Children of Helicopter Parents: How Does it Affect Their Future?

Let me preface this post by admitting that I do not have kids of my own. This gives me an interesting vantage point when it comes to how parents choose to raise their children, compared to when I was a kid (which wasn’t really that long ago – yet it seems as if a lot has changed).

About a year ago, I talked to a recruiter from a “Big 4″ accounting firm who said that they routinely send gift baskets to a candidate’s parents during the recruiting process. According to the recruiter, this is done because parents are so involved in their child’s selection between competing job offers. Additionally, she said that it was common for parents to call to ask questions regarding the nature of the job or to negotiate starting salaries. Looking back at that encounter, I can only imagine the look on my face. What kind of impression does that give a manager of a new graduate’s independence, maturity or critical thinking ability if they have to ask, “Can you talk to my mommy (or daddy) about this?”

In another light, a pediatrician I spoke to recently said he is constantly inundated with hypochondriac parents who bring their kids to the doctor for the slightest thing. Kids who are actually sick or hurt have to wait while he reassures the parents that yes, the bruise on Little Johnny’s arm will eventually fade.

Children today are too overprotected and coddled. Yes, it’s a dangerous world out there, but how are kids supposed to learn to navigate their way through the job market (or life in general) if parents make all their decisions for them? It seems that this is a uniquely American phenomenon: in Switzerland, kindergartners are trusted to play with saws and walk to school alone, something that would probably trigger a call to Child Protective Services in many U.S. suburbs. Even in youth sports, it’s now emphasized that “everyone is a winner” – which, sadly, isn’t the truth in the business world.

What many parents don’t consider is that their kids have to leave the nest sooner or later. Often, the children of over-involved parents don’t know how to cope when suddenly thrust into a cold, hard reality.  According to a recent study, “Approximately 13% of adult children between 18 and 29 move back in with their parents after an attempt to live alone.”

I understand wanting your child to have the best in life. Yet, take a step back for a minute. Helicopter parenting doesn’t give your children the tools they need to succeed. By making life choices for them, being over-involved and coddling them, you give them a sense of entitlement and an inability to come to their own conclusions.

For the parents who think I’m crazy: think back to how you things were when you were growing up. You played outside until late at night, knew the score when you lost Little League games, maybe even moved out and got a full time job when you turned 18. If you cut your knee, your parents probably put a band-aid on it, rather than rushing you to the doctor for a tetanus shot. And you turned out just fine. . . right?