The profile of the issue of helicopter parenting has been on the rise in recent years. Time magazine published a cover story about it in 2009 and there has been coverage on CNN, NPR, and in the New York Times. Urbandictionary.com, in an entry seemingly written by a beleaguered college administrator, defines the phenomena thusly:
“The bane of the dean’s existence. The parent who hovers and flaps his wings while the kid lives in his shadow. Particularly prevalent at high-priced colleges, where parents feel obliged (or entitled) to intervene on issues down to the candlepower of the lightbulbs [sic]” (“Helicopter Parents,” accessed on July 5, 2011).
While that level of vitriol is likely extraordinary, it is notable that this issue has become so widely recognized among administrators as being a problem (that is noted on urban dictionary is also telling). But while it may indeed place a burden on college officers (to which such parents would likely respond, “deal with it, we pay you good money”), the question remains: is it good for the student? Indeed, one of my doctoral colleagues raised this question after my initial post. Surely, having parents involved in the lives of their children — annoying as it may be — should have some positive benefit on this student? And there appears to be evidence that there is a positive side to helicopter parenting.
“There is mounting evidence that parents should take more rather than less interest in their children’s education. In a review of research studies, the Harvard Family Research Project found that teens whose parents play an active role do better in school and are more likely to enroll in college” (http://www.collegeboard.com/parents/plan/getting-ready/155044.html, Accessed on July 5, 2011).
However, these benefits belie the true perils of helicopter parenting: the treatment of children as a commodity, the pressure under which such hovering can place on a student, and an a students resulting inability to handle failure and face problems with resiliency. Time magazine describes the phenomenon as a type of product development, with the outcome at university being a type of report card on the parent:
“Parents demanded that nursery schools offer Mandarin, since it’s never too soon to prepare for the competition of a global economy. High school teachers received irate text messages from parents protesting an exam grade before class was even over; college deans described freshmen as “crispies,” who arrived at college already burned out, and “teacups,” who seemed ready to break at the tiniest stress” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1940697,00.html, Accessed on July 5, 2011).
While popular journalism seems divided, scholarly literature is largely silent on this matter. I mean to investigate what the impact is, positive or negative, and perhaps build a foundation for further research. It is my belief that while there may be positive aspects to hyper-parenting, it can cause significant problems. The reason that I am focusing on the negative with this study is because, for the students who are the beneficiaries (victims?) of helicopter parents, I believe that the ability to succeed in the so-called “adult world” of university and the job-market (and there of bleeding into the latter) is diminished. Such success is dependent on these individuals’ resilience and ability to solve problems for themselves, and hovering parents impede the development and fostering of these traits.
Here is another quote from Time describing the mantra of the newly-emerging “free-range” parenting movement (in reaction to helicopter parenting):
“Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they’ll fly higher. [The parents are] often the ones who hold them down” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1940697,00.html, Accessed on July 5, 2011).