Understand Helicopter Parenting Before You End Up Enrolling Your Kids in an Online School Program

The Next Family

By Brianna Meiers

In recent years, educational experts have noted the growing presence of “helicopter parents,” or mothers and fathers who assume a high level of involvement in their child’s academic and professional affairs. While these parents defend their actions as healthy and indicative of a supportive family unit, many argue that helicoptering can have detrimental long-term consequences on children that extend far into adulthood. Helicopter parents earn this nickname from the way they seemingly “hover” over their children throughout adolescence – and in many cases, after their sons and daughters have left the house to pursue a college degree. Though the term carries negative connotations, many parents take pride in the characterization. “I acknowledge that there is a very fine line that separates a parent who is ‘involved’ from one who is ‘overinvolved,” self-described “helicopter mom” Sally Rubenstone told US News & World Report. “And, often, it is better to err on the side of the latter, rather than to not provide adequate guidance and support to kids who need it. … A student who is a brilliant scientist or an amazing artist isn’t necessarily a super secretary.” The helicopter parent movement has other defenders, as well. In 2007, the National Survey of Student Engagement polled students at 24 American universities. According to The Washington Post, students with helicopter parents were more engaged with course materials and likelier to participate in “deep learning activities” like post-class discussions with professors and independent research projects. “Compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics,” noted George D. Kuh, the survey’s director. However, a more recent study by researchers at New Hampshire’s Keene State College reveals that over-parenting can also have a highly negative impact on grown children. According to the report, college freshmen with helicopter parents (who comprised roughly 10 percent of their class) are less likely to be socially active with their peers – and likelier to remain dependent on mom and dad. This study is bolstered by numerous studies reported in recent decades. An August 2012 article by The New York Times profiled Dr. Carol Dweck, a social and developmental psychologist at Stanford University who has studied helicopter parenting in-depth. Her findings indicate that children who are not constantly supported are likelier to take on more difficult work; children who are routinely praised as “smart,” on the other hand, will shy away from tough tasks for fear of losing their elite status. Though academia may seem more enjoyable to children of helicopter parents, these studies suggest that micromanaging from mom and dad can lead to adult children who struggle on their own. Today’s experts argue that the most effective parents support and nurture their children – but also hold them accountable and teach them the value of autonomy. Independence is a crucial step toward adulthood, and college students who heavily rely on their parents for support and encouragement are setting a potentially disastrous precedent.

Brianna Meiers’ discussion on the rise of helicopter parenting is a follow-up on ongoing conversations about appropriate parental involvement in child development and academic milestones.  According to Ms. Meiers, who writes primarily for those who want to pursue psychology degrees, helicopter parenting can have its upsides–but must be approached with caution if we want our children to grow into confident and independent adults.

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