Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting Caught Up in the Blades of The Helicopter Parent

"Helicopter parenting" refers to parents that can just not let go, and are over involved in every aspect of their child's life. You most certainly have met one, and you might even be one. Consider the following scenario:

Your child is applying to college, do you:

  • A: Give support, encouragement and advice, while letting them navigate the application and interview process for themselves.
  • B: Tell them to text you once they have been accepted to their school of choice with how much to write the check for.
  • C: Write the essay, sit in on the interview, call your friend the Dean, and follow-up with the admissions officer, and pack their bags to move them in.

If you answered "C," you aren't alone. Your interest in your child's success is so keen, that some universities in the U.K. have acknowledged the inevitable and now just let you sit in on the interviews themselves.

And it doesn't stop in school. Employers are increasingly learning to deal with parents that have an opinion about their child's career growth in your company as well. I recall working at job fairs, and with alarming frequency a parent would approach me and proceed to tell me about their child, and how they would be perfect for my organization. Said child was usually a few paces behind, looking shy, bored or exasperated. Sorry to say, such behavior usually landed that candidate in the "handle with care" pile. Even following up to regretfully inform the candidate, who wasn't available usually, often turned into a series of twenty questions from the parent I invariably got instead as to why, which I politely declined to discuss as gently as possible.

Helicopter parents are usually well meaning, but increasingly the way to actually help your child stand out from the crowd is to take a step back yourselves, and allow them to develop the skills and maturity to accomplish on their own. This parenting behavior starts early, and particularly shows itself as your children enter school and activities. As back to school approaches consider how much independence you allow your children to succeed or fail, and make adjustments to help them get the most out of childhood. Follow the advice of the Saint Louis School of Medicine:

Remember that your job is to prepare your child to be a responsible and
capable adult, so decrease your involvement over time and let your child
live his or her own life.

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