Monday, November 13, 2006

Guest Article: Helicopter Parents and Needy Students

Today's Guest Post is from John M.:

Are you:

In constant contact with your child?
In constant contact with school administrators?
Making your child's academic decisions?
Feel bad about yourself when your child does not do well?

This is part of a self-test published by the College Board to see if you are a helicopter parent. There have been a bunch of articles in papers across the country about helicopter parents, those parents that attempt to swoop in and solve all their children's problems for them. If you trace back the trend you see it creep through the educational system. The first folks to talk about the phenomenon were elementary ed folks, then hs teachers, now mostly college professors and administrators.

One recent article describes helicopter parents in the following way:
They saw their youngsters as "special," and they sheltered them. Parents outfitted their cars with Baby on Board stickers. They insisted their children wear bicycle helmets, knee pads and elbow guards. They scheduled children's every hour with organized extracurricular activities. They led the PTA and developed best-friend-like relationships with their children. Today, they keep in constant touch with their offspring via e-mail and cell phones. And when their children go off to college, parents stay just as involved.

Now, even employers are feeling the swinging blades of these folks. As reported by
Some parents are writing their college-age kids' resumes. Others are acting as their children's "representatives," hounding college career counselors, showing up at job fairs and sometimes going as far as calling employers to ask why their son or daughter didn't get a job.

It's the next phase in helicopter parenting, a term coined for those who have hovered over their children's lives from kindergarten to college. Now they are inserting themselves into their kids' job search -- and school officials and employers say it's a problem that may be hampering some young people's careers.

"It has now reached epidemic proportions," says Michael Ellis, director of career and life education at Delaware Valley College, a small, private school in Doylestown, Pa. At the school's annual job fair last year, he says, one father accompanied his daughter, handed out her resume and answered most of the questions the recruiters were asking the young woman. Even more often, he receives calls from parents, only to find out later that their soon-to-be college grad was sitting next to the parent, quietly listening.

Jobs counselors at universities across the country say experiences like those are now commonplace.

This really serves to make colleges look very poor, I think. If they do not do a better job of weaning students away from their parents, they are doing them a great disservice. How to do this is very compicated though. Many of the students surveyed in these articles are thankful that their parents are taking care of these things for them; they do not see it as problematic. Neither do the parents. Colleges need to come together to decide on the developmental goals they would like for their students to achieve while at their institutions and find ways to communicate to parents how their hovering is preventing these goals from being reached. I believe that these folks really do want to help their kids. We need to show them that sometimes by helping, they are doing harm.

Do others have thoughts on this topic? Ideas on how to address it?

Copyright 2006, John M.
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