By Joe Rector
Thwack! Thwack! Thawck! The sound grows louder as the sky fills with the same sound coming from hundreds or even thousands as they hover. What can it be? Helicopter parents are either constantly present or on call to sweep into any situations that might arise. It’s a different world from the one in which most of us grew up.
The smothering by parents begins early. Take a look at any sporting event. For instance, t-ball fields are loaded with players. Ringing the field is an army of canvas chair toting parents. Most of the participants have little knowledge of the game and even smaller attention spans. They dig in the dirt, sit in the outfield, or chase each other.
Moms and dads are steely eyed spectators. They expect to see their children on the field, not in the dugout. Dads are convinced that their offspring are superior athletes and should always be in the line-ups. They won’t hesitate to corner the coach to give him an earful about his incompetence. All parents are keenly aware of the score and urge the coaches to play to win, even if that means leaving someone else’s child on the bench for the entire game. Meanwhile, the most important thing to those little ones is finishing the game so that they can claim their snacks and drinks.
Parents circle the classroom and wait for something negative to occur. Then they dive bomb teachers;.the attacks come in the forms of emails, phone calls, and principal visits. An assigned low grade on a report card is viewed as a declaration of war by moms and dads. They demand to know what the problem is. Before long, the line, “My child has never made a grade below an A or B” booms from the parent. They also declare that a bad grade keeps their young scholars from obtaining scholarship offers from colleges. And even when kids go off to college, some parents continue to hover and will attack over low grades or make-up work policies .It’s not unheard of for parents to call or visit professors to discuss material content and grades.
The blame for such unacceptable grades is laid at the feet of the instructor. She is too hard; she doesn’t explain the material well enough; her classroom management prevents the child from learning. Nothing is ever the fault of students, those who refuse to pay attention in class or those who simply refuse to turn in assignments. If these two things are the reasons for low grades, moms want to know if their children can make up the work they’ve refused to do in the first place.
Even when young folks enter the workforce in permanent jobs, some moms and dads are sticking their noses where they don’t belong. They contact employers with concerns about their policies. Reports have aired that describe situations where parents come into businesses to argue with bosses over the disciplinary actions they’ve meted out to children, even though the “child” is a college graduate and an adult.
Some young adults can’t escape parents at all. It’s especially bad when they can’t afford to pay rent and end up in the basement of their parents’ house. Some moms snoop in their children’s possessions. They critique wardrobes and nag about personal hygiene. Dads still shotgun questions about groups and boyfriends or girlfriends. Both parents inappropriately inquire about finances. They want an accounting of every dime spent. Sometimes they contact bosses to plead for a bump in salary for their children.
Things are surely different from how most of us grew up. Our parents sent us to school with warnings that we’d better complete our work and behave. Trouble at school meant trouble at home. Moms and dads worked hard; they had little or no time to fit in our ball games that were nothing more than play. If we made it to college, already we knew not to mess around or any financial help that came from home would dry up. The last thing we wanted was to live at home again. Our time had come to spread our wings and fly. Parents felt the same way, and, as Bill Cosby put it, they wanted us out of the house before they died.
Life would be better all-round if parents quit over-protecting their children. The best way to survive in this world is to meet it head on. Mistakes become invaluable learning tools. They will never happen, and children will be forever handicapped in adult life if helicopter parents hover over their children.