Sunday, October 7, 2012


No, not the actual helicopters you see in the sky. I'm referring to parents. If you've been near a playground recently you've probably seen them. They are the ones directing their children's play with a constant monologue of their play experience.

A mom to her child happily being pushed in a swing:
Let's go down the slide! (as she wrests her surprised and none-too-happy tot from the swing) Here we go! No, don't climb up the ladder, why don't you use the steps? Here, I'll help you (as the child is lifted up each level, his foot barely grazing the steps as he is trundled onto the platform). Do you want to play with the wheel? You can pretend you're driving! See?! (as she makes vrroooming noises and spins the wheel) Try it! The Wheels on the Bus go round and round, round and round...oh, you want to go down the slide? Wait sweetie! You don't want to fall! Here, I'll help you. We can go down the slide together! Oh, honey, don't go through the tunnel yet, we were going down the slide, remember? You want to go through the tunnel? Ok, let's go! (as she gets up from the top of the slide and tries to wedge herself into the tunnel designed for the smaller set).

I could go on but basically this will continue for the duration of their visit to the park as she follows/directs him on how to play.

Helicopter Parents.

I have watched this for the past 2 1/2 years and it never seems to vary. I, too, follow my girls around the park but I try very hard not to direct their play. It's hard though. You see your child get bumped out of the way by a bigger kid, you notice kids who are completely unsupervised as their nanny sits across the park texting, and you try to find that middle ground.

When I was teaching high school I don't remember running into helicopter parents. I had parents who were involved and some who seemed not to care at all but never did I have parents try to influence a grade or call me to task for their child's failure to secure the lead in the school play.

I'm not sure when the tide turned. But more and more you hear about parents who are holding their children's hands long into adulthood. Len saw this many times as he was teaching English at LSU. Parents would call him up repeatedly to ask for a grade change or more time to complete an assignment. It has been the primary complaint of Yia Yia as she worked as a dean at GWU. I mean really? I cannot fathom my parents contacting the dean of my university to complain about a grade.

Although I had noticed the issue of helicopter parenting, the following email I received brought it into focus:

Hi Lisa,
I’m reaching out to connect with you about a graphic I helped create which provides stats on how parents’ actions can impact students today and how the effects of “helicopter parenting” can be seen in college and even in the workplace.
I saw a reference to FreeRangeKids.com on your site and given that you might have an interest, I thought it’d be a great fit and wanted to see if you’d be interested in taking a look at the piece. If so, let me know and I’d love to pass it along!
Allison M.

I am a big fan of the free range kids site. Lenore has a voice just snarky enough to entertain without being unlikeable. She makes you think. And god knows I need that every now and then!

Allison's graphic tends to support what I see happening in infancy. Parents who just cannot let their children BE and the effects this will have on them for the rest of their lives.

Let me know what you think. What are you doing to avoid this? How do you navigate the narrow middle ground between involvement and hovering?
 Please Include Attribution to OnlineCollege.org With This Graphic Hovering Parents in the Workplace Infographic


Anonymous said...

Nice article mate. What infuriated me when my kids were infants was when they rushed to my child when they fell over because I refused to rush to their aid each time they tripped, slipped or bumped themselves.

mama of 5 said...

Being a mom of a toddler is exhausting, but let me tell you being a non-helicopter mom of teenagers and a college student that is living at home is emotionally exhausting. When I see something with my oldest that bothers me, I remind myself that if he was living in the dorms I wouldn't be there to see it. I started to realize even encouraging words can be seen as nagging. Biting my tongue alot! It can be a challenge to not be a helicopter parent when they are older. They need our guidance and help, but I have to let them fail to learn as well. It is not black and white at times.

Jodie said...

OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!!!!! I would have NEVER labeled myself as a "helicopter parent". BUT....I'm afraid I was more times than not....and unfortunately...continue to be in some areas. :/ Let's just say I've learned some things from this post, my friend....and I thank you for it.


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