Parents today understand in theory the dangers of “over-parenting” and even realize that, in principle, some of their children’s growth comes from making mistakes. Yet they find themselves unable to jump in when they fear that the consequences of a child’s mistake(a failed test, revoked drivers license, lost job)will be too great.
Bella English’s article in The Boston Globe (11/8/13: “Parents Overly Involved In College Students Lives”) provides vivid examples of what happens when the helicopter parents lands in a student’s college life. Ms. English reported that at Boston University, a father called the professor, department head, and academic dean about his daughter’s A- on a paper. At Boston College, a parent called a the dean of students to get involved in their son’s roommate issues. Even employers hiring college students see parents escorting the child to the interview and answering questions for her.
A study published in February 2013 in the online Journal of Child and Family Studies summarizes “…over-controlling parents undermine the confidence and competence of college-age students and can negatively impact the parent-student relationship.”
Holly Schiffrin, a co-author of the study and psychology professor at The University of Mary Washington (VA) comments, “Parents need to understand that they are not giving their children a chance to develop competency, a feeling of pride and well-being. Children are not developing the skills they need to become fully functioning adults.”
“It has to be a gradual process where the adolescent is taking on more and more responsibility so that they go to college with these skills,” Shiffrin adds.
All parents struggle with this issue and with the worry that a serious error a high school student makes can affect college admission. Informed Educational Solutions suggests that parents start in 9th grade with increasing responsibility, allowing children to feel ownership in decisions and actions, as well as experiencing the real learning that comes from the consequences of mistakes. If not, they will move into adulthood, career, and family unequipped.