The Supervision Surplus
As the days of landlines, bike rides and “be home by sundown” orders have dissipated and the prevalence of cell phone restrictions and educational competition has risen, families have formed a newer dynamic of monitoring children. This has led American society toward overprotective parenting and the negative influence on personal growth that comes with it.
The term "helicopter parenting" was coined back in 1990 by child development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay in their book, Parenting With Love and Logic. "They hover over and then rescue their children whenever trouble arises," the authors wrote at the time. In an updated and expanded version of the book, Cline and Fay wrote, "These parents are obsessed with a desire to create a perfect world for their kids...one in which they never have to face struggle, inconvenience, [or] discomfort.” Overprotective parenting in modern-day childhoods is influencing not only the self-efficacy of people as they eventually enter adulthood, but is also seen as an anxiety provoker.
Oftentimes being inexperienced with flying solo and not worrying about parental input can influence a young adult’s ability to feel secure in their decisions. Encounters with domineering parent figures can come with implications of anxiety and a reduction in general adaptability, according to the article “Hovering Can Hinder Transition to Adulthood.” A young adult’s ability to develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving has a correlation to their surrounding stressors, both socially and academically.
Mrs. Kelly O'Neil Kriss, current principal at Petaluma Junior High School and former assistant principal of Petaluma High School, commented, “These [helicopter] parents swoop in to save their child at the first sign of trouble. I personally feel these students don't learn how to problem-solve or figure things out on their own.”
There are many different stereotyped and labeled parenting styles that have developed over time. This is a tricky subject to discuss because there is no rule book for how to raise children, but there can be some side effects on the way children view their power and authority figures. Kriss has coined her own term, the Stealth Fighter parent, who she claims is the extreme helicopter parent. She said, “Their child can do no wrong. They are the ones who write their kids' essays or do their school project, will show up at an interview with them, refuse their child do anything without their approval or involvement... If a teacher calls home, it's not what did my child do, it's what did you do to my child to make them act this way.”
The rise in hovering parents has especially become a problem within administrative work and student success. Young adults entering the workforce, college, high school and even middle school should be learning how to advocate for themselves, while also finding a balance with familial guidance. Institutions are aware of how parent-child relationships may affect their student’s learning, as many may receive overbearing or unnecessary requests and questions from parental figures. It is noted that schools often recommend creating healthy peer connections and a sense of community within school environments to initiate distance from control. According to the article “The Effect of an Overbearing Caregiving Style on Peer Attachment and Self-Efficacy,” by Daniel Ingen, adolescents who were secure with their peer relationships and not overly connected to their parents had more sympathy and less depression and aggression due to their ability to freely socialize and experience the world for themselves.
Being able to recognize these parental plowing and hovering tendencies, as well as having an honest discussion about fairness and integrity in both parties, is a step in the right direction. When the hovering approach becomes a lifestyle, many kids begin to tune out and lose their critical thinking and ultimately the “lessons” can turn into a destructive relationship.
Some may argue that as parents provide financial support, since money rules the world, they rightfully hold structural authority regarding their student’s whereabouts and academic integrity. This phase of parenting is often where the lines are blurred because they are still providing support for their student’s livelihood even as their children become adults themselves. We live in a complicated society where teenagers cannot usually strike gold on their own when they turn eighteen; parents help with emotional investment and the cost of creating a “successful life.”
There are always exceptions or varying levels of fundamental parental control. Before this adulting phase of life, for some academically troubled teens or rowdy children, a sheltered and controlling parenting style can be arguably necessary. Many parents of children with depressive moods, substance abuse issues, learning disabilities or other concerns have validity in why they may be more heavily involved.
We need to nurture, not coddle, our children. Parenting practices need to change in America so that a greater majority of young adults can hold their own and we can foster a new era of independence and self-worth. Although I recognize that in reality, with the right institutions or economic position, parenting culture will adjust, as the Washington Post once discussed in “The Parent Trap,” we have the obligation to recognize boundaries in our overprotective parenting schemas.