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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Helicopter Parents

The newspapers are full these days of the consequences to children of having “helicopter parents” - parents who hover and cannot separate from their children. And, of even more concern, is the fact that these children do not seem to mind. In fact, they want their parents involved.

On the surface, this sounds like not such a bad thing. That teenagers and older children alike want their parents involved in their lives. But, to those who are studying this phenomenon, it is not what it seems. It seems these parents are the Baby Boomers who questioned authority at every turn. They did not want their parents’ opinion; they did not want input from their parents on their own college experience. These Baby Boomers seemed to know and understand that they need to separate from their parents in order to become independent.
So what happened? Actually, nothing. These same Baby Boomers are still questioning authority. They are accompanying their children to college orientations and dictating (to the universities and their children) which courses they will take, which roommate they will have, and even, in some instances, attempting to register for classes for their children and buying their books. Because they have such confidence in their judgment, they want to shield their children from frustration and disappointment.

These are the parents who argue with coaches, referees, and each other at soccer and hockey games; who get together to present trophies to everyone who played, so no child has to feel disappointed. It is these same parents who blame the teacher and/or the school when the child is in trouble. One need remember no further than the recent unfortunate episode at Glenbrook North High School with initiation activities. When students were suspended, parents came to the rescue by hiring attorneys. When students were prevented from attending their senior prom, these same parents planned and paid for an alternate prom.

Then there is the case of the Long Island, New York, principal who forced students last year to cancel a deal they had made to rent a $20,000 house in the Hamptons for an after-prom party. The students cancelled the deal, got their $10,000 back, and the prom went on as planned. However, some parents went ahead and rented the Hampton house anyway. This year, the principal has cancelled the prom. Many think it unfair and some parents are discussing whether to sponsor a prom by themselves. One of these fathers does not think it’s right for the school to judge what goes on after the prom.

A senior at the school says the class will still have their 4-day trip to Disney World where they fly together, visit the park together and stay in the same hotel. “It’s not like we’re totally losing  everything.” Many, but not all of these parents, have little time to spend with their children and do these things to assuage their guilt. Others spend lots of time with their kids and do the same things out of love. But, it doesn’t matter. They are all depriving their children of the opportunities to make decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions; they give their children no credit for being resourceful. And, perhaps worst of all, provide a bad example for when these children become parents themselves. Many young adults have never done a load of laundry; made an appointment at the dentist; cooked a meal from scratch; managed their own money; paid a cell phone bill; learned how to budget. It’s a pity to learn these lessons when the consequences are so much more serious than not getting a trophy
for playing hockey, for forgetting your lunch, for not doing your homework. Our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job. And, that job begins very soon after our children are born. Don’t waste another minute.

Click here to download the full file:  Helicopterv10_5.pdf

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