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Helicopters, I am surrounded by helicopters...

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The doorbell rang the other day and it was a neighborhood boy who lives seven houses away. He is on the high school football team and every year they sell coupons to local restaurants as a way to raise money for the team. I stepped outside onto the front step, greeted him and he shows me what he has and how much, etc.

Then I notice a minivan that is idling on the curb just next door. It is his mother - his helicopter mother - keeping an eye on her boy. Her high school boy who is a young man at this point. Just making sure nothing happens to him, she was.

Granted, it was a long time ago but when I was a kid all I ever heard was, "Be home before dark!" And this was when I was in grade school, not high school.

When I look back on it one of the most valuable parts of my childhood was being turned loose and left alone. Here is why: I learned to be self-reliant. If something happened (skinned knee, fell out of a tree, got turned around / lost, bully was hassling you, etc) it was up to you to figure it out. Limp home, ask for directions, get beat up by the bully (again), etc. Today these moms are right there on standby, ready to swoop in and save the day. And her boy will never be self-reliant. He is doomed to be reliant.

It is a grave disservice to the child and it is being done out of parental love. There are seasons of life growing up but the time comes when parents need to let go. When they do it will make for a more confident child who will be more comfortable heading out on their own. And that child will have a brighter future.
 
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Toothpick

Needs milk and a bidet!
I heard on a podcast recently something along the lines of “if you’ve never lost a Little League game how can you cope with loosing a job?”. It wasn’t meaning the all star super league team that never looses. It was talking about the “everyone get’s a trophy” mentality we are breeding these days. No one looses, everyone is a winner. These kids are growing up having no REAL WORLD experiences. And we expect them to act as adults and make adult decisions when as a child they are not making any decisions at all or learning anything that they will be forced to deal with when mommy and daddy are not around.

It is a real problem.

I dealt with this when I worked retail and remember one instance very clearly. We had a team of individuals come in and steal some electronics. This wasn’t honestly a big deal. It happened weekly. It’s retail. You get thieves all the time. The company budgets for this. So my reaction to it when told by an employee was “well that sucks. Carry on”. Apparently he was so distraught over a couple thieves he called his dad. And his dad promptly called the store to speak to me. Was yelling at me “these guys are casing the store and are going to come back and rob you at gunpoint! You need to call the cops! If my son is injured there YOU are personally liable. I’m going to come up there and teach you something!”. Just went off on me for a good 10 minutes. I was calm. Just listened. Chimed in when allowed. And hung up when he was done.

The kid came up to me afterwards and said “so are you gonna call the cops??”. I said “Nope, go recover aisle 9”. And walked off. Did the thieves ever come back?…heck no. It was a perfect example of overprotective parents. And I just remember thinking..”that poor kid”.
 

Toothpick

Needs milk and a bidet!
Another example at the same store -

One kid was a diabetic. He had a direct insulin injection line to his gut. Press a button, boom! Injection. He had the bad kind of diabetes. And because of this his parents excused him for everything he done. We caught him stealing from us so being respectful we call his parents first instead of the police. Their response?…”well, he’s got diabetes real bad so we are sure that’s why he’s stealing”. No, not at all. That’s not why he’s a thief. He’s fired, come get him now or you can pick him up at the police station.
 

FarmerTan

"Just Call Me Billy"
It's so sad what has happened to my Kountry.
My son has already had to fire/discipline werkers twice and close to three times his age.
My wife and I did two things when he was in the womb: told God that he was His, so He had to raise him with our assistance, and we both agreed we weren't raising a child, but a future adult.
And it took. He's 21, bought a house, getting married in just over two weeks, and is a better, if less experienced, man than I ever will be.
This generation has it's werk cut out for it.
 
Upon returning to AU after an almost 20 year break, I was surprised to see the parent helicopter syndrome so strong here. Most of my time out of AU was spent in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, children are allowed to roam free like I was as a child in China and AU. My parents raised me to be independent. They guided me but allowed me to gain life-skills through experience. I am so glad for the way that I was raised.

From 5 years old I caught public transport to and from school on my own. At 11 years old I got my first bicycle. Then I rode to and from school. In my preteens it was nothing for me to go exploring solo in the local woods. By the time I was 14, I was sailing my little 8' dinghy from the upper reaches of Sydney Harbour down past the Sydney Harbour bridge. You don't appreciate to size of that bridge until you sail under it in a small dinghy.
 
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As a recently retired college professor, I've dealt with this a lot over the years. And, yes, it's been getting worse over the past two decades. Initially, I would only get a call or two a year from the parents of first-year students trying to explain to me why their child did whatever- failed a test, didn't turn in an assignment, etc. It was annoying, but increased to about a dozen by the time I retired in 2018. Fortunately, this was a rare case where Federal law, of which I think there is far too much, particularly in education, was useful. I could simply say that the law was such that I was unable to speak with them about their student at all without a signed release from the student, and politely hung up. Funny thing, in the 20 years I taught, only two parents came back with a signed release. And, those two students did have some real issues that they were too embarrassed to discuss with me.

This helicoptering, over protecting, or however you want to characterize it, has some roots in real dangers. Maybe over stoked by the media, but real nonetheless. Some kids have gone missing, been killed, or have been seriously assaulted. Perhaps, the initial trigger in the New York area was the case of Etan Patz who went missing in 1979 and was never found. Many years later a man was convicted for abducting and killing the child. Etan was one of the first kids pictured on milk-cartons.

Overall, however, IMHO the pendulum has swung too far towards defensive/overprotecting than actual circumstances dictate. But, this is in line with what started as politically correct, and morphed into the "woke" culture we're seeing more of daily in the US. Everyone now is either a victim or a potential victim, is being oppressed, or being told they're on the receiving end of unfair treatment. At the same time, our educational system has deteriorated to the point that the US is no longer near the top of the heap, but somewhere in the middle. Congress is now considering free public funded two-year college, as high school seems insufficient. For me, it is interesting to watch, and being older won't affect me much, but it is sad to see.
 
I have noticed the same thing. I believe the instant access to (mis)information has a lot to do with it. As is common knowledge, bad news sells, and paper never refused ink. Media companies are there to sell papers or generate clicks so sensationalise everything. This leads to an environment of fear where parents want to keep their little cherubs safe. Great in theory, but these same parents have to realise their little darlings grow up.

I met a former colleague for coffee and she said her eldest daughter wanted to go to another city with her friends on the bus for a day trip. She was aghast the other parents said that was ok. She then said the child was 'only 13'. I just responded and asked what she did when she was that age only to be told it was a lot safer then, and it's different. I replied that the child is going to have to learn sooner or later, and it's probably better with a group than on her own. I don't know the outcome.
 
Yes, it is a very real problem. I see it in my world, and it does seem to be getting worse. Thankfully, I was not raised this way and had to figure most things out for myself. I'm not so sure it's really coming from love, Captain - though that's a charitable (no, er... pun intended?) interpretation. I think it may be pride: "I'm such a caring parent." I suspect that deep down this parental behavior is intuitively/subconsciously interpreted by the child as "my mom/dad won't allow me to become a grownup," and creates a smoldering resentment over time. I know one such parent who is an accessory to very poor choices by a young adult child. They speak about how they "just can't let" their child be exposed to what they perceive as certain physical dangers, and mollycoddle the child, who I suspect descends into childish behaviors as a form of passive-aggressive rebellion.
 
Helicopter parents raise teacup children. Teacup children shatter at their first exposure to hot water.
Colleges are sending out newsletters giving parents guidance on not to intervene on their kids behalf.
Examples they give:

  • John, freshman, got lost on campus. Called Mom, then Mom called student affairs to complain John didn’t get a map and the signs on campus were inadequate. (Preferred reaction to lost on campus? Ask for directions from one of the scores of students walking by.)

  • Jason had a solid 4.0 throughout high school, then received his first-ever C on a college assignment. Jason called home, and his parent called the professor. (Preferred reaction would be Jason going to the professor’s posted office hours to discuss bringing up that C.)

  • Jennifer graduated with honors after sailing through high school and college. During her first job performance review she received a below-average rating. Later that day, her father called HR to discuss. (Preferred reaction to this one? Pretty much anything other than having the parent of an adult call her boss to intervene!)

Hard times create strong men*.
Strong men create good times.
Good times create weak men.
Weak men create hard times.

― G. Michael Hopf, Those Who Remain

* - men can be interpreted as meaning the human species.
 
I grew up in the nineties and I have a hard time believing it was only 30 years ago. I literally do not understand the post y2k world and haven't since 2008. I can remember having conversations with people from that time period where I started realizing that I am a time traveler. I was clearly hit in the head and pushed into the machine!
 

FarmerTan

"Just Call Me Billy"
I grew up in the nineties and I have a hard time believing it was only 30 years ago. I literally do not understand the post y2k world and haven't since 2008. I can remember having conversations with people from that time period where I started realizing that I am a time traveler. I was clearly hit in the head and pushed into the machine!
Quite likely my friend.
Upon returning to AU after an almost 20 year break, I was surprised to see the parent helicopter syndrome so strong here. Most of my time out of AU was spent in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, children are allowed to roam free like I was as a child in China and AU. My parents raised me to be independent. They guided me but allowed me to gain life-skills through experience. I am so glad for the way that I was raised.

From 5 years old I caught public transport to and from school on my own. At 11 years old I got my first bicycle. Then I rode to and from school. In my preteens it was nothing for me to go exploring solo in the local woods. By the time I was 14, I was sailing my little 8' dinghy from the upper reaches of Sydney Harbour down past the Sydney Harbour bridge. You don't appreciate to size of that bridge until you sail under it in a small dinghy.
Our only begotten was homeskooled.

Went to Kollege at 15.

His recess at 8 years old usually involved running through the woods with a machete and killing imaginary bad guys.

We were told (by non-homeskoolers) how ill prepared he'd be in the future.

My wife has multiple Kollege degrees, the last of which was secondary ejukation. So she taught him Kollege level spelling at age 6.

Children typically grow in to your expectations. As we were both older when he came along, we knew that the odds were one of us might not live long enough to see him on his own two feet, and wanted him to be able to reason on his own.

I mostly stayed out of the way, as God and my wife steered him in the way he should go.

We gave up an extra income, remodeling the house.....all little things looking back over the last 21+ years. There were lean times at times, ha! But I wouldn't change a thing.

MAYBE I should have taken more vacation time. But that is the ONLY thing.
 
Times certainly have changed. not necessarily for the better. It seems that many parents fall into one of two categories. One group hovers over their kids trying to protect them from anything that might happen. The other group abandons their kids to their own devices. I am sure there is a group in between, but you never hear much about them.

When I was a kid, I lived about a mile from school. I always walked to school, even when I was in elementary school. There was a bus that stopped in the neighborhood, but I seldom rode it, even when I had to carry my saxophone. Now parents drive their kids to school or wait with them at the bus stop until the bus comes, even if they only live a couple of blocks away.

As a student in Jr and Sr High, I rode my bike everywhere. It was not unusual for me to ride several miles out into the countryside. It was also not unusual for me to ride several miles into the city. I carried enough change to call home on a payphone if I could not get home before dark or in time for supper. My parents never gave me a specific curfew or other rules. They trusted me because they knew I could take care of myself. I knew what they expected of me and I tried to respect their wishes, even those that were unspoken.

When my daughter was in high school, cell phones were rare. I had to carry a beeper as I was on call 24 hours per day in my job. Many times beepers were used by drug dealers to arrange deals (No, that was not my occupation.), so local regulations specified that anyone carrying a beeper into the local schools could be arrested. There were a couple of times I almost reached the front door of the school before I realized I had my beeper with me and had to return to the car. Now every kid from elementary school on up carries a cell phone. Times have changed.
 
What I loved best about growing up in the 1950s, was that parents were too busy working long hours to micromanage their kids. School got out around 3pm, parents didn't get home until 5:30-6:00. The rule was do homework, then be home for supper around 7:00.
 
I had overprotective parents. It doesn’t do anything good for the child. You just become fearful of everything and whenever there’s a bump in the road they’re bigger than they really are. Still, we all have to sink or swim eventually, better sooner than later!
 
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