7:12 PM | Posted in
One of the ever growing problems in education is the parent now labeled the "helicopter parent". No matter what the issue or the situation, the helicopter parent is ready to intervene on behalf of their child and actively solve their every problem. Unfortunately, this leaves no room for lessons to be learned or mistakes to be made on behalf of the student as the parent is ever ready to clean things up.

An article in the St. Cloud Times today discusses this phenomenon and offers advice:

College administrators have seen overly involved parents who call about every issue, no matter how small, and make decisions for their students. It’s not the norm, but sometimes parents need a reminder that college helps children grow up — and that lesson in reality is not always fun.

If my mother or father had ever called the university to complain or check up on my every move they would have seen such a fury of rage from me that it would likely never happen again. Thankfully, they never did and understood that I would succeed or fail on my own. It may not be pleasant to watch your child struggle but the rewards of that struggle will be much greater if you stay out and allow them to solve it than if you jump in and solve it for them.

This problem exists long before students reach college age and even though an engaged parent is a sign of an engaged student there is such thing as too much engagement. Parents must recognize those times when it is better to guide from the sidelines than lead the charge.

Here is my own advice for potential helicopter parents:
  • Offer advice but allow them to make the decision on which piece of advice to implement.
  • Encourage self advocacy. Whether it is middle school, high school, or college your child needs to learn that talking to their teachers is encouraged. If my students want to know why they received a certain grade or how to improve for next time I am more than happy to sit down with them. However, when parents feel the need to do this it generally appears that they care more about the grade than the student.
  • Choose your battles. Are there times to get involved? Yes, but this should occur when all other self advocacy options have been exhausted.
  • Don't assume that your child has given you the whole story. My father always said that he would fight for me but only if he was given all the available information. As such, I rarely had him do this because I either solved the problem or I was the problem and I wasn't about to let him find out.