OPINION: The sad truth of the helicopter parent

Photo credit: Mark Nelson

Growing up as an only child, I learned quickly to be self sufficient, having no older siblings to rely on. I was taught to have my own opinions, developed an incredible imagination and learned how to interact in adult settings early on.

Some of my friends, however, never had their own opinions. They were always rattling off whatever their parents told them. These friends couldn’t even play Barbie’s by themselves, let alone complete a simple school project individually, without assistance from older siblings or their parents.

Realizing my classmates were different than me in those ways made me come to the quick realization that it was my parents who were different compared to my classmates’ parents.

Now that I am older and can more accurately evaluate how my parents differ compared to the other kids I grew up with, I am happy to say that mine were not “Helicopter Parents.”

Parents, the magazine, describes a helicopter parent as “a style of parents who are over focused on their children.” It continues to quote Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., “They typically take too much responsibility for their children’s experiences and, specifically, their successes or failures.”

The parenting I received may be because I grew up in two different houses; learning two different belief systems, experiencing two different lifestyles.

I was taught to be self-sufficient. If I didn’t do my homework, it was my fault, not my parents’. Reminding me to get it done was not their responsibility, it was mine – my job.

When I went out for sports or any extracurricular activities, it was always on my own accord. I was expected to be involved, but I chose what I wanted and my parents always supported me, never pressured me.

This all translated into me being my own person. I was growing up after all and didn’t need my parents treating me like a toddler throughout my school years. Basically by middle school my parents were done intervening in the educational part of my life.

Unfortunately, as I will show looking at new studies, a lot of parents are not quite done intervening in their children’s educational endeavors.

What is even worse than the fact that parents are not done meddling in their child’s education is the emotional effects that it’s causing these children when they are out on their own in college.

A 2010 study showed that students with helicopter parents were not as open to new ideas and actions, were more vulnerable, self-conscious, and anxious compared to students who were not constantly monitored by their parents, according to a Slate article titled “Kids of Helicopter Parents are Sputtering Out.”

The sad fact is that I have seen this happen with more than one of my friends or classmates. The incredibly academic overbearing parents have produced children who do not know how to make their own decisions, make academic deadlines or know how to talk to a professor.

And what happens? When faced with making their own decisions or with writing their own paper for once, they made irrational decisions that aren’t really working out for them. Their real “first paper,” received a C or D because they didn’t know how to structure it or proofread it by themselves.

In Psychology Today’s article, “Helicopter Parenting-It’s Worse Than You Think,” parents are getting way too involved. Not only are parents emailing their child’s professors or “helping” them on their classwork, parents are actually calling graduate admission officers and putting in a good word for their child.

No; just no. I would probably never show up in a specific class again if my parents emailed my professor about my academic performance.

If they called a school thinking they were helping me get in…just no. That is overstepping boundaries and embarrassing the student they are vouching for.

I am currently thanking my lucky stars, and you should too, if your parents let you grow up without having an overbearing academic grip on you.

Now that is not to say that my parents didn’t at least hover in other ways, like in my personal and public life (helping me make good decisions), but looking back, I absolutely do not envy my friends whose parents wrote their papers or did their projects for them. They were a small price to pay for some self-reliance.