Helicopter Parents Raise Boomerang Kids

helicopter-parent

Are you a Helicopter Parent? You just might be raising a Boomerang Kid.

If I may, could I please offer you some unsolicited advice?

I’d love to tell you the kind of young adult your child will grow up to be. I have seen the outcome of your hovering-style of parenting. I spent almost nine years professionally mentoring hundreds of students at LSU. I had about 60 students directly reporting to me for those years, and I’ve come to learn a few things about them.

Before you brush this off as a bashing article, hold your horses. There are both good and bad I see in this generation. I understand how you want better for your children than you had for yourself. But pay attention parents, you can either help or hinder with your overbearing brand of parenting.

THE GOOD:

They thrive on teamwork. They learn how to do group projects early on in school. This makes them excellent employees who have to work on projects and contribute to the whole. Just be sure to give them a big picture so they understand the purpose of the work.

They actually care about the environment and their fellow humans. They have a loyalty to each other, they stick up for one another when they see an injustice. They will actually choose employment based on opportunities to get involved in charitable efforts because they want to make a difference in the world. Take note, employers of the Millennial. 

THE BAD:

They struggle to work independently. See the above note on classwork. And parents, you contribute to this when you complete their class projects and handle doing their fundraising for them. All you are teaching them is that YOU will be taking care of all their needs for the rest of their lives. When their classroom stresses more team projects, don’t rob them of opportunities to take personal accountability for their own work and responsibilities. They don’t know where to begin if left to their own devices.

They don’t understand that leadership cannot always be a democracy. Again, see above on classwork. This isn’t their fault; Gen X’ers received grades solely on individual classwork. Most of us didn’t do any team projects for a grade until college. Encourage them to develop leadership skills by taking a role in hobby groups, encourage them to grow in clubs like 4-H, allow them to join student council or other school groups where they can work through the challenges of leadership.

They find it difficult to set lofty goals. They grew up in a society where there are no winners or losers, just participants who get a trophy for existing. And you keep giving them luxury items like cell phones and cars without them having to do anything to earn them. Is it any wonder they expect to graduate college with a $60,000/year job just waiting for them because they live and breathe? Please encourage them to participate in things that will challenge their personal abilities and allow them to both win and lose. They need to understand the value of hard work and putting in the effort to get the things you want in life.

THE UGLY:

They are unable to problem-solve. Aren’t you always there to bail them out? Do you let them figure out friendship problems on their own? If they get a bad grade are you marching up to the school to meet with the teacher and demanding a new grade? If they come home from school because they got in trouble do you make excuses for them and plead with administration? This is the student we call a Boomerang Kid. They don’t have conflict resolution skills because you have taken that opportunity away from them. They MUST learn to fight their own battles, solve their problems, resolve their own conflicts if they are to ever grow up and leave the nest. If you deny them these things, they are unable to handle interviews, search for a job, figure out how to handle class and social activities simultaneously or do anything you don’t help them with or do for them. This is why they end up moving back home after college, unable to function as an adult – they boomerang right back to your couch/extra room/basement/now-supposed-to-be-a-guest-room. You have robbed them of the skills to problem-solve effectively. You have made excuses for them their entire life. Please let them grow up. Let them make difficult choices and accept tough consequences.

They don’t know how to take personal responsibility, nor apologize when they are in the wrong. See the above comments about learning to problem-solve. These are additional ugly side effects of hovering too much. If you fight all their battles for them, they will grow up believing that they will not face consequences for any behavior. Nobody likes a spoiled brat, especially one who never grew up. Tantrums at 20 are not cute nor are they acceptable adult behavior. Stop giving them every single thing they ask for and paying every bill so they have it “easier” than you did. 

They are non-committal. As if living in the digital age wasn’t hard enough to build real face time relationships IRL (in real life) … because we bail them out of everything and pay all their bills, there is no real sense of working through challenges in a job or in a relationship. Employers have to think very hard about hiring the Millennial who doesn’t even show commitment to belonging to the same club for more than a year or keeping a minimum-wage job for a year. The first year employee is expensive to the company financially. If they don’t grow roots anywhere, they may be shooting themselves in the foot for anything but an entry-level position. Let’s set them up for success. Teach them the value of sticking with things, and their ability to stay out of your “extra room/basement/supposed-to-be-a-guest-room” will be a gift that keeps on giving.

Not sure if you are a Helicopter Parent? (If you honestly answer “NO” to any of these questions, you just might be):

  • Have you ever let your child complete a school project without any hands-on help from you other than buying supplies?
  • Would you ever let your child suffer through a terrible school friendship, even if you knew they might get their feelings hurt?
  • Have you ever requested a meeting with a teacher or administrator because of a bad grade or disciplinary action you disagreed with?
  • Would you ever bother your friends and family incessantly to “help” your child sell their girl scout cookies, candy bars, wrapping paper, cookie dough or other school fundraiser?

I’m pretty sure the helicopter parents I have had interactions with regarding their college student’s on-campus job have hovered for such a long time they have detached with what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Calling their boss because you don’t agree with an evaluation of their work performance is completely over the line of acceptable behavior for a parent. Let them grow up and figure it out on their own already. These are the students who eventually return to the nest. I’ve seen it. And unless you want this to be your story, I hope you can consider finding an appropriate balance.

We are in this together. This generation will be taking care of us when we become elderly, so let’s work as a team to ensure they become successful, contributing adult members of society who eventually leave the nest. Let’s be sure they don’t become our permanent “roommates,” and we help them leave the nest with all the confidence they need to be the inspirational people we know they are capable of becoming.

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