This is fantastic! The Helicopter Parent.
Constant hovering can kick up a cloud of troubles
Excuse me, but you’re hovering. You realize that, right?
The media, pediatricians, psychologists and even the college dean, they’ve all got you figured out — or so they say. They’re calling you a helicopter parent. Get it? Because you hover?
You’re a baby boomer, right? OK, then. Listen up, because this is what they’re saying about you:
You’re too obsessed with your children. You treat them like little princes and princesses — like they’re No. 1, like they’re MVPs. You’ve painstakingly planned their lives from their first play date to their first day of college.
They’re your little Renaissance kids. You shuttle them from soccer practice, to clarinet lessons, to karate, and — because they will be going to a great college — to SAT prep class. Whoops! Speaking of which: You’re late.
You inflate their egos. You give them graduation ceremonies even when it’s just from preschool. You give them a trophy at the end of the season even when they lose. And by the time they get to college and are asked who their hero is, your child will say those words you long to hear: My dad. My mom.
Yes, helicopter parent, your intentions are good, but that rotor of yours is causing a din. Bring her down to terra firma. Let’s talk.
A report on “60 Minutes” last fall discussed how the so-called echo boomers — the children of baby boomers, who were born between 1982 and 1995 — are “overmanaged” and “very pressured” and treated by their parents as pieces of “Baccarat crystal or something that could somehow shatter at any point.”
Indeed, Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill, says today’s children “may well shatter.”
He thinks children are being coddled and protected to a degree that threatens their ability later in life to strike off on their own and form healthy relationships and proper job skills.
“These parents are trying to create a really terrific statue of a child rather than a child,” says Levine, author of “Ready or Not, Here Comes Life” (Simon and Schuster, 2005).
Beverly Low, dean of the first-year class at Colgate University, says that where before parents would drop their kids off to college and get out of the way, parents now constantly call her office intervening in a roommate dispute or questioning a professor’s grading system.
“A lot of our students tell us, ‘Hey, my mom is my best friend. My father is my best friend.’ Is that a good thing? It’s a different thing,” she says.
But why is it happening? Mary Elizabeth Hughes, a sociologist at Duke University, says helicopter parenting may be an outward sign of economic anxiety, particularly when parents consider the uncertain job market that may await their children.
“They’re very concerned that their kids do very well and excel at a lot of things as a result,” she says.
Hughes says such parenting may reflect generational changes as well.
Many baby boomer parents came of age during the turbulent ’60s where they couldn’t help but experience social change and respond by creating new lifestyles including new forms of parenting.
Mark and Cathy Gamsjager of Greenville, N.Y., are annoyed by parents who turn their loving into hovering. But baby boomers, as a whole, may not be getting the credit they deserve, they say, particularly for some of the improvements they’ve brought to parenthood.
Mark Gamsjager, 42, fronts the rockabilly band The Lustre Kings. He skateboards and snowboards with his two boys, Austin, 13, and Thomas, 9.
They have a great relationship and have lots to talk about, he says.
But he’s still their dad.
“I think there’s got to be a line, you know?” he says. “You still have got to be the tough guy.”
Indeed, the Gamsjagers say they try to take the best aspects of their parents — emphasizing education, independence and discipline — while improving upon their parents’ shortcomings.
“I think parents make much more of an effort to be with their kids,” says Cathy Gamsjager. “It seems to me that we’ve gotten away from everybody being an authoritarian. Not that we don’t have authority over our kids, but there’s more honesty. You spend more time actually talking to your kids about real things.”
But being open and honest doesn’t mean being a pushover, she says. “I’m not my kids’ best friend,” she says. “I’m their mom. I love being their mom, and I love being fun, but in the end I totally get that I’m responsible for helping them make good choices. I’m responsible for where their lives head. I can enjoy them, but no, I can’t be their friend.”
Ahhh… please, parents, I beg of you – don’t become a Helicopter Parent!