- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - College officials across the country have been talking about “helicopter parenting” ever since a new book came out this year.

Author Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former educator who spent 10 years as dean of freshmen at Stanford University, wrote about her observations that parents who remained overly involved in their children’s lives — striving to make them successful — were hobbling them.

By the time many children get to college, Lythcott-Haims said, they lack the skills to take care of themselves because of their overbearing parents intervened so much on their behalf.

“We want so badly to help them by shepherding them from milestone to milestone and by shielding them from failure and pain. But overhelping causes harm,” Lythcott-Haims writes in her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

Overhelping — and hovering over children’s decisions like a helicopter — “can leave young adults without the strengths of skill, will and character that are needed to know themselves and to craft a life,” she wrote.

Quincy University officials occasionally see examples of helicopter parenting among new students.

“I think you can see isolated examples of that on any college campus,” said Ann Behrens, QU’s vice president for academic affairs.

“I don’t think it’s as bad here as you see it portrayed in the national media. I think those examples that we read about make great stories, and they get a lot of sharing on social media and get a lot of buzz in the campus communities. And everybody probably has a story about one parent or two who was absolutely inappropriate and overinvolved and not letting the student advocate for himself or herself. But it is not a widespread, weekly occurrence here at all.”

Soumitra Ghosh, QU’s vice president of enrollment management and academic support, also noted that helicopter parenting stories “have been getting a lot of traction” in academic circles.

But from his perspective, Ghosh sees nothing wrong with parents remaining involved in their children’s education even after they arrive at college — to a certain limit.

“Our perspective at QU is somewhat radically different because the fundamental basis of what we try to do here is build community,” he said. “So in terms of that, we do want parents involved. We want parents to be engaged with their student in terms of their education, in terms of their personal growth. But it’s a question of degree, and it’s a question of manner.”

Ghosh said he has heard stories about parents coming to campus to argue with professors about their student’s grades.

“The problem isn’t that the parent is coming in to talk about the student’s grade,” he said. “The problem is that the method they’ve decided upon is one that is argumentative or confrontational. So the method is the problem. The act itself is not.”

Behrens said she sees some validity in the suggestion that parents can get too involved in making decisions for their children — to the point that the children have been coddled so much they have trouble making their own decisions. But that’s the exception.

“The majority of parents, I think, really do a good job of gradually releasing responsibility for more and more important decisions to their child,” she said.

Behrens, who at one point in her educational career worked as an elementary school principal, said it’s difficult for many parents to stop doing things to help their children be successful in school.

“Parent involvement is something that we encourage from the time a kid is 5 years old,” she said. “From a parent’s perspective myself, I understand that parents want to do everything within their power to make sure their child is successful. That’s a natural outgrowth of good parenting.

“The goal in my mind is that you gradually release control and turn over more and more responsibilities for decisions to the child so that eventually he or she is able to function as an independent adult. To me, that’s what makes a successful parent.”

Reed Bentzinger, a QU junior, said he knows some freshmen who may have been coddled by their parents, but he thinks most manage to do well on their own once they spend time on campus.

Bentzinger is a “connect mentor” for 18 freshmen this year. He answers questions the students might have and provides advice about college life.

Bentzinger said most of his advisory work took place at the beginning of the school year. By now, he said, “they’re able to take care of themselves.”

Bentzinger said he feels fortunate that his parents stepped back and allowed him a high degree of independence when he enrolled in college — and even before then. He has learned to be responsible and has held jobs for the past six years to earn money to help put himself through school.

“I still have quite a bit of help from my parents as far as housing and food and all that,” he said. “But I definitely feel like I’m on my own as far as paying most of my bills.”

Bentzinger said he sees nothing wrong with students seeking advice from parents — or with parents offering advice to their kids.

After all, he said, “the parent knows them the best” and has the student’s best interests at heart.

“But it’s a balancing act between giving guidance and not making decisions for them.”


Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/1Mj0RAj


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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