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Helicopter Parents Continue to Hover

When most of us think of helicopter parents, or helicopter parenting in general, our thoughts are relegated to overeager, but undeniably loving and caring, parents trying to “curate” a playdate, or intervening in an awkward social interaction between their child and a fellow grade school-aged child. Helicopter parenting, for those of us not hip to this colloquialism, is an informal brand of parenting where a parent exhibits a profound level of control over their child’s life and attempts to sweep all obstacles out of the paths of their children. The assumption is that that after some time, and some humbling gaffs on the part of the parent, these parents learn to ease up and relinquish control a bit, thus paving the road for their children to find their own way through life, make their own mistakes, and fight their own battles. For most parents, this is true, but some parents of the helicopter variety are persistent up to and past college age.

A recent episode of the sketch comedy show Portlandia takes a playful stab at lampooning helicopter parents and showing how successive generations of these overreaching parents can support, as well as stifle, their children. See below (after you suffer through the 10 second ad):

Laughs aside, this issue is not all that exaggerated. According to a recent NPR report, this brand of helicopter parenting often sticks well beyond college age as more helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace, sometimes even phoning human resources managers to advocate on their child’s behalf. “Margaret Fiester of the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, says when it comes to parents acting as lobbyists, she’s heard it all — from parents calling to negotiate better salaries or vacation time for their kids to complaining when their child isn’t hired. “Surely you’ve overlooked these wonderful qualities that my child has,” Fiester says parents often tell her. These sorts of interventions by the parent can obviously backfire and put the employer on the defensive, not to mention reflect poorly on the decision-making of the child/possible employee. Think what you may about helicopter parenting, this has become an issue for many companies and corporations looking to hire right out of college. They have had to adapt and, in some cases, make gestures toward the parent like sending parents the same recruitment packages it sends their children, or initiating a “Take Your Parent to Work” day.

While every parent is convinced their child is “special” is it their distinct responsibility to inform the world, or does that responsibility and advocacy rest in the lap of that child? Should the helicopter land and allow for some self-expression and showmanship originating from the child, or in this case young adult?

Read more: Blogs, Career, Caregiving, Children, Family, Parenting at the Crossroads, Relationships, Teens, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

45 comments

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1:57PM PST on Feb 28, 2012

This isn't new. When I was in college (last millennium), I worked at my dorm's desk answering questions and checking id cards for people entering the building. During a Family Visiting Day, I had a set of parents come up to me and tell me that their child was going to this college and they wanted to know how they could get appointments with all of her teachers to talk to them and see how she was doing. I was kind of flabbergasted. But I guess it's really hard for some parents to start letting go.

12:00AM PST on Feb 26, 2012

omg i had never heard of this kind of parenting

2:10PM PST on Feb 25, 2012

I hate helicopter parents!

11:58PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Thank you.

9:07PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

Control freaks can cause damage no matter how it manifests itself

8:58AM PST on Feb 19, 2012

Im more concerned with child abuse than helicopter parenting.

12:37AM PST on Feb 19, 2012

Thank you for the information.

8:31AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

of course each kid is special, but he or she needs to be able to prove it! to earn it!

5:20PM PST on Feb 17, 2012

sure their intentions are good, but at some point you just have to let go

11:53AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

I've never been a parent, but I think they all want to be good parents to their children. Helicopter parents seem extreme however. Thanks for the article and the clip from Portlandia.

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