Editor's Note (The View From Here)
- By Deborah P. Moore
- September 1st, 2016
September is here, the students are back
… and so are the parents! Some of the biggest
challenges faced by college administrators and
staff are not the students, but the parents (a.k.a.
helicopter parents, lawnmower parents, snowplow
parents, bulldozer parents, cosseting parents) trying
to control every aspect of their child’s life.
Being an involved parent is one thing, but
over-parenting is a totally different issue. Helicopter parents believe that
their intervention will protect their child, keep them happy and prevent
struggles or failures. The issue is that struggles and failures are an important
part of growing up and are necessary for developing life, coping
and survival skills. Instead, many students are suffering from anxiety,
low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, which will hamper their ability
to handle what life is going to throw at them.
Add to that the issues of entitlement and lack of personal responsibility.
Many students (and parents) feel they are entitled to good
grades (despite the fact that it is not uncommon for 30 to 40 percent
of college students to skip any given class). They have no problem
demanding professors lower their standards, or publicly complaining
or harassing them (in person or online) if they don’t.
Each year when we do our survey on college housing, the number of
housing directors who point to entitlement issues and issues with helicopter
parenting grows. When asked the question, “What is the biggest
change you have seen in residence halls in the last five years?” the answers
are telling. The attitude of the students and parents; student and
parent expectations; the maturity level of students; less independence
and more students are having mom and dad handling their business.
Other surveys show that 93 percent of student affairs professionals
reported an increase in interaction with parents in the last five years
(Merriman, 2007). Seventy-four percent of parents communicate
with their college-student children at least two to three times weekly,
with fully a third communicating daily (College Parents of America
Survey, 2006). A 2013 Clark University poll found that two-thirds
of moms and more than half of fathers say they have some form of
contact with their adult child almost every day.
Parental support is undeniably good. But personally I have never felt
the need to live my children’s lives for them. It was my job to help them
understand that sometimes they will fail, that there is value in hard
work, that there is no elevator to the top and that once they reached the
age of maturity, the responsibility was theirs — not mine.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.