Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Helicopter Parents

My cousin posted a link to an article in the Huffington Post today that asked the question "Are We Raising A Generation of Helpless Kids?".  To which I respond a resounding YES!  The article gives a few examples like the college student who got her first C-, promptly texted her mother crying, the mother called right away demanding to speak to the professor, who declined to talk with her.

Or the prospective employee at a job interview telling the interviewer that she would have his job in 18 months!  Never mind that it took him 20 years of hard work to get that job.  That didn't even cross her mind.

It goes on to talk about this group of kids born from around 1984 to present, is used to getting everything right now.  Whether it be texting (instant response), ipod (instant music) or kindle (instant book).  They are the 'right now' generation.  Combine that with the idea that everyone plays, everyone wins and everyone is special (even without actually doing anything special) mentality and you have kids that want expect everything that instant without having to work for it.

Where did we go wrong? 
--We parents are the root of the problem.  Quoting from the article:  We told our kids they are special--for no reason.  Even though they didn't display special character or talent or skill and now they demand special treatment.  example:
When the mother of a fully adult man calls to bitch complain about the fact that her son missed his appointment (because he was 15 minutes late) and the office was closed--what is that telling him?  It's ok to be late and not call because mom will fix it?  Is he not capable enough to call himself?  Or the mother who complains to the school about their child's failing grade because they did not complete the project on time, and now that child gets more time to complete the project and improve his grade.  How is that like real life?  Can you say Helicopter Parent??  Hover, hover, fly in and fix the problem so Susie doesn't get an F or have to be responsible for being late.

Oh wait, my favorite.  Everyone is a winner and everyone gets a trophy for participating.  Yes, that's a great lesson.  Just show up at your job and everyone will think you are wonderful.  No, you don't even have to try hard and practice or be good or show talent.  Nope.  Just showing up is good enough!  We are so proud of you!  <dripping with sarcasm>  Here's a raise too!

--We gave our kids every comfort and now they can't delay gratification.  How about the 4th grader that has a cell phone.  Seriously?  I've gone on about this before--this sort of thing creates entitlement.  I am 13 years old so therefore I deserve a cell phone.  All my friends have one so therefore I must have one as well.  What are we teaching them?  That cell phone costs money!  Actual money!  Where does that money come from?  That kid is certainly not working to pay for that phone. 

What are the answers?  The article offers up some solutions:

--We need to let our kids fail.  We need to tell them the truth that the notion of 'you can do anything' is not necessarily true.

--Kids need to align their dreams with their gifts.  Not every girl with a nice voice will sing at the Met; every little league star will not play Major League Baseball.    It's funny but I had this discussion with my oldest daughter the other day.  We were talking about playing basketball at a higher level, like college.  My words were, "you are not going to play at Stanford or Duke or Tennessee.  It's just not going to happen.  The best basketball player that ever came out of this state played at UMaine and sat the bench in the WNBA.  You aren't going to be tall enough and those girls from the south are just so much better.  That doesn't mean you can't play ball in college--it just won't be Division 1.  You can still be an excellent ball player and play at Bowdoin or U Southern Maine or somewhere like that.  Which is still a huge accomplishment!  You are just going to have to work hard at both academics and basketball."  (Cripes!  Just getting ACCEPTED to Stanford would be an unbelievable accomplishment!  Let alone playing ball there.....)

I felt a little like I was squashing her dreams, but I hope not.  I just want her to think realistically. 

--Allow them to get into trouble and accept the consequences.  You choose to go to a party, get caught and get kicked off the sports team--well, that was your choice to attend. 
--Balance autonomy with responsibility.  You can use the car, but fill it up when you are done.

I know I'm guilty of trying to make things perfect for my kids at times, but I know I am also conscious of the fact that they need to fail, make mistakes and face consequences.  I hope I can pull myself back from wanting to 'fix' everything for them when the time arises. 

Do you know any Helicopter Parents?  Are you one?

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Nitsirk said...

I completely agree. However, without that generation of entitled kids the audition episodes of "American Idol" wouldn't be nearly as entertaining. :)

Karen said...

Don't get me started... Love this post. SO TRUE!

Unknown said...

*standing, applauding loudly*

there is so much more to learn in failure than being rescued!

fail miserably and fail beautifully!!!

Running With The Girls said...

I LOVE your post. I am not one of those moms and we make our kids work for things they want (yes, even the 3 year old).

Julie Roberts said...

I'm feeling as though we have discussed one of these specific topics before you "winner"

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

I hope I am not a helicoptor parent. It really is crazy some of the things you see parents doing for their kids these days. What a great write up! Thanks for sharing

Terzah said...

I *love* this post. I try very hard to let my kids fail, fall down sometimes, understand that they are not the best at everything.

As a reference librarian in a public library, I see this crap all the time. I once got a call from a woman who was doing research for her daughter....for a class at the University of Washington. I also have lots of parents of younger students who come in (without their students) to do their research. I have to bite my tongue so hard not to tell these people aren't doing their kids or anyone else any favors with this.

Hopefully these attitudes are on their way out. As I recall from being a kid myself, there's nothing less valuable than getting an "everyone's a winner" ribbon when everyone is clearly NOT a winner.

Christi said...

Woo Hoo! You tell 'em! I agree with you on all of this.

Terzah said...

Another blogger just sent me this....hilarious....

Kara said...

I remember teaching a class at the community college for kids who weren't yet writing at the high school level and couldn't get into the 101 of the moms called me when I failed her kid! I laughed and had to explain that grades were confidential because her daughter was 18, so I couldn't talk to her. She seemed to really think that calling me would make me change her final grade...which is probably why she was in the class in the first place!