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Jewish World Review
Nov. 20, 2006
/ 29 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767
Helicopter parents have got to come down to earth
Apparently, a helicopter parent's job is never done.
That's essentially the conclusion of Tara Weiss in her article, "Are Parents Killing Their Kids' Careers?" It's currently featured on Forbes.com, the Web site of Forbes Magazine.
Let's backtrack. "Helicopter parent" has become the term for describing moms and dads who fearfully hover so closely over every aspect of their children's lives often long into their adult years that the "kids" have a hard time becoming adults at all.
It starts early. Time magazine, in a cover article last year on "Parents Behaving Badly," recounted the experience of a Tennessee teacher who "contends with parents who insist, in writing, that their children are never to be reprimanded or even corrected." This teacher laments that when she started teaching 31 years ago, she could be honest with parents about their kids. "Now we handle parents a lot more delicately" she says.
And they don't let up, reports Time. "Mara Sapon-Shevin, an education professor at Syracuse University, has had college students tell her they were late for class because their mothers didn't call to wake them up that morning. She has had students call their parents from the classroom on a cell phone to complain about a low grade and then pass the phone over to her, in the middle of class, because the parent wanted to intervene."
Hear the "whir" of the propellers overhead?
Now these kids are ready for their job interviews and more and more, Mom and Dad are, too! "Last year I had a parent sit in the lobby and wait the entire four hours during the job interview," one recruiter told Weiss. Mom was introduced to the recruiter afterward without there being any sense on the part of mother or daughter that Mom shouldn't have been there. Another recruiter received a phone call from "the mother of a 24-year-old graduate student who wanted to know why her daughter didn't receive a job offer."
Pam Engle, vice president of human resources at BB&T Bank, has had parents "present themselves very attractively, saying 'I'm so-and-so's mom, and can we set up the job interview?' "
Weiss writes that recruiters across the board are finding these behaviors so common that they are adopting policies to deal with them. While they typically don't like the parents' involvement, a few companies have a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude and are including the parents in their recruiting efforts.
Some folks argue that it's encouraging to see such support between the generations. But I'm guessing there are ways to have that rapport without essentially living our children's lives for them. Are helicopter parents really doing their children any good, anyway? Surely such parents are one reason 20 percent of adults between the ages of 22 and 26 double the rate of 30 years ago are living with Mom and Dad, often rent-free.
As Time put it on yet another cover last year, referring to these young adults: "Meet the Twixters, young adults who live off their parents, bounce from job to job and hop from mate to mate. ... They Just Won't Grow Up." Exactly. But at some point these birds have got to learn to fly on their own. If they wait too long, it may be too late.
In other words, if they can't handle the job-interview process on their own or for that matter, a bad grade in school or the admonishment of a teacher what happens when they have to face real adversity for the first time? Adversity such as experiencing a job loss or other career setback, having a spouse who walks out the door, rearing a disabled child, suffering the tragic death of a dear friend?
Or maybe, if they are really fortunate, it will never get that serious. Maybe that child's adult life will never present worse problems than just a terrible fight with a husband or wife, or a child with a mild but frustrating learning disability.
But, there will be something that their parents can't handle for them. And helicopter parents do their children no favors by not allowing them to exercise their wings a little before they really have to fly on their own.
Oh, and there's something else. As Weiss recounts, Pam Engle that vice president at BB&T said she "has yet to hire a recent graduate whose parent accompanied them to an interview."
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