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Helicopter parenting and bulldozer parenting are bad for everyone — including parents

Dave_BerryDave_Berry 492 replies2600 threadsCC Admissions Expert Senior Member
"If you’re like many parents, sometime in the last month or so you gave up the better part of a weekday evening to attend back-to-school night. Perhaps you stuffed your body awkwardly into a tiny chair made for second-graders while obediently writing down field trip dates. Maybe you leaned forward eagerly as you learned about the new grading system your sixth-grader faces, seeking reassurance your child won’t be overwhelmed in this unfamiliar system." ...

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Replies to: Helicopter parenting and bulldozer parenting are bad for everyone — including parents

  • mackinawmackinaw 3024 replies53 threads Senior Member
    I hear ya, Ultimom! Intensity and tensions -- and competition -- have really ramped up in the last decade or two, since my kids applied to college. ED? Never considered it or even strategized about it. Independent paid college advisor? No way -- we knew our kids infinitely better than they did. We knew all their strengths and weaknesses. Test prep? Couldn't convince our kids to do any of it; they got better each time they took the tests, however, for various programs (including summer precollege programs); and they did well enough to get into great colleges.

    And we didn't have to worry about (or even ever think about) some rich parents gaming the system.

    The main advice I try to offer is to "know thy own children." Help them to discover their talents. We did that in part via lessons in this and that, and in summer programs such as debate camps and pre-college art. They did have talents that were manifested in their applications (including portofolios and prizes). Just keep them to a calendar that gets the tests and materials ready.
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  • MassmommMassmomm 3977 replies82 threads Senior Member
    Standing up and applauding @ultimom
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  • MassmommMassmomm 3977 replies82 threads Senior Member
    I actually had helicopter parents in the 1970s, although I didn't realize that's what they were until very recently. I just thought of them as controlling. I knew I did not want my kids to grow up the same way, but as @ultimom says so eloquently, the system sets us up to helicopter.

    One small example: my kids' middle school set up a grade portal for parents. It was updated almost daily. I never checked it until the end of the semester, but the school knew exactly which parent logged in and when. At the parent teacher conference, my son's math teacher asked me why I had not been checking his grades regularly. He had a B in the class and I was fine with that, but I was a slacker for not logging in often enough.
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  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 273 replies5 threads Junior Member
    I see both sides - yes the expectation of parental involvement at schools is too much. But no one is demanding parental control of their students’ actual learning. That is a self-fulfilling prophesy. It is perceived as necessary to have a kid compete. People do it because everyone else is doing it. No one forces high school parents to monitor homework on the school’s portal.

    Should schools be better funded so as not to rely on parental contributions? Sure. But that has nothing to do with snowplowing. Snowplowing parents exist in boarding schools and private schools and even college - where no parental involvement is expected or desired.

    Personally, I think it is insane the lengths and expense parents think they have to go to (myself included) to give their kids the best shot at life. It is an arms race, and we all lose, especially the kids. I wish we could all just sign a treaty - to stop cold all of the excessive programs, tutors, competition, etc. We (our kids) are at a breaking point.
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  • GKUnionGKUnion 202 replies7 threads Junior Member
    There’s a reason campus mental health services are overwhelmed by an epidemic of anxious students, and snowplow parenting is partially to blame.
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  • jmnva06jmnva06 769 replies7 threads Member
    If you object to this you are the problem.

    " can’t be done without parent help. "-- totally your choice
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  • ClassicMom98ClassicMom98 153 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I'm not so sure about that. I remember plenty of assignments in the K-6 years that required my signature stating that I had done X,Y,Z as part of the homework assignment with my kid.

    So my choices were
    1 - don't do it, refuse to sign - kid takes a 0.
    2- don't do it, sign that I did - kid gets credit and learns it's ok to lie if you think rules are stupid
    3 - suck it up and do it and sign as directed.

    I'd estimate we would average at least one of these assignments every quarter. I hated doing it but I didn't see one and two as acceptable choices.

    But the general philosophy behind the statement, I agree.
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  • natty1988natty1988 654 replies8 threads Member
    In my day parents only really came to school if their kid got in trouble or their kid got sick in the middle of the day and had to go home. They'd also come to watch a play, band concert or game or the end of the year awards ceremony and of course graduation. But that was about it. Maybe they'd come help out if the school was doing some big event and they needed a lot of extra help. But I'd imagine for most parents the PTA was about the extent of their involvement. My mom was in the PTA and she and my dad came to watch me in a play when I was in 4th grade and they came to the end of the year awards ceremony in High school when I won something. But we didn't have room parents and I don't remember ever having parents on field trips.
    But nowadays, my god!
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  • mathmommathmom 32457 replies159 threads Senior Member
    One of the things our PTA did was lobby to get the Science Fair organized so that kids could work on projects at school. We provide boards and mentors for kids so that everyone could get the kind of support the projects required.
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  • Leigh22Leigh22 684 replies9 threads Member
    I think parents have to shoulder some of the blame. Some just can’t step back and - gasp!- let their kids fail. Or not even fail - just be average for Pete’s sake! Throughout elementary school I saw projects obviously completed by parents that their kids could have completed alone. I believe this becomes more of an issue is wealthier school districts.
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  • elodyCOHelodyCOH 393 replies24 threads Member
    I agree somewhat with the author that some of the expectations that parents be hyper involved at the middle and high school ages have stunted the kids' development. The poster who said that the school is keeping track of high school parents' logins to the students' portal? At what point is it the student's responsibility to do their own homework, remember when assignments are due, and to be held accountable for work?

    I also agree with the poster who said that schools have become dependent on parent volunteers for programs in the schools. Reading interventionists were all paid for by PTO groups, as were electronics for teachers, supplies, and other things that the district didn't buy. How can you both rely on the parents being there, but also have a culture where the parents back off appropriately?

    The world my kids had for school was vastly different from the one I grew up in.

    My world growing up in the 70s:

    No parents attended practices of any kind, for any age kid. They dropped them off and then came back at the end. Parents would come to the game or the show, but not to the practice and they didn't hover over you.

    No parent volunteers in the classroom, ever. Your class of 40-50 kids behaved, or they got in big trouble at school. You got in trouble at school, your parents gave you more trouble at home. No parent was calling and trying to get you out of detention, or trying to excuse you from writing that extra report. You had to take your lumps.

    No play dates. You went out. You might run into friends, or you might just entertain yourself. You sure as heck weren't going to be entertained by your parents all day.

    My parents had lives of their own, they took care of us and they loved us, but their entire day did not revolve around what we were doing as kids.

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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78559 replies695 threads Senior Member
    elodyCOH wrote: »
    My world growing up in the 70s:

    No play dates. You went out. You might run into friends, or you might just entertain yourself. You sure as heck weren't going to be entertained by your parents all day.

    Yes, kids back then would go play with their friends on their own. Parents typically just wanted the kids home by dinner time.

    Also, kids back then walked or bicycled to school (or maybe the school bus stop) on their own starting in early elementary school.

    Now it seems that there is enforced helicopter parenting in that a kid who goes home or anywhere without a parent after school will get the parents accused of child neglect: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/13/parents-investigated-letting-children-walk-alone/25700823/
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  • Mom2aphysicsgeekMom2aphysicsgeek 4584 replies56 threads Senior Member
    I think the assumption that it is parental involvement in kids' educations or even their daily lives is an over simplification. Based on that reasoning, homeschooled kids would automatically be at a serious disadvantage in terms of independent functioning. Not our experience. Our kids (with the exception of our disabled Aspie) are on autopilot and self-directed by high school. And, goodness, you can't be more involved in kids' daily educations than I have been with ours. I am their primary teacher from K-12. (But, I don't micromanage my kids. They have to be responsible for their decisions. They know that success depends on their being responsible for themselves.)

    I have talked to parents of school kids and what we expect from our kids exceeds what they do from theirs. For example, applying to college. I expect my kids to self-study for the SAT or ACT, register for the test, and decide how they are going to meet their budgetary constraints for college attendance based on their own personal performance and motivation. As an example, our current high school sr didn't register for a test last school yr. The stress over that decision was not ours as her parents. It was hers. We had told her if she didn't take the test, attending the local CC or getting a job were her only options. No way we were taking ownership over her future. It is hers to deal with and make what she makes of it. Over the summer she studied, registered, took it in August, and scored well enough to be one and done in order afford the school she wants to attend. She is now excited and motivated about next yr. Good bc that isn't something you can do for someone else. They need to do it for themselves. (And if she hadn't, she would have had to figure out what she was going to do.....whether that meant more testing or the local CC or whatever. )

    I am not sure what the distinction is, but I don't think it is as simple as it is negative to be involved parents. Transitioning to adulthood in our home means they need to make adult decisions for themselves.

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  • EmpireappleEmpireapple 1799 replies26 threads Senior Member
    ultimom thank you! Perfect said!!!
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1448 replies35 threads Senior Member
    I don't think helicopter-parenting is about how much time you spend with your kids, or even how involved you are in their development. It's about micromanaging their lives, and/or directing their activities toward goals set by the parents, or even making decisions for them, leaving little room for their kids to discover their own interests, exploring their own pathways, making their own "mistakes" that are essential to the process of learning. Let the kids have enough "downtime" to reflect, to ponder on whatever things they're curious about. Let them make their "mistakes" at their young age so they won't make these mistakes when they grow older and the mistakes become more consequential. Help them make their own decisions so they become independent and confident.
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  • mackinawmackinaw 3024 replies53 threads Senior Member
    Times have (apparently) changed. The large public high school that my two children attended was quite laid back about college admissions a decade and a half ago. Perhaps one reason is that this community had a fairly large percentage of parents who were college educated -- including many college professors.

    But I think the main reason is that the school's counseling staff was realistic in thinking that only a small percentage of the seniors would be expecting to attend elite colleges or out-of-state colleges. At a meeting with parents late in the junior years of our students, the advising staff urged parents not to be too ambitious. Our kids shouldn't plan on applying to more than 3 or 4 colleges, and among those would likely be the flagship or regional public universities in our state, plus maybe one private college. Not out-of-state colleges; after all, we have many fine colleges. Oh what an innocent era those counselors lived in.

    My spouse and I thought the counselors were sillly. Many students in our university town might have ambitions to attend college our of state, Virtually all of their parents had attended college out of state! As a professor myself, I thought I had a pretty good sense of the lay of the land of colleges around the country.

    Given this orientation by the high school counseling staff, we decided only to rely on them for essential things: transcripts, the counselor's letter (if required), and keeping us advised of testing dates. We (parents and our kids) had to determine which faculty members should be asked to write letters of recommendation. We had to determine which general and advanced tests the students should take. We had to help our children to explore the higher education universe, by gathering information from books, magazines, websites, and people whom we knew. We had to continue to monitor the kids' course selection, including any special programs that might be helpful -- in music, art, athletics, debate, math, computer programming, and so on.

    Given this set-up, we think our kids did very well in the process and the outcomes of their college searches. But we know some of their friends screwed things up because the school didn't advise them sufficiently. They might have benefited from having paid college admissions counselors. But nobody who we knew at the time called on such people. Neither our kids nor most of their friends got involved in on-line college admissions discussion boards. I did, however, while the kids focused on their school programs, EC's, and standardized tests.

    Were we helicopter parents? I don't think so. The kids pretty much did what they wanted to do, chose their own EC's, took the required general and advanced tests, and were developing special skills and picking up awards for their EC's (journalism, debate, art, etc.). So when it came to making applications, the kids were pretty much all set to go. They had to make some decisions about possible majors and college options, do the tests, and focus on their schoolwork. But they didn't devote a lot of time to the college applications, except for their essays.
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  • jagrrenjagrren 25 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Agree. I am a teacher now, and a handful of kids were misbehaving for a substitute. I told them to write an apology letter. One girl's father sent me a lawyer letter asking for my evidence, and stating he wanted to interview the sub. This was 5th grade.
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  • jagrrenjagrren 25 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I'm not a home schooler, but I think sensible parents can have successful, independent kids however they educate their kids.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 23239 replies17 threads Senior Member
    IMO some of the parents who push so hard don't believe in their kids, a la the Varsity Blues parents 'fixing' things that aren't broken. It's not good enough not to succeed in something but their kids have to be the best.

    The kids seem to just go along with it.

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