The Essence of Helicopter Parenting


By Will Clemons

In recent years, there have been quite a few incidents in the realm of higher education of students creating socio-political problems for themselves from other inconsequential problems. The colleges are allowing the students to maintain their old habits, while whining about it.

For example, in December of 2015, a group of kids from Oberlin College in Ohio complained that the school’s food court’s cooking of sub-par sushi is “cultural appropriation.” This event received nationwide coverage, and soon people across the country were either praising the kids for fighting the good fight, or ridiculing them for reacting like children to their made-up problems.

Lena Dunham, American actress and director, claimed that, “The press reported it as, ‘How crazy are Oberlin kids?’ But to me it was actually, ‘Right on!’” Many people took to social media to agree with Dunham, and soon, many decided the students were right. But why do these students feel that they need to be so defensive about poorly prepared sushi?

The cause of this issue, where Millennials start a storm over someone doing something they don’t like, stems from a generation of helicopter parenting. This is a style of parenting where parents use the convenience of the internet to constantly watch over their children, make their decisions for them, and prevent them from taking responsibility and facing challenges. From this, children don’t learn basic social skills with strangers, have a lack of drive for success past academia, and don’t know how to respond appropriately to issues they have, disagreements, or any sort of pressure.

Parenting has changed now that Generation X’ers and early Generation Y’ers have reached this stage. Understanding these generations easily explains why they parent this way. Generation X is regarded as the first generation of “Latchkey Kids” because they had some of the highest daycare and divorce rates. For example, during the year 1950, roughly ten years before what is referred to as “Gen X”, 1,667,231 divorces occurred in the US. In the year 1970, the number jumped to 2,158,802, a nearly 30% increase. The group is generalized to be skeptic. They have fears of a broken home, lack of financial planning, and grew up in a home without proper parenting.

Now, the pieces come together. Generation X’ers are afraid of neglecting their children, and of their children not having a stable job and income, so they feel comforted knowing that their children are safe. Now with cell phones, parents can have constant communication with their children, which adds to the overbearing element.

Since Millennial children have always had a “mentor”, even though their parents feel secure in their children’s short-term security, many lack the foresight to see that students will be unable to cope with the real world outside of their “safe spaces” at college and without their mothers holding their hands through school.

Ever wonder why some claim that liberal arts majors spend their lives as baristas living in their parent’s basements? Modern parents think that liberal arts students have a less stable source of income, and it’s showing. In the year 1990, David Breneman, an author focusing on the liberal arts in college level education, wrote an article, “Are We Losing Our Liberal Arts Colleges?”, where he listed 212 state-level institutions that fit the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s criteria of being a liberal arts college. In 2010, another article was posted, following up on Breneman’s, stating that of the 212 institutions listed, only 130 still count as focusing on liberal arts, a major decline of 39%. Now that the common consensus is that the humanities career path is unstable compared to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field, colleges have begun to make drastic changes to their curriculum.

Still, the fears and anxieties that modern parents face are understandable. With many Generation Xer’s raised more independently, they want to provide a perfect childhood for own their children to make up for their own. The internet allows for a constant stream of communication with friends, family, but also strangers. Information is much less private, and parents feel insecure about their child’s safety. This is the complete opposite of how their parent’s felt about their child’s ability to care for themselves.

Now it’s actually becoming more common for graduates to move back in with their parents, sometimes to pay off student loans, or because they want to build up their bank account. Now a guy living in his parents’ basement is less of a social stigma.This group of people, now known as “boomerang kids”, could be completely reliant on their parents, or just moving back for convenience. This is partially their parent’s fault. Helicopter parenting keeps kids from wanting to become self-sufficient. As a result, this makes them lose a drive to succeed, keeps them from wanting to be challenged, and they will throw a tantrum when they feel any sort of pressure.

Not every child of this generation is a lazy crybaby, and not every parent of this generation is an overprotective coward. However, the latest statistics from colleges, explain how recently about 70% of school-age Americans will go to a 4 year college, but only about 60% actually graduate, and 30% drop out after their first year. It just goes to show that things are changing, as they do when a new generation takes form. This time, though, a certain amount of reliance and weakness may become the new norm.

It appears that this will not be a temporary occurrence. Not only do one in five college graduates live with their parents, but they’re staying home for longer. Many claim they want to ensure their financial security, but as time goes on they become more and more reliant on their parents. It doesn’t help that roughly sixty percent of these people get financial support from their parents.

There may be factors other than just bad parenting though. It’s coming to light, since foreign trade and technological advances are prevalent, that the working class, especially those just coming into their own now, are having trouble finding a good long term job. Perhaps that’s also why parents are being so protective of their children, since they witnessed first-hand the Recession, and want to prevent their kids from going paycheck to paycheck. Thus, they are more accepting of kids living with their parents for a few more years.

If nothing else, it’s important for parents to remember that overparenting does exist. It can cause damage to a child’s growth, and to allow your children to make mistakes and get hurt. It can only get better from that. The only unchangeable force in the universe is time, and they’ll need to go to college, get a real job, and start a real family eventually. Supporting one’s family in desperate times is important, but one push their kids toward success. Helicopter parenting can negatively affect a child’s development, both mentally and emotionally, and is definitely not fully understood yet, so just about everyone living in this generation should keep in mind their goals, and don’t make a fuss if someone “invades your safe space.” So there is two unchangeable forces in the universe, that time moves forward and people will always search for something to complain about.

Categories: News, Uncategorized

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