Monday, October 15, 2007

Helicopter 'Rents, Categorized

Criticizing the phenomenon of “helicopter parenting” (parents swooping down and hovering over their children, micromanaging their offsprings’ lives), researchers at the University of Texas-Austin decided to methodically organize these folks into five categories ranging from Toxic to Black Hawk parent. After interviewing “hundreds of people on more than 150 college campuses,” researchers pegged about 60 percent of collegiate parents as some form of helicopter parents.

But not all helicopter parents are the same. ABC News’ web site quoted study co-author Jim Settle as dividing these folks into the following groups:

  • Black Hawk Parent: “[T]ypically angry, abusive and would go straight to the president’s office no matter how minor the concern.”
  • Toxic Parent: “[P]aranoid enough to log on to their child’s online social networking pages as their child to research friends and roommates.”
  • Safety Expert Parent: “[A]lways anxious over school security measures and is eager to form emergency plans for his or her child.”
  • Consumer Advocate Parent: “[A]lways is ready to negotiate discounted tuition and fees.”
  • Traffic and Rescue Parent: “[S]woops in at the first hint of trouble, landing on campus with supplies and support.”
On Leslie Morgan Steiner’s Washington Post “On Balance” blog admitted that she’s, “a bit of The Consumer Advocate and The Safety Expert (cars and pools, ahhh!). All of these parenting styles, taken to the extreme, are bad for kids. And hard on parents, too.”

All of this made me think of a New York Times Magazine piece from a couple of weeks ago about the madness parents of high school seniors experience when they’re trying to help their children beef up their academic resumes and prepare sterling college applications, or when the adults simply take over the process themselves. In fact, that article made my head spin. As a self-proclaimed “good-enough parent,” I’m vowing to do my best to NOT transform myself into a helicopter parent, a parent who embarrasses her eldest son with her warped humor, yes, but a helicopter parent, no . . . that’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.

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