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The Risks of Being a Helicopter/Lawnmower Parent

Do you want to raise happy and healthy children?

Do you want to be the best parent you can be? Do you believe you should do whatever you can to ensure your children are the happiest they can be, getting the best grades, under the least amount of stress, getting the best jobs? Well, please read on ...

The term helicopter parent was invented to describe parents who were overly involved, micromanaging, and hovering closely over the lives of their children whether the children needed their help or not. These parents try to sweep all obstacles out of the paths of their children and solve all of their problems for them. Did you teenage son forget his chemistry term paper, thus resulting in a reduced grade? Well his helicopter parent would call the chemistry teacher and explain why he forgot it and get the penalty reversed.

As the children of helicopter parents are now going to college and entering the
workforce, they have a new name among college professors … lawnmower parents. Yes, the mothers and fathers who hovered overhead for the first 18 years are now mowing all obstacles out of their adult children’s way. Not only are they interfering with their college student's choice of classes and discussing why their child didn’t receive an A+ instead of an A with their professors, but these parents are now calling human resource departments to negotiate higher salaries and more vacation time. Not only are college administrators and professors familiar with the lawnmower parents but so are human resource departments and personnel offices.

In the early 2000s the term gained wide popularity when college administrators began to use the term for parents, mostly from the baby boomer generation, who began to interfere with their college child’s life from waking them up in the mornings for classes to hiring consultants to fine tune term papers. Summer camp officials also saw these behaviors from parents. Researchers correlate the increase in cell phones to the increase in helicopter parents and some refer to the cell phone as the world’s longest umbilical cord. Parents always have access to their children and children always have access to their parents.

There is a large portion of parents who believe the goal of raising children is to have happy and healthy children and will do whatever it takes to achieve this goal. These parents believe it is their right to make sure their child has every advantage so they can go to the best colleges and get the best grades as they are paying for their child's education. However, studies show that hovering over your children in this way is detrimental to their emotional and psychological growth and development.

Whether the behavior is parents running interference for a poorly written English paper or hiring professionals to write college essays for college applications, this micromanaging of children’s lives is not allowing them to mature and separate. It is inhibiting them from learning the essential skills of communicating, negotiating, learning from mistakes, and making decisions for themselves. It is keeping them in a prolonged state of late childhood when parents still make a majority of decisions for their child and in the child’s best interest. In the interest of getting children into the best college or getting them a higher starting salary at their first job, paradoxically it is also sending children the message that they are not good enough to do these things themselves. It is lowering self esteem and self confidence because it sends the message they cannot do these tasks themselves and furthermore that parents don’t believe they can do it.

Other studies suggest this parenting style is actually inhibiting the natural neurological processes that help children grow into adulthood. It slows the maturation process of the brain and prohibits children from free thought, therefore resulting in dependency issues in adulthood. Children and adults of helicopter parents also have a greater sense of entitlement, feel they are deserving of anything she wanted, and are more likely to have a superiority complex as an adult. In addition, they are more dependent on their parents as adults and have a hard time making life decisions than their counterparts who are raised by non helicopter parents.

So, now that you know the negative impact this has on your child, what are you going to do? Next week’s blog will give tips for helping to break this micromanaging style of parenting and actually raise your children to be adults who negotiate their own salaries.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) March 20, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Alicia, I think the trick is to cover their backs while letting them get as far as they can on their own. That being said, I wish MY mother would call up and get me more vacation time and a raise!
Abbey Arwady March 21, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Alicia, I see helicopter and lawnmower parents EVERYWHERE these days. There is no need for a child to be independent and learn the skills they need to move into adolescence and adulthood when they have someone to do it for them. I didn't know it as a child, but I believe my parents supported and pushed me without cradling me when things went wrong. I believe I am stronger for it today!
Lisa Silvershein March 21, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Alicia, As a career coach I have had the opportunity to work with college students and young professionals who are thriving and excelling. They are willing to take risks, do beyond what is expected, take responsibility for their mistakes and feel personal pride in a job well done. I have also worked with students and 20-30 year young professonals who are unsatisfied at work, blame everyone else for mistakes, feel unappreciated and angry because they were mislead regarding what their lives were going to be like when they "grew up". During my 9+ years as career coach I've learned that my clients who have helicopter parents are usually unhappy at work, dissatisfied and less equipped to accept challenges and excel professionally. My clients who were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, encouraged to fight their own battle, as well as take pride in being able to accomplish things for themselves, etc. are the ones that get promoted. The helicopter/ lawnmower parents do a true disservice to their children in the long run. As a parent I have found that when my children were young they could make make mistakes that had small consequences so that as they got older they became confident, independent and able to solve their own problems. Adults who did not have opportunities to learn these skills tend to make lack confidence and make life altering mistakes when their parents aren't able to be their safety nets.

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