ll be researching, attending careers fairs, getting involved with negotiations, you name it.

Oh dear.

I still remember eager parents taking the reigns in question and answer sessions at universities when I was visiting different institutions that I wanted to apply to.  I went along with my dad to each place, but he acted only as an observer.  In fact, in one presentation, he fell asleep and started snoring.  I had to give him a dig in the ribs to wake him up!

When I asked for help, I would receive it…so long as it was possible and reasonable.  But most of the time I had a lot of independence, which allowed me to learn for myself, as well as find my own voice.  I’m thankful for that.

If parents are surveying every move of their (now adult) children and getting too involved in choices, it doesn’t bode well.  How can that person’s confidence build up effectively?  And when will they get to hear their own voice?

Parents may say, “It’s what I would have wanted if I had the chance,” but is it what YOU want?

8 comments

  1. I’m glad my Mum has never once influenced my decision on doing whatever I liked to do, and I’m glad that she has been my strong and loyal supporter eversince I came to the university.

    Whenever I read/hear about how parents “prefer” their children to conduct research nearer to home, or how they’d “prefer” their children to choose an industrial training company in their home state, I thank God for a very understanding Mum 😀

  2. Martin,

    I’ve followed a lot of the press surronding the helicopter parent phenomenon, and I’ll admit, I’m skeptical. Two things catch my attention. First, the articles never seem to provide empirical evidence that this is really a trend. Instead, they rely on anecdotal reports of a couple incidents. Second, people (myself included) seem to get great pleasure out of emphasizing that they did not have helicopter parents.

    To me, this adds up to suspicion — that this might be a phenomenon driven more by reader interest than a real trend. (Standard tabloid journalism, make up something that really makes people upset or indignant, and they’ll eat it up).

    Or, maybe not. But until I see more evidence, I remain wary…

    What do you think?

    – Cal

  3. @Cal, I agree that the media are probably hyping this out of proportion. However, in my limited experience, I’m still surprised at how many parents seem to control their child’s education every step of the way. For example, just taking two of the houses I was looking after as a student, at least 4 of the 13 students had ‘hovering’ parents. And they were the obvious (or complained of) ones.

    In my mind, that’s an unhealthy number.

    Of these cases, it appeared to me to boil down to one of two common reasons:

    1. Parents fail to ‘let go’ and allow independence;
    2. Student was not interested/inspired/enthusiastic, so left their parents to sort everything out.

    Point 2 could be the result of knowing their parents won’t let go, so they’ll just go along with whatever Mum & Dad decide…who knows?

    So while I don’t think we’re witnessing a growing trend, I still see an unacceptable number of young adults being mollycoddled by their parents.

    As for the article…you’re right to question it on shaky acecdotal ‘evidence’. But with an increasing trend of UK adults regularly staying in the family home until their late 20s, or even 30s, I wouldn’t be surprised if parents were beginning to involve themselves in the matter of graduate employment far more than they would have done in the past.

  4. Interesting…

    Okay, here’s another related questions. Why does this idea succeed so effectively in riling people up? I always get a jolt when I see these articles. On reflection, however, I wonder why? From an objective sense I shouldn’t care. I don’t get this upset over other parenting issues. It’s not like kids of helicopter parents are getting unfair advantages (seems like this behavior hurts more than helps.) So what about it is so attention-grabbing?

    Just a thought experiment…

  5. I agree that the kids aren’t getting an unfair advantage. I feel they’re getting an unfair DISadvantage.

    That’s why it grabbed my attention.

    I don’t get riled up, I just want the best for those students who aren’t getting the chance to experience certain things for themselves.

    And I do get upset over certain other parenting issues too. It’s even more focused in my mind, what with the prospect of becoming a father later in the year.

    Parents want the best for their children – obviously – but that doesn’t mean they always manage it. Nobody’s perfect.

    Maybe the difficulty is because ‘Helicopter parenting’ is just a convenient term for something more complex. Something along the lines of helicopter parenting exists, though I don’t know to what extent.

  6. Amen to this post. Maybe my parents should read this…helicopter parents not for academics (I’m in total control of that) but for my general life.

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