Helicopter parents prevent success


Kassidy Kelley

Nearly everyone can relate to having a parent trailing right behind them at the playground or forcing them into certain sports. This made sense in elementary school; younger kids are open to the guidance and prone to accidents and injuries. As we grow up and leave behind the Band-Aids, scrapes and bruises, our parents should grow out of this vicarious lifestyle, leaving behind the attempts to live through us. However, not every parent moves forward.

These “helicopter parents” continue to hover for as long as possible, only landing when the student goes off to college. In some cases, they may never land. Although these parents typically have nothing but good intentions, they end up negatively affecting their children’s lives in college.

Helicopter parents send away kids who are too dependent on the safeguarded lifestyle they must leave behind, forcing these students to learn independence much later than everyone else around them. While 18 years of overprotection may seem fine in the moment, the resulting reliance on parental guidance is a high price to pay.

As an only child, I have had first-hand experience with extremely invested parenting. While it is fantastic to have a mother that loves me so dearly, she does occasionally take it to extremes. My mom sometimes tries to take matters into her own hands. She will not be there to fight my battles in college, which is why I needed to learn to work on my own. Otherwise, I never would have learned how to cope with stress, disappointment and failure on my own, skills which are essential in college and the world beyond.

The worst cases of helicopter parenting lead to students who have underdeveloped life skills. My grandma once told me about her roommate at Spelman College who never learned how to do laundry and relied on her mother to come to the school to do it for her. When her mother stopped coming, the roommate just wore dirty clothes.

An excessive level of involvement and control, all done for the “well-being” of the student, can take college students down a very rocky road. Students never learn skills if they never have to do the work themselves. Furthermore, many students develop lower levels of confidence because it feels as if their parents don’t trust them to take care of simple things on their own. A study from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. shows that helicopter parenting has a direct correlation with higher levels of anxiety and depression for the children.

It is more than just a phrase tossed around during the years of teenage angst. Helicopter parenting can become a serious problem, especially if the chid doesn’t go to college. The real world is harsh, and it is nearly impossible to hide underdevelopment without the front of a college campus.

Although most parents want their kids to stay in their arms forever, there comes a time when we must all grow up and learn independence. A thin line runs between great and overbearing parenting, and parents should be careful not to overstep it. To all helicopter parents, it is time to land. Stormy weather lies ahead.