Overactive, or “helicopter,” parenting is harmful to both the independence and general well-being of a young adult’s immersion into the collegiate world.
When children are young, an example of helicopter parenting would be not letting your children play outside for fear that they may fall and hurt themselves. For adults, this can range from parents accessing their child’s grades to dictating what they can major in, or even calling an interviewer about a job because their child was not hired.
This overbearing, or helicopter, parenting style has emerged rapidly among families of current and rising college students. Good intentions usually lie behind the reasons why some parents do this — they do not want their children to fail — but this mentality can be harmful in the long term.
According to a Psychology Today article, “college-aged students whose parents are overly involved in their academic lives, or whose parents created rigidly structured childhood environments, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may also experience academic difficulties.”
Students with overactive parents are usually given limited academic freedom and personal independence. Many don’t get jobs while in school because their parents financially support them, but this can reduce their professional experience, which is necessary for the current job market. Some students never learn how to do basic household chores or important life skills, like how to pay bills or how to drive, because of their parent’s involvement.
Some students and parents may see this parenting style as helpful because the parents provide financial support and are more involved than hands-off parents, but the results of this overactive parenting style can seriously hinder students when it comes to their independent and professional development.
“Parents have a right to know how you’re doing if they’re paying for your school, but there is a line to how involved they should be,” junior biology major Ethan Campbell-Reid said. “Parents are responsible for making sure their children are developing healthy relationships with people. If they are over-imposing, they won’t be able to gain skills to form relationships.”
It’s worth noting that this mentality can be different across many cultures. In some cultures, if a parent is financially supporting a child’s educational experience, they believe that they have a right to monitor and restrict activities for their children.
“In Nigeria, it’s the parent’s responsibility to see their children do well in college,” Chigozie Obonna, a junior electrical engineering technician, said. “If the parent can’t help, then they are to blame if their child is unable to go to college. It’s an investment for them.”
Even so, students should be able to choose their own path and what they wish to do in life, preferably with the support from their parents, not control. This is not to say that parents should not help their children at all or never hold them accountable for their actions. It’s easy to understand the desire to watch your children succeed.
Ultimately, the best way to help college students succeed is to let them learn to do things by themselves. It is important to grow from your mistakes rather than become accustomed to someone fixing your problems for you.