Photo from sxc.hu
As Bart Simpson said, “Stop the hovering! … Why can’t you guys let us do things for ourselves?” In the episode “Father Knows Worst” from the 20th season of The Simpsons, Matt Groening addresses the issue of Helicopter Parents. A Helicopter Parent is a parent that is constantly “hovering” around their child(ren) in some way, shape or form, which leads to their child(ren) not knowing how to fend for themselves. Or worse, not wanting to do things on their own.
The term Helicopter Parent was foreign to me until I started working the front desk of my residence hall. We had a brief crash course that we were there to service the students, not their parents. Students, if you pay attention when you check into your building at the beginning of the semester, the student staff talks to you not your parents. Most parents I encountered didn’t seem to notice or care, but then there were those that get personally offended when they find out the university, residence halls included, won’t just hand over information to them about their child. Almost all college students are 18 years old when they arrive for their first semester, which makes them old enough to handle their own situations and problems.
Grilled cheese and turkey sandwich. Photo from sxc.hu.
Perhaps I took for granted what I had learned growing up because by the time I reached college I knew how to balance my own checkbook, do my own homework, socialize without being forced, drive and cook my own food. It blew my mind when I met people with debit cards that didn’t know how to balance a checkbook. I later learned it was because most of the time it wasn’t their money they were spending. A classmate from my final semester admitted to becoming a 22-year-old college graduate without a clue as to how to manage her finances.
I recently learned an acquaintance of mine had to call his mom this past summer because he didn’t know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. A 22-year-old man who I had seen bake his own bread – which I later recalled being the only thing I had ever really seen him cook – and had been living in an apartment at school for about two years. He called to ask his mom not just how to grill it up, but what kind of bread to use, where the butter went, what cheese to use and how much of it. For a person that tended to put on an air of superior intelligence to most people he came in contact with, it blew my mind he couldn’t construct a sandwich that myself, and many people I grew up with, learned to make around the age of 10.
Parents have always wanted more for their children but it seems like those born in the last 20 years have been offered far more fruit than past generations. The 22-year-old lives in an apartment at school and has a car. Neither of which he pays for. His father says that he didn’t have to work his way through college and neither should his son. While I understand his reasoning, he’s now raised a son that doesn’t really know how to work for himself or feed himself something that isn’t prepackaged.
There are students out there that still e-mail homework home to Mom or Dad to be checked and corrected before it’s turned in. Helicopter Parents, take a step back. This doesn’t mean cut your children off completely and never offer to help them again, but step back and let your child(ren) figure out some things for themselves. They’re in college and should be learning to do their own homework and solve their own problems. If they call and ask for help with something, tell them how to do it. Don’t do it for them.
For the students still sending homework home for Mom or Dad to check, stop. There are plenty of free services on-campus willing to help go over homework. Starting with the people living in the same building, maybe even on the same floor. Freshmen have to take a lot of pre-requisite classes and that means the older students and student staff in the residence hall have most likely taken the exact same class(es). Ask them for help. Ask teacher’s assistants for help, that’s what they’re there for. Don’t be afraid to meet new people. If you shut yourself off from them, college is going to be one of the worst experiences of your life instead of one of the best. It’s ok to ask Mom and Dad for help once in a while, but start learning new things. You’re in college now, time to take control of your life and stop placing the reigns in other people’s hands.