Many in the sociology and psychology fields point out that we live in an age of over-parenting, an age where the terms “helicopter parents” – those who pay extreme attention to their child’s experiences and problems, particularly education – and “lawnmower parents” – those who attempt to personally remove all obstacles in front of their children – are becoming commonplace. In fact, the phenomenon is extending its claws from the university scene to the workplace – some personnel and human resources departments have reported that there are parents who interfere with salary negotiations.
And then there’s the newest university application requirement: a recommendation later from a parent. This is just a highly indulgent opportunity for over-parenting; a type of parenting which at a glance is clearly ineffective.
This trend has most recently found its way to American universities. Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and the University of Richmond are among some of the post-secondary institutions that are asking for letters of recommendation from parents.
In these situations the child is never allowed to develop properly, because they eventually learn to depend on their parents. The sociological novel Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau explains that those growing up under the care of helicopter parents do not develop as successfully into adulthood as those who grow up with social freedom and limited parental constraints. Kids who are hovered over by their parents tend to question authority and feel a sense of entitlement as they are introduced to adulthood. Over-parenting also restricts the maturation process of the brain and inhibits free thought. As a result, kids raised by helicopter parents may face dependency issues in adulthood.
So why let these parents indulge in their detrimental parenting style? Deb Shaver, Smith College’s Director of Admissions, says, “parents offer insights beyond what grade or school reports deliver.” She also claims that parents “really get to the essence of what their daughter is about in a way we can’t get anywhere else.” Ms. Shaver also points out, “Who knows a kid better than their mother and father?”
I’ll tell you who does: the kid. Certainly our identities are in a large part socialized through the family, but identity shouldn’t be defined solely through the family, nor should our parents become us. Also, in all honesty the interaction between child and parent will never be the same as that between the child and their peers or between them and external authority figures.
If you have helicopter parents or if you are a helicopter parent, I hope you take a moment to consider how detrimental over-parenting can and will become. Perhaps it’s time to land your craft and develop a more grounded and level perspective.