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Helicopter Parents

As a parent I have always hated this term; it suggests that my concern and involvement with my son has been like some giant, mechanical apparatus drowning out all other noises and swirling up the air all around him. My interaction hasn’t been like that.

But I do ask myself, “have I hovered?” Have I been too directive at times instead of letting him figure out things on his own?  Yes.  When he was a certain age I saw his possible failure to be my failure; now I do see that allowing him to fail perhaps would not have been all bad.

As parents we have been told since their birth to be involved in our children’s’ lives. When they go to college, one doesn’t just turn that involvement off.  But the involvement does get re-directed.  Consider the following:

·         Instead of helping your son or daughter proofread the essay, refer him or her to the ARC to meet with someone in the Writing Center.

·         Instead of urging freshmen to pursue a certain major, urge them to speak with a departmental or ARC advisor.

·         Instead of calling to wake up your son or daughter, buy an extra alarm clock and have him or her put one across the room.

Even as young adults, our children, I think, still want our approval; sometimes they want our advice. On the other hand, in our culture it’s important for our children to differentiate from their parents.  It’s a delicate dance for which no one really knows the steps.  For me a turning point came when my son and I both found a way to take the anger, frustration, and ultimatums out of our conversation. 

The high school years were easy compared to college. When my son was in high school he still clearly needed the supervision of his parents; afterwards the ground started shifting—sometimes gradually, sometimes at the rate of a major earthquake.  But we landed on level ground, each respecting the lives of the other, each supporting the other.  Now, I sometimes ask my son for advice; he has lots of good ideas.

What works for other parents?  Anybody out there want to share thoughts, experiences, ideas?



About Cassie

I'm the Director of the Writing Center and Director of Parent Communications at Bellarmine University.

One comment on “Helicopter Parents

  1. Great topic – thanks for your thoughts. It’s so hard to know when we’re being over-protective. When my son was in middle school, I was determined not to let him fail in school. It wasn’t until one of his teachers specifically told me it would be good for him to sink or swim on his own that I realized I was being a “helicopter parent.” I backed off and he learned to be more independent. Now I realize it was some of the best advice I ever got. It also made it easier to let him go – and to be his own person – when he went off to Bellarmine!

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