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It’s Time to Let Go! Boomers as Helicopter Parents

November 16, 2009

Segments of the Baby Boomer population (including some Gen Xers) have been getting an increasingly bad reputations for being control freaks with their teens, especially when it comes to education. Just read stories about Helicopter Parents (HPs), hovering over their kids while they try to make career decisions. Parents who not only try to control the steering wheel on where to go to college, what to study, who to hang out with, etc., but those who phone professors to ream them out over little Johnny’s or Suzie’s bad marks. It gets worse. This is unbelievable, but some parents are actually try to insert themselves into the job interview process of their kids. What the heck is that about?? I can just picture my dad doing that when I was young. Not from that old Scotsman!

Of course, most parents don’t engage in these bizarre practices-or maybe rituals is more apt. We older Boomers have our own faults, but I don’t recall any of my peers doing this when I was younger (my four “kids” are now between 20 and 30).

It seems that it’s mostly younger Boomers in their forties and the upper end of Gen X that is practicing these behaviors. I don’t know where society went wrong, but given all the other weird stuff that people are doing it shouldn’t be a surprise to see parents attempting to live the lives of their children.

I’ve recently written several posts about Gen Y and what it has to offer society, including:
What Can Gen Y Teach Baby Boomers
Hey Gen Y! Can You Become Untouchable?
Generation Y’s Job Plight: 12 Tips for Gen Y

This cohort, between 12 and 30, possesses a lot of self-confidence, especially those in their twenties. They’re well educated, articulate and technologically highly literate. Yes, they’ve been whacked big-time by The Great Recession, and are being called The Lost Generation by BusinessWeek magazine.

What control-freak parents–Helicopter Parents–don’t comprehend is the lasting damage they’re causing their kids. In a world of growing complexity, turmoil, speed and increasing global competition, new entrants to the labor market MUST be able to cope on their own and adapt. When Mommy and Daddy want to keep spoon-feeding and controlling their kids, all the while when they’re trying to make career decisions and go out into the world on their own, what the parents are inadvertently doing is setting them up for failure.

What I’d suggest is that these types of parents need to create their own support group, call it HPA–Helicopter Parents Anonymous. When a HP is getting that nervous twitch or reaching for the phone to call the Dean of Admissions, he or she could call the HPA number taped to the family phone.

You may laugh at this suggestion, but it’s not so funny if you’re a young person who’s trying his or her best to venture forth into the big scary world. Maybe a support group called KHP–Kids of Helicopter Parents–is also needed.

And to support this, here’s an abstinence pledge for Helicopter Parents:

“As a former young person who had to learn to make my own career decisions and choices, and who along the way has made mistakes yet learned from them, I hereby pledge to throw the keys to my helicopter into the ocean.”

Can you do that, HPs?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2009 8:17 pm

    I’m not crazy about helicopter parents either. However, the other extreme is even worse — parents who aren’t involved in their children’s lives. They don’t take an interest in their kids’ school work, friends or activities. And if the parents don’t care, neither do the kids.

  2. November 16, 2009 2:33 pm

    Thanks Geoff. How true. Like your Dad’s comment. Having gone through the teenage years four times, it was a lot easier when my kids were little. Didn’t have to worry about jail back then 🙂

  3. Geoff permalink
    November 16, 2009 2:30 pm

    I saw this trend starting firsthand about 10 years ago when I was at UCLA. Parents were coming to campus and standing in line with their kids to “help” them check in to dorms, buy books, register for classes.

    I remember commenting when I first saw this that I would have died from embarrassment if my folks had done the same – but, I guess it’s all these kids have ever known. They aren’t aware that they’re supposed to be embarrassed!

    I always appreciated my Dad’s comments on parenting, “You do your best until they are about eight years old – then you spend the rest of the time just hoping they don’t end up in jail.”

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