Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Helicopter Parents.

If you supervise teenagers, as I do on occasion, then you've surely run into this creature. Mom or Dad will call in for the kid when he doesn't feel like working, or will call in righteous indignation when Junior is written up for failing to do his job properly. My favorite is, "Sissy isn't coming to work today or tomorrow because we have important family activities planned."

The phenomenon has really drawn attention at college campuses. Professors dread the harangue of the indignant parent who demands that their chick and child receive a better grade from Dr. Scrooge. It doesn't matter that Buffy never came to class; that's not her fault! The class is too early, she has important extra-curricular activities, etc.

A new study even lauds such behavior as helping the kids get more out of the college experience. I always thought the college experience was to be independent and get away from home.

"Though excessive contact with parents might inhibit learning and development,
students in frequent contact with their parents are more satisfied with their
college experience, according to the new survey."

Notice how the effect on grades is secondary to satisfaction with the college experience. I find myself now in sympathy with my Roman History professor who refused to end any class session even a minute early because we were paying for it. If you're going to spend $20,000 a year on an education, shouldn't good grades be a priority over "the college experience?" These parent's are harming more than the kids' grades, however:

"we should tell them by words and deeds that it's OK to fail."

That's exactly what these kids are not learning. By having Mommy and Daddy ride to the rescue in any situation, they will not know how to deal with adversity on their own until it's too late. One cannot learn from one's mistakes unless one is allowed to face the consequences. Sooner or later these kids will have to deal with the real world in which things will be demanded of them, which no one can smooth over for them. Parents need to sever the cord and let their kids stumble on their own once in a while. That's how you mold children into adults.

Update: I suppose there are alternatives to being a helicopter parent. Sheesh.