Helicopter parents.

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Jabberwockey, Jun 9, 2015.

  1. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    Just saw SWOT use this term and have heard it off and on for years. Helicopter parents hover, worry, fuss, and enable. My parents both worked full time and not always on dayshift. My siblings and I learned at an early age that helping around the house was not optional, it was necessary. I've been able to cook, do laundry (at least in a male sort of way. dealing with delicates and shrinkables can still cause problems), and clean the house since I was 10 years old. Again, not optional. I mowed the lawn, helped in the garden in the summer (and with 7 kids that was a necessity as well!), did dishes, cooked, cleaned, and whatever else needed done around the house. I was cooking full meals, very basic but full meals none the less, and making sure my family members got fed. I lived in my happy little barely middle class mid-west country boy bubble.

    I had a friend once tell me that I had lived a sheltered childhood. I cant argue that one bit, especially in light of the fact that he was raised in a SERIOUSLY dysfunctional family in the heart of St. Louis. He ended up eating a bullet instead of facing charges of child molestation. Yeah, thank God for a sheltered childhood! But he was basically helpless. Couldn't cook more than basic meals when he was in his mid 20's. He did laundry but even by male standards his sorting abilities were dubious at best. He rarely if ever cleaned his house. Granted, this could just have been severe laziness but who knows? When I went into the military, I lost track of how many times I had to teach someone how to use the washer and dryer on our floor. It was fairly funny the first time. I walked into the room, kind of like a break room but no tv, and started doing my laundry. There were several others in the room at the time playing cards. They ignored me at first until they realized I actually knew how to use those pieces of equipment that they had only ever seen operated by their mothers. It floored me.

    Yes, I freely admit to being lazy! Just because I can do laundry doesn't mean I enjoy it but the fact of the matter is that it eventually MUST be dealt with. Well, you would think so anyway. Our son can go for months without ever doing a load of laundry, happily wearing the same pair of underwear for God only knows how many weeks at a time. Yes ladies, even I shudder and wretch a bit at that. While our son refuses to do laundry that's all it is, a refusal. We taught him how to properly do laundry. He has made the choice not to. And don't think that this is a rant against our son, I just had a thought start with the helicopter mom comment and this is a bit of a ramble.

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is, How the hell can you send your sons and daughters out into the world without teaching them anything that they need to know? Why keep doing all these things for them but not showing them how to perform these tasks themselves? Sorry, I guess its the guy in me, not to mention the Marine, who says Raise, Train, Deploy, for this is the way of things. We raise our children and in the process train them the basics of how to not only survive in the world but to LIVE in it. Then, when the time is right, we deploy them out into said world. Granted, sometimes that has to be done a bit more forcefully than others but you get the point.

    Again, I apologize for rambling a bit here but I had a thought started rambling about and had to purge it.
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  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Helicopter parents put too much effort into hovering over every little detail of what their children are doing. I'm going to guess that if you had been expected to do what you did around the house with your father breathing down your neck all the time, it wouldn't have been nearly so successful.

    You were given SPACE and TIME, in addition to instruction. You were allowed to fail (within reason). Helicopter parents do not allow failure to happen - which means the kids never get SPACE and TIME to figure things out for themselves.

    At 16, I ran half the household - mom was ill. Grocery shopping - handed a wad of cash, a list, and keys to the car. And no parent breathing down my neck about it.

    The stuff where they DID breath down my neck (like cooking), I'm still not very good at.
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  3. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure if it is about helicoptering, I mean, I can helicopter with best of them in some matters, but I nor the hubby raised any helpless people. We made it a point for our boys know how to cook, clean, do laundry, budget, understand percentages (e.g. have tools they need to manage personal finances), and know how to read balance sheets (e.g. basics if investing.) They know their wild plants (what to eat and what not), know how to make a fire and firewood, how to keep warm, how to read map and compass both in the wild and sea, how to sail, and when not to. Know how to repair and build things (repair their clothes, bikes, mopeds, do simple carpenter jobs, operate tools), know hot to saw a tree, know when not to touch the tree that has fallen on the road and eletric lines and so on. All the things rural boy needs to know.

    What they do with it is up to them. But they do know how to survive both in the civilisation and in the wild.

    By the way, instead of helicopter parenting we call it curling parenting around here. Cleaning the obstacles from their way for them...
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
  4. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I also have to agree IC, the key is let them do themselves. Teach the basic long before they are surly teens, I mean right time to teach how the washing machine works is when they still think that being allowed to push an elevator button is so cool. After they know enough probably not to kill themselves or cause major house fire let them explore.
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  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think it's ok if they are under 18, but I think that, unless you live in a culture where your kids will and can depend on family to be around to pick up the pieces forever, even after you are gone, beyond that it is not good. In the U.S., which is probably the most individualistic country in the world, this is rarely the case. Rarely do brothers and sisters care for siblings when the parents are gone and they often live on different coasts. In the U.S. you have to be able to live on your own and make your own choices because there is nobody to tell you what to do, to take you in if you fail, and family is very disconnected. It is not uncommon, at least here, for kids and parents and sisters and brothers to never speak to one another. It is encouraged in therapy in many places.

    There are limited social programs to really pick you up when you are at your worst and you need to figure out how to take care of yourself.

    I do not like this individualism we have here and am more of a collectivist and believe in "for the greater good" which makes me a U.S. outcast. But the country is what it is. There are no laws forcing relatives to sh are their goods when they pass on to their relatives. They can disown a relative, even a child. And it happens. It happened to me.

    I do not know where you live, Suzir, but it sounds like probably a place I would enjoy more than the U.S. Under those conditions, perhaps I would not have taught my children to be so independent because perhaps it would not have been necessary. But the fact is, here it is necessary. Individualism and not taking anything from anybody or the system is valued here and we live here.

    My grown kids are totally living on their own with no help from me and Bart only got money when he had to fight in court for 50% custody of his little boy. Even he, who has suffered with mental illness, is independent. It's just the way it has to be here. Now I could be talking nonsense because I really have never lived abroad, but I get the idea that we, here int he U.S., value independence over all else. A good example is that if a young woman finds out that a, say, twenty six year old young man still lives with his parents, she would likely to write off the young man as a mama's boy and refuse to go out with him. There is the understanding that he is too old, by that age, to be dependent upon his parents in any way.

    I know in some countries, grown kids AND their families live with their parents, but that is very rare in the U.S. and considered undesirable as in, "I AM NOT LIVING WITH MY IN-LAWS. ARE YOU KIDDDDDING????" :)

    Thanks for this thread and all the input so far. It is interesting.
  6. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    SWOT: Yeah, I'm sure not every skill I mentioned is useful to at least every US kid. But I have to say that you have lost me a bit here.
  7. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    I grew up in the middle of nowhere in the country and I don't know how to do most of that! LOL! What a great number of skills. Our son had NO interest in the outdoors. So unless someone else taught him, he does not know anything about wild plants (like me he's not allergic to poison ivy, so he never learned to id it) or how to do anything with fire, keep warm, etc. He may have some idea about power tools...but I really don't know. He hit about 12 and just didn't want to do anything much with us or learn anything.

    But at least he knows how to do laundry, cook and clean. I know he's capable of that.

    This is the one thing I really do kind of dislike about our country, and it's really only happened in the last 50 years or so. It used to be family took care of each other. If you needed help, that's where you turned. Not only caring for brothers and sisters if necessary, but maybe more importantly, your elderly family members. My father's sisters took care of their mother when she was no longer in control of her faculties. My mother told stories of growing up with her grandfather, who lived with them. I know of others who took in elderly aunts and uncles. Until about the 60's, that's how it was. You raised your children and they in turn took care of you. I have no illusions that there's anything for me but a nursing home if I become unable to live on my own.

    It's so wrong. I wish, like some European countries, it was common here to live in multi-generational households, for kids to stay home and work and help out until they married and then in time take in their parents.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    True of caucasians, Lil. The Hmongs who live near me live with many generations together often in small homes. Afriacn-Americans take care of their family and so do hispanics.

    When I worked at Head Start, we had a lot of Hmong students and I was on the school bus as an aide. Often a grandparent or GREAT grandparent would come out to greet a child arriving home. One used to carry her grandson or great-grandson (don't know which she was) on her back. Or a beloved auntie. Or even a cousin. Often their families would all be outside playing in the sunshine and the older kids looked after the younger ones. It was unheard of not to. You don't see Hmongs in nursing homes here. Or African'Americans. Or hispanics.
  9. in a daze

    in a daze Well-Known Member

    I confess I was definitely a helicopter mom with difficult child but not with his sister. Frequent conferences with teachers, guidance counselors, college advisors, therapists and psychiatrist s were necessary. I wouldn't say I was protective of him as a child as he was out much of the day playing pickup baseball games and hanging with his friends.

    I had them doing their own laundry at ages 11 and 12. Th e y had some minor household chores in exchange for an allowance. I taught them how to do a little simple cooking.

    Yet I only have one who turned out to be a functional adult. (Sigh)

    I took Difficult Child grocery shopping to show him what to buy (ground beef, taco mix, lunchmeat for sandwiches, etc.) and talked to him about how to prepare some simple meals instead of heating up frozen stuff all the time. This was yesterday. We'll see if the meat goes bad because he's too lazy/anxious or whatever to prepare it.
  10. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    I wasn't saying that helicoptering/curling makes Difficult Child's out of our children, just that I don't comprehend why parents would treat their children in this manner. And yes, I agree that its a sad state of affairs in the U.S. that families are so defunct.
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Jabber, I think it's about retaining control.
    I think it is ok to be involved (not crazily involved) while they are minors. But after about sixteen? No. As adults? Absolutely infringing on their boundaries. We need to let them go, even if they are reluctant. We have no real right to hover over them at that age and criticize their choices or tell them what to do.They need to stand on their own. It can border on abusive to meddle in your adult child's life if it makes the adult feel terrible, and it can lead to estrangement on the adult child's part.

    On the other hand some adults don't want to act like adults. For their own good, in my opinion they need to make their own decisions and learn to make good choices. If they don't, they need to know there are consequences.

    Helping an adult child find psychiatric help, in my opinion is not enabling or being a helicopter parent UNLESS the adult child refuses and the adult parent keeps calling and nagging. I think it sounds like Suzir's son is in tune with her and is willing to listen to her suggestions, which is NOT enabling. It is a GOOD thing to guide ANY adult toward help and encourage this if they are willing.

    But sticking one's nose in the personal life of an adult child is what I see as a helicopter parent. Always there. Pushing, pushing, pushing. Forcing a kid to be a cheerleader a nd a dancer and a straight A student and an athlete and popular...more for the parent than the child. If t his is still going on when the child is an adult, it can lead to some bad consequences for the parent AND the adult child, who never learns to be independent and also probably resents her parents not letting her grow up and living her own life.

    Just my own unique definition ;)
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
  12. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I think some of how you choose to raise your kids, and what skills you do and do not teach them, stems from your philosophy of parenting. I have met so many parents who have the goal of being a friend to their child, and of being 'fair' as parents. Their parenting tends to lean toward having the kid in every activity the child wants to be in, even if that means a practice or THREE after school each day and more on the weekend. It wouldn't be 'fair' to make Johnny choose between things. Johnny doesn't have chores because Johnny is never home. The majority of children are either at daycare or some activity until fairly late in the day and they go to a daycare early in the morning before school. Here the daycares do NOT teach skills other than playing well with others.

    I see parents letting children have every privilege that adults have because it would not be 'fair' for Mommy to have a treat and for little Johnny not to. Never mind that Mommy has just done all the chores and cleaned up Johnny's messes and Johnny hasn't even picked up his toys (often because either no one asked/told him to or because he refused to and it was more than overloaded Mom could handle to force the issue. So they both get the reward when Johnny has done nothing to contribute to the home or to earn the reward. After a lifetime of that, what is the incentive to learn the skills to care for yourself?

    My mother lost her mom to cancer when she was very young. Her older sisters were already out of the house with their own lives and kids and husbands. Her father did the best he could and got a housekeeper. It was too much work to teach my mom to do the house stuff, so the housekeeper did it for her. Mom worked in the family store and learned the things that men learned - power tools, hardware, that sort of thing. She is really great with home improvement projects and the skills to run a small business because that is what her father did. When she got married though, she felt totally helpless. She couldn't even operate a coffeepot because no one had ever taken the time to show her how. My dad taught her to cook and she became a fabulous one (though she will still deny that!), she learned other household stuff from books because she always believed that if you could find a book on how to do something, then you could do it - no matter WHAT it was, from building a building to raising kids to cleaning toilets. We had more 'how to clean it' books in or house than the library did, and I am NOT joking. I counted once as a teen.

    I was taught to do all the basic tasks of running a house by the time I was 16 or so. The 'girl' chores and the 'boy' chores. My folks did this with both my bro and I because no child of theirs would EVER be helpless. My peers in school were sometimes horrified because I could fix this or was expected to do that (this and that varied over the years). I had more than one classmate tell me I was being abused by having to do these chores and they would go to child services with me. I usually thought it was about the dumbest and funniest thing I had heard and laughed myself sick over it after politely thanking them and declining their offer. These people were ALL the ones who never had a chore, much less had to pick up after themselves, and I knew that life would bite them on the tushie before long.

    After going to an out of state college and seeing how many people in my dorm were helpless to do anything (more than a few could not figure out how to make a toaster in the dining hall work - and no, I am NOT joking), I actually sent my parents a thank you note and gift. A gift I paid for with $ from my job, not with their money. It stunned them, and made my mom cry. She had worried for years that she was overdoing the lessons on how to handle your world. And she never really had anyone to ask about it because her mom wasn't there to ask.

    I refused to raise helpless kids. Having the kids I did made it easier and harder. By 2nd grade, Wiz flat out refused to eat ANYTHING I put in his lunch bag, even things he asked for specifically that morning. He also refused to eat school's hot lunch EVER. So i got an assortment of acceptable lunch options, after speaking with him about what he would eat if he packed his own lunch, and then I made HIM pack his lunch. I never again packed a lunch for Wiz. He also made his own breakfast because I just don't function that well in the morning and he told me it would be better if he did it because I really needed my coffee first and he didn't want to wait. Not a problem for me as he ate the same thing for months on end if given the choice.

    The other kids just fell into the pattern. They all WANTED to pack their own lunches and at some point in kindergarten or first grade they begged to and I let them. Same for breakfast. They were always so proud that they could do it themselves, and I never wanted to shatter that pride. They had to learn how to run a household, and they each had their own jobs and still do. None of them will EVER be on their own and helpless, becasuse I think that is one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me. I feel so sorry for the kids who are raised to be helpless. The other greatest gift is the notion that if I can find instructions in a book, I can do ANYTHING. My folks built a garage when I was in elem school. They didn't have it done, they pounded in the footers for the foundation, they built the walls and the ceiling and put in the wiring. They had a couple of books and a bit of guidance from a friend in construction. That garage is still the nicest one in the neighborhood. I went back to the old neighborhood ten years ago. I met the current owners and saw the house. The wallpaper we hung inside my room is still there and they just love it. They asked if I could put them in touch with the contractor who built the garage because it was so well done and they wanted to do more work on the house. I said yes, but they would not take the job. When I told them my parents built it themselves, pounded in the nails and put on the shingles, etc..., they were amazed. Would my folks consider taking on another job for them? Uh, no, they are close to retirement and live out of state and would be flattered but not interested. The family was very disappointed, but my folks were incredibly flattered.

    THAT is another gift I tried to give my kids. Not just to not be helpless,but to be able to figure out anything they really want to do and to do it WELL.

    I feel bad for the kids with helicopter parents and for the parents themselves. They never really get to see how well their kids can really succeed.
  13. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    They never told us why, but beyond the fact that it was a necessity I think this is the reason my parents raised us this way as well.
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    In our house we were taught nothing. No rules, no boundaries, no skills in life. I wouldn't call them "helicopter." I'd say they didn't care or understand it was important. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

    My own kids are very able to take care of themselves, even my autistic son...he does almost everything on his own, including, since he doesn't drive, using cabs and riding his bike to, say, his softball practice. It was important to me that my kids be independent and have a strong work ethic. No free cars. No free designer clothes. Part time jobs at age sixteen, if possible, and no bail outs if you make poor choices.

    I was a bit worried about Jumper's work ethic as she can be lazy around the house and with chores, but when she came home from college this summer she got a job right away in a nursing home. She works her tail off and has to wipe butts and change diapers. And she is not complaining, wants all the hours she can get for the money. (Tell all your DCs who say there are no jobs that nursing homes are very desperate for help and t hat you do not need certification to work there).

    So Jumper seems to have the same work ethic of all of my other adult children.

    I just never bought that it was good to give your kid everything, just because you didn't have it or because you could afford it. In the end, I sort of believe that makes our kids lets able or willing or both as adults....

    Helicopter parents need to land the helicopters and let their children verging on adulthood (17 or so) do the hard stuff they will have to do in order to function in life.
  15. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

    I work at a University and the helicopter parent is very much present. Prof gets a phone call from a parent and says that she doesn't like the grade Jonny received in Microbiology and then continues to hound the prof. When that doesn't work she phones school administrators eventually gets transferred to even higher ups. Now Jonny's paper is being evaluated again. This is not a one off thing either. Like Insane cdn said, helicopter parents can not accept failure of any sort. Supposedly, this goes on also in job interview scenarios as well. The worst part about this is the child/adult doesn't see anything wrong with this.
  16. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    This just made me realize how many helicopter parents we deal with at work. Parents of offenders call all the time because Little Johnnie hasn't called me in a month, is he all right? Or Little Johnnie wrote me a letter saying that he got locked up in the hole for something he didn't do, how can we allow that kind of injustice to happen? And the fact of the matter is that Little Johnnie didn't call because he was too busy with his buddies on the yard or got locked up for threatening a staff member on camera and in front of a dozen witnesses. Mind boggling.
  17. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I will forever be grateful to my parents for teaching me life skills. I was pretty fortunate growing up. My mom was a stay at home mom and we also had a house keeper that came in once a week but that did not mean that my sisters and I got off scott free without doing chores. We learned and helped keep the bathrooms clean, we shared in meal preparation, mowed the lawn, vacuumed, dusted, did our own laundry and how to balance a check book.
    My husband also was taught good life skills.
    With our son we taught him the same way we were taught and in the early years he was eager and willing to participate in household chores. When he turned 12 was when the attitude started, the whining and complaining. He would compare himself to his friends, expressing to husband and me how his friends didn't have to do chores. It was a constant battle with him.
    I can see how some parents would "hover" trying to make sure little Johnny was staying on task but I can see how that can backfire too.
    We all know there is no guarantee how a child will turn out. You can raise them with morals and values, teach them life skills and they turn into a Difficult Child and you can have a child that is raised with no boundaries or rules ever and they thrive. I do think a helicopter parent will have a much harder time detaching if their child turns into a Difficult Child.
  18. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I know this isn't funny, Jabber. Actually, it's pretty darn sad. But it made me laugh anyway.

    Do you work with adults or young offenders? Are these parents calling about adults or their younger, minor children? There IS a difference.
  19. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    I know he'll answer in a bit...but I'm here so... :)

    Jabber works in a PRISON. Adult offenders. In our state that could be anything over the age of 17, but I imagine under 20 is unusual. I can imagine calling if I hadn't heard from mine for a month or two. I can't imagine calling to complain that he's in trouble! Lord have mercy!
  20. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    Under 20 is not unusual but not the norm. We have had offenders as young as 15 but they were placed in Protective Custody until legally an adult. While most of these calls are for offenders in their mid 20's, I have received several for offenders well into their 40's and 50's.