Sunday, October 4, 2015

Helicopter parenting or helicopter destruction?

Are we raising a generation of kids that are spoiled brats or simply and literally nurtured to death? Dr. Peter Gray, Professor of Psychology at Boston College, posits in Psychology Today that helicopter parenting is ruining kids and leaving them unprepared for life.  Students seek mental help for the most trivial of matters and are unprepared to accept responsibility for their own failures in the classroom.  Dr. Gray writes:

A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.

Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades—they weren’t explicit enough in telling the students just what the test would cover or just what would distinguish a good paper from a bad one. They described an increased tendency to see a poor grade as reason to complain rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively. Much of the discussions had to do with the amount of handholding faculty should do versus the degree to which the response should be something like, “Buck up, this is college.”

Two weeks ago, that head of Counseling sent us all a follow-up email, announcing a new set of meetings. His email included this sobering paragraph:

“I have done a considerable amount of reading and research in recent months on the topic of resilience in college students. Our students are no different from what is being reported across the country on the state of late adolescence/early adulthood. There has been an increase in diagnosable mental health problems, but there has also been a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life. Whether we want it or not, these students are bringing their struggles to their teachers and others on campus who deal with students on a day-to-day basis. The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.”

He also sent us a summary of themes that emerged in the series of meetings, which included the following bullets:

*Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.
There is a sense of helplessness among the faculty. Many faculty members expressed their frustration with the current situation. There were few ideas about what we could do as an institution to address the issue.

*Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.
*Faculty, particularly young faculty members, feel pressured to accede to student wishes lest they get low teacher ratings from their students. Students email about trivial things and expect prompt replies....

In previous posts (for example, here and here), I have described the dramatic decline, over the past few decades, in children’s opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults. Among the consequences, I have argued, are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression, and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives. We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have: Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.... Rest of article


Anonymous said...

It is destruction. I teach middle school. I deal with parents that want to move their child with a B average to a "less advanced class," parents that complain " I sat with my child to work the math problems, and even I found them very difficult." Students are "shy" and "afraid to ask for help," because they have come to depend on mom or dad to take care of everything - even interactions with teachers. Parents want text reminders of all assignments and due dates.

The best thing a parent can do for a child is to help he/she to be an independent learner. Homework is the CHILD'S responsibility - even in 2nd grade. Put realistic expectations on your child and hold them responsible for school work and grades. Teach your child to seek teacher help when they need it and to ask questions. By 8th grade, and certainly high school, the MAJORITY of questions to the teacher about grades and assignments should be coming from the student, NOT the parent. Certainly, the teaching profession is not at all perfect and there are times a parent might need to step in. However, the majority of the teachers I have worked with over the years, and the teachers that taught my children, want students to be successful and enjoy working with and helping students.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine being a teacher today. As having a child in high school and one in college, I have been shocked by other parents. They do their children's homework, and encourage them to be confrontational with teachers if they are not happy with a grade they receive. They email teachers and threaten them if they don't help little Suzy pull up her grade. If parents aren't happy with a teacher they get a big parent posse together and confront the teacher, counsellors and administration. My children know if they have an issue with something, it is their responsibility to discuss it respectfully with their teacher, not mine!

Anonymous said...

I'm all for praising a child, but when a parent insists on praise for their 4 year old blowing their nose alone or putting on their own shoes...mind you, not tying them, just slipping them on their's a bit much. Children who aren't allowed to experience personal failure are unable to cope with or figure out how to get themselves out of the many "jams" that they will experience as teens or young adults. We don't teach common sense at home anymore. Everything we do now, has to have a specific purpose, skill or have some "psychological reasoning" behind it, to make somebody feel good about themselves. We taught our kids, born in the 70's to stand on their own two feet. None of the 4 ever asked how to get "rid of a mouse." They either caught it and tried to keep it as a pet, killed it, cleaned their apartment..themselves or moved to better surroundings....all without the need of "counseling."

Anonymous said...

Wow!!!! Just realized by all accounts I'm a Helicopter parent! Maybe because I was raised by one. Makes sense now. I need to change!!!!!!!Question, I have a 14 and 16 year old. Under a fake name I stalk all of their Social Media accounts. Not because their bad kids. Just because it's the only way I can stay informed. No,there are no trust issues. But,we all know teenagers can be easily persuaded. So in working on landing "my helicopter " any advice if I should stop the social media stuff????

Anonymous said...

I teach at a local college and have been confronted by parents twice. The first time the parent was looking to change an "F" to a "C" because the student 'really tried hard.' Of course, we can't talk about grades with parents due to privacy laws--and the parent was enraged that I said "ask your kid about the grades and attendance in the class"... The second one had the same class at the college twenty some years earlier and could not understand that the field had changed---found me in the hall one day and said that "it wasn't taught like this by professor (blank), and you're no professor (blank)" As if nothing about a class should change in 25 yrs...

both took the class from another professor and passed through. neither of these students are in their 'chosen' field anymore.

A lot of college students in 2015 just don't understand that just because they 'try' does not mean they will get an "A". Too many believe they are entitled to a grade.

Anonymous said...

Wow!!!! Just realized by all accounts I'm a Helicopter parent! Maybe because I was raised by one. Makes sense now. I need to change!!!!!!!Question, I have a 14 and 16 year old. Under a fake name I stalk all of their Social Media accounts. Not because their bad kids. Just because it's the only way I can stay informed. No,there are no trust issues. But,we all know teenagers can be easily persuaded. So in working on landing "my helicopter " any advice if I should stop the social media stuff????

Anonymous said...

6:29- Have confidence in the way you raised them. Have they done things or acted out in ways that could hurt themselves or others? If they haven't, leave them alone, including the spying. Keep the lines of communication open, have rules and enforce them, respect their privacy as you want them to respect yours, be a parent and not their friend...they have enough of them. Express concerns you have to their faces, discuss the matter and be willing to compromise and don't be afraid to say your wrong.

Anonymous said...

Sock Puppet City.

No Excuse For This... said...

I'm appalled and amazed at the way some teachers (college graduates who teach others) use the language. A few examples:

"The best thing a parent can do for a child is to help he/she ......." When this teacher should have used "him/her".

"both took the class from another professor and passed through. neither of these students are in their 'chosen' field anymore." I can forgive not beginning sentences with capital letters (we're all in a hurry); however, please say "Neither IS" instead of "Neither ARE".

So; Not only is it against the rules to talk to a parent about his son's grades, but, we won't any longer teach cursive writing or expect our teachers to use proper grammar. What has we come down two?

Anonymous said...


I teach middle school.....

The best thing a parent can do for a child is to help he/she to be an independent learner.

Well, I'm no middle school teacher. But if I were, I would say "the best thing a parent can do for a child is to help him or her to be an independent learner."

Sure, there is probably a generation of sissy students who are beyond saving. Yes, their worthless parents raised them to be sissies, giving them soccer trophies just for showing up.

But it seems having school teachers with zero command of grammar and the English language is a separate problem.

Anonymous said...

If you need a psych professor or a study to figure this out, you are also a victim of such "parenting."

The college administrators and job supervisors, etc. who have these "adults" in their shop should just do their jobs and let the chips fall and kids fail. It's not their responsibility to re-raise your kids.

Anonymous said...

11:08 pm You are part of the problem.

Apparently, if you'd been Einstein's editor on his published works, you'd have imagined yourself to be far more brilliant!

If you ever had been published, you'd have some notion that even our greatest writers, some of whom majored in English, needed an editor.

Parents have taken over their children's lives in dysfunctional ways. They not only try to run the schools as they think they know better how to educate and what to teach than the professionals. A side effect is that children have no respect for their teachers and little for the authority of others than their parents. They don't trust other adults to be able to help them grow and learn.

Parents have even taken over play. Hiam Ginott said play is a child's work for a reason.

Play time and playground sports were once a way children began to learn social skills, organizational skills, problem solving and how to resolve conflicts with their peers.

Parents are robbing their children of the confidence that comes with personal success. You don't feel the success is yours if someone else has helped you achieve it.

And, you are robbing your children of the confidence and belief in your ability to survive if they don't experience failure. You have overly organized them into dependency!

You are preventing them from finding out what their talents really are if you give them the unrealistic notion that they should excel at everything!

You are robbing them of love of their talents and the accompanying joy if it's always about winning as you overly organize every activity.

They'll never learn that hard work can catch up to natural talent if the talented person is lazy and relies on others to impose discipline.

And, physically, too many of you are hurting your children by having little notion of what is a reasonable level of physical activity for the age. Too many of these " sports" coaches don't know jack about a child's physical development and what their bodies can take. I hate the think what their joint degeneration is going to be like and pray joint replacements can last longer than they do now.

But, the experts can't tell the parents anything. They know it all by reading on the Internet or reading about how some helicopter parent of a celebrity. They will more quickly believe what a preacher says about raising a child than what a child development expert says despite all the anecdotes about " preacher's kids". But , some of us are not surprised that the adult life of celebrities with helicopter parents and preacher's kids became disastrous and/or scandalous.

Yes, there were " self-esteem" problems being seen in children in the 60's and 70's . But, helicoptering was never thought to be the solution except by those not in the profession who became " armchair" experts. All that was advised was to make adults aware of and stop engaging in behaviors that robbed children of self-esteem. It was never intended for you to live vicariously through your children or give them unrealistic expectations!

Anonymous said...

8:47 --

Yeah. It's an outrage to point out that a self-proclaimed "middle school teacher" has zero command of even basic English grammar.

You treated us to about 400 words of psychobabble. But it's wrong to have minimal expectations of educators who work 9 months out of the year?

Okay then.

Anonymous said...

Getting popcorn to watch this food fight. Lordy. We have on the left the 5 Miles to School Up Hill Both Ways Perfect Children and Upright Citizen's Brigade ably assisted by the Middle School Teacher in the Wrong Occupation. On the right, we have the actual parents of children who have seen the disaster of Common Core, the Righteous Atheists Evangelical Brigade suing over a kid saying God Bless You after a sneeze, and a Legislature insisting that if clay tablets and styluses were good enough for them, it oughta be good 'nuff fer children today.

It's Robert B. Raeford ranting against those pushy parents.

Who are supposed to be more involved in their kid's education. LMAO.

bill said...

Oh, I don't know. I watched other parents do their kids' science fair projects for them while mine went to school with the equivalent of Calvin's bug collection. I knew my kids would be more self sufficient than the others when they got to college and mom wasn't there every day to wake them up and do their homework for them. You know what? I was wrong. While my kids are doing fine in college - one has already graduated - the other kids are too. Helicopter your kids all you want, because the reality is you're doing it for you, not for them. The helicopter will eventually not have the necessary range to hover over your child, and he or she will probably be old enough and smart enough to figure out how to get rid of a mouse by then.

Anonymous said...

Oops - I'm the guilty teacher. I absolutely need to apologize for the obvious error. I had typed something else, backed out of it but did not catch the entire correction. I really did not mean to cause such anger with my comments.

Morton's Fork said...

You have to be some odd sort of armchair educator and part-time failed psychologist to actually cite Hiam Ginott while babbling about accompanying joy.

Let's just throw this quote of his out there and leave it at that: “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
― Haim G. Ginott, Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers

Anonymous said...

I have children aged 29 to 16 (4 of them). All of this parental hovering started sometimes in the 11 years between my number 2 and 3 children. About the mid to later 1990's. It all started when some Mama hijacked the end of the season soccer party and said "Everyone needs to get a trophy for participation". Down hill from there. A prime local example is all of the Mama's up at Ole Miss this past weekend holding their little darling's hand when the princess is going through Rush.

It is crazy and insane, and no wonder while these children remain children. The parents refuse to let them grow up and fail. The strongest lessons I ever learned were through failures and major screwups on my behalf.

Anonymous said...

"A prime local example is all of the Mama's up at Ole Miss this past weekend holding their little darling's hand when the princess is going through Rush. "

I'm sure you are partially correct, but a big part of that scene is the fading ingenues (sp?) living vicariously through their daughters.

Anonymous said...

Looking for no nonsense guidance? John Rosemond to the rescue!
I realized that my following his philosophy was turning things around in my home when my teenager came home from school one day, saw one of Rosemond's books on the table, turned to his younger brother and said, "Watch out! She's been reading John Rosemond again!"

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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