(Opinion) Helicopter parents

Heather Thome and her daughters Charlotte Thome, 3, (LEFT) and Hannah Thome, 7, (RIGHT) play at their Tustin, California, home on July 11, 2013. Thome says she is no "helicopter parent."


Most parents probably coddle their kids at some point, typically when their children are at a very young age. It is understandable why some parents would coddle their children from the time of birth to the tween years, since between those ages, kids are the most dependent on them. However, once children enter young adulthood — especially their college years — heavy parental coddling and the subsequent dependence it creates is both extremely bizarre in nature and detrimental to their children.

These types of parents can be classified as “helicopter parents,” meaning they are overprotective or take an excessive interest in their children’s lives. According to Carolyn Daitch, director for the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, helicopter parents typically take too much responsibility for their children’s experiences and, specifically, for their successes and failures. This is where the problem of over-coddling and its resulting dependence arises.

Excessively coddling children when they are young is justifiable. They have not learned how to be fully independent, and are not at an age where they need to learn how to do so. It is the parents’ job to essentially run their children’s lives at this point. For example, it is reasonable for a parent to schedule after-school activities and meal times when their children are young. However, a major problem arises when these same parenting habits are carried over into a child’s early adulthood, especially the college years.

I, like many others, assume that most college-aged kids are able to complete the basic tasks essential to living on their own, ranging from taking out the trash to making meals to going to the store. This assumption is proven wrong upon one glance at the Virginia Tech Parents Facebook page. Believe it or not, there are kids in college that do not know or have little knowledge of how to do any of these things on their own because of parental over-coddling. 

Having lived their entire pre-college lives at home being cosseted and sheltered by their parents, these students struggle immensely with the sudden independence that comes with living in a dorm or an off-campus apartment.

Since they have always had a helicopter parent on whom to depend, these students feel like they have to fill that void. They therefore become overly reliant on those in their immediate circles, like roommates or friends, and depend on others for everything they were not taught by their parents or forced to do themselves back at home. Simple tasks such as taking out the trash, dealing with bills and preparing meals present a huge challenge for these kids, as they have always had a parent to do it for them. 

These are not the only noticeable effects. According to Deborah Gilboa, M.D., founder of AskDoctorG.com, while parents usually have good intentions, there are some long-term consequences of over-coddling. These include, but are not limited to, decreased self confidence and self-esteem, undeveloped coping skills, increased anxiety, a sense of entitlement and undeveloped life skills in children. 

The problem is aggravated even further when helicopter parents try to continue coddling their college kids from home. While most people in college get care packages from time to time with snacks from home, sending a child meals to last for weeks at a time, for example, is simply ridiculous. Similarly, parents should not be dealing with the day-to-day activities of their college student’s life, such as handling bills or problems in their dorm or apartment. As college-aged individuals, they should be able to do all these things either by themselves or with minimal assistance. Getting parents involved should be a last resort. 

While it is understandable that parents want to protect their children and ensure they have the greatest quality of life possible, the type of attention given by helicopter parents is both unnecessary and detrimental in the long run, chiefly when it concerns college-aged children. Parents that continue to hover over their children’s lives, coddling and babying them, are doing their children a disservice. Now, having lived their lives up to this point with a parent to constantly depend on and defer to, these kids lack the foundation to create an independent lifestyle.

It is not entirely predictable how this excessive parenting will affect them later in life, when their biggest concern is no longer getting meals from mom, but paying a mortgage or maintaining a career. Ultimately, I would guess that many of these “helicopter children” are bound to be chewed up and spit out by the harsh reality of the real world, all thanks to their parents.

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