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Reasons for Helicopter Parents

by Laura Agadoni

Helicopter parents earn the moniker by constantly hovering over their children, not letting their little darlings make a move without their consent or help. College admissions personnel were the first to comment on the phenomenon, and many admissions staff make no bones about their disdain for parents who “can’t let their kids go,” according to Kathleen Elliott Vinson, professor of legal writing at Suffolk University Law School. But helicopter parents have reasons for their actions, which usually demonstrate that they have good intentions.

In College

The reason behind helicopter parenting with college kids is partly an extension of an entire lifestyle of helicopter parenting that might have begun as early as pregnancy. Many parents can’t simply stop the behavior just because their child is entering college. Another reason is economic insecurity, says Vinson. In an uncertain economic climate, parents might be anxious for their child to succeed and want to ensure he gets into college. Once the child is accepted into a college -- preferably a high-ranking institution -- and especially if the parent is paying for it, that parent might want to monitor grades to ensure the child remains in the college. The helicopter parent might also want to ensure she is getting her money’s worth regarding what her child is learning in the college she is paying for.

In Elementary School

Many elementary schools encourage and ask for parental involvement. It’s common to have a “room mother” who helps the teacher coordinate various activities throughout the school year. Parents are particularly needed to help with after-school or extracurricular activities, such as sports, dance and scout meetings. Being involved in a child’s school can help a child succeed, and parents are generally expected to prepare their child for standardized tests, according to College Parents of America. It’s sometimes tough for parents to know where to draw the line between being an involved parent and an over-involved one.

Technology Makes It Easy

Many schools allow parents to log into the school account as often as they like to see their child’s grades. Cellphones make it possible for parents to keep in constant contact with their children. Many children use social media, and many parents insist on monitoring the activity. This gives parents a fly-on-the-wall experience that never existed before. It’s often difficult for parents not to micromanage kids with the technology that exists today, says Thomas Plante, professor of psychology at Santa Clara University in California.

Parents Want the Best

Though helicoptering can have some unintended bad results, such as raising a child who isn’t prepared to function independently in the world, parents who helicopter usually do so because they want what’s best for their child. Maybe the helicopter parent was neglected by her parents, and she is overcompensating. Or maybe helicopter parents just want to protect their child from harm and to be their child’s best advocate.

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