What Parents Would Do This? Seriously???

 

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Two little cowboys.

My kids are on their way to adulting. One will be celebrating a full-year on the job in a month, post-college degree. My daughter is going to career fairs and has interviewed for two jobs so far, landing one job offer. I will repeat and say loudly that I had nothing to do with it. Well, maybe one thing—I helped them by purchasing clothes for their interviews. But that was it. Apparently, other parents of millennials are getting much more involved. I wrote about crazy helicopter parents interfering in their children’s job searches a few months ago here.

I discovered another article that gives more examples of parents going over the line in the name of “helping” their children. The article is called “Parents of millennials are too involved in their kids’ careers” by Corinne Purtill on Quartz. She talks about a mom “mean tweeting” a company that didn’t offer her son a job and includes scary statistics from a 2016 survey of how many helicopter parents are getting involved in their adult children’s careers. You can read an excerpt here:

 

“Parents: butt out of your adult children’s job searches.

“This may seem obvious. But it’s not, in the context of the wildly inappropriate parental intrusions that hiring managers see with astounding regularity. Parents are calling to arrange interviews for perfectly functional adult children, inserting themselves into schedule or salary negotiations, and haranguing a manager by phone or email for failing to hire or promote their precious offspring.

“In a misguided effort to help their children gain short-term achievement, hiring managers say, many parents unwittingly cripple their adult sons’ and daughters’ ability to succeed on their own. What’s more, these unhealthy entanglements in their adult child’s professional life are preventing parents from being supportive in ways that actually do help their child—who is, in fact, an adult.

“Much too much
“In a 2016 survey of helicopter parenting in the workplace from the staffing firm OfficeTeam, senior managers reported parental intrusions of astonishing cheek: asking to sit in on job interviews, bringing cakes to potential employers, calling the hiring manager in the guise of an employment reference to heap praise on their son.

“After media reports of meddling parents in the workplace started surfacing after the recession of the early 2000s, Michigan State University researcher Phil Gardner surveyed 725 employers about whether they’d seen such behavior. A full 31% of respondents had a parent apply for a job on behalf of their adult child, according to a 2007 report. Another 15% of the employers fielded complaints from parents about passed-over children, 9% had a parent try to negotiate the new hire’s salary or benefits, and 4% actually attended job interviews alongside their adult children. The financial crisis of 2008 and the rise of texting, which enabled constant communication between parents and grown kids, has only intensified the trend.

“On this point hiring managers are explicitly clear: absolutely nothing good comes of a parent getting involved in a child’s job search.
“No employer is going to think this is okay,” said Alison Green, a consultant who writes the popular blog Ask a Manager. “Managers really need to refuse to engage if a parent contacts them, assuming it’s not to relay some sort of serious emergency with their kid.”

“Casey Newton, an editor at the Verge, received a baffling direct message on Twitter in 2016. The tone of the message was accusatory. It was “something along the lines of, ‘You have a lot of nerve getting someone’s hopes up like that,’” Newton recalled. He’d never met the woman, but her last name looked familiar. A quick check of her social media profiles confirmed she was the mother of a job candidate Newton had recently passed over.”

It is stunning to me that 31% of parents interviewed in the study quoted in the article, applied to jobs on behalf of their adult children. I bet they are the same parents who did their children’s homework to ensure good grades. Then, they filled out college applications and wrote the college entrance essays, too.

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My kids on their way to adulting.

What are these parents thinking? Do you have any idea of why parents would do this to adult kids?

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Not a helicopter, but a “bunny mom”

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My cutie pies.

A unique viewpoint in parenting was written by Dr. Danielle Teller, mother of four teens and published on NBC News. “In the age of the helicopter parent, why I gave my teens almost total control,” Teller describes how she and her husband decided to step back and let their kids find autonomy during the high school years, so they’d be independent by age 18.

This reminds me of my parents, who said their definition of parenting success was to let us fly from the nest. I recall them doing lots of activities together and my brother and I having an enormous amount of freedom. Most weekends my parents were fishing on our boat, visiting our cabin on the Stillaguamish River or exploring some other areas from Carmel, CA to Eastern Washington. My brother and I survived. We didn’t have parents telling us to fill out college applications or worrying about our homework. We both ended up in the top 10 of our classes and were accepted and graduated from the one college we applied to–the University of Washington.

By contrast, I hovered and cajoled my son and daughter over their busy, crammed packed schedules. My husband and I were fixtures around the pool watching them practice and compete. College applications I oversaw and made sure dates weren’t missed. The end result was—I believe—more anxiety and tougher times for my kids in college than what I experienced. Of course, it’s a different time and things are, well different!

Here are some excerpts from the article by Danielle Teller:

“It’s appropriate to nurture and protect teens from physical and psychological harm, but it’s not helpful to decide for them the course of their future.”

“My teenagers call me a bunny mom. Let me explain. We live in an affluent suburb with high-performing public schools, and many of our kids’ friends have tiger moms and helicopter dads who heavily police their children’s schoolwork, music practice, and extracurriculars in the hope that their offspring will go on to elite universities and professional success. My family, however, has adopted a different strategy.

“Several years ago, my husband and I sat our four kids down and explained that we weren’t going to parent them that way. We hoped that the rules we had enforced when they were preteens had instilled good habits, but once they got to high school, we were going to start to back off. We would no longer insist that they join a sports team, eat broccoli or play piano. We weren’t going to make their decisions for them or push them to succeed. We would provide guidance and support, and we would expect them to be good citizens at home and at school, but our goal was to gradually hand over the reins, so that by age 18, they would have complete control over their own lives.

“It wasn’t easy to hand over control. We could envision the mistakes and poor choices our children might make, and we had met the talented and ferociously hard-working peers they would eventually compete with for college admission and employment. But though we were nervous, we decided to take a light-touch approach for two reasons. First, it seemed most likely to produce happiness, and second, we weren’t convinced that intense parental involvement is key to long-term success. (Notice, too, that we are not conflating happiness with success.)

“It’s hard for parents to let go. Just as we protected our babies from sharp objects, we want to protect our teens from what we perceive as failure. Yet while it is appropriate to nurture and protect teens from physical and psychological harm as we did when they were younger, it is not helpful to decide for them the course of their future lives. As a so-called bunny mom, I have to bite my tongue when one of my children decides to stop taking math classes or quit the swim team. “You won’t achieve your full potential,” I want to say. But that shouldn’t be their goal in life any more than it is my main goal in life. Their goal should be to follow their own ambitions, wherever those may take them.”

I am impressed that these parents were able to let go during the high school years. It would take a lot of strength and conviction to not get caught up in what all the other parents were doing. They are successful professionals in their own right, and definitely not living vicariously through their kids.

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My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach. I don’t think we ever missed our kids getting awards. 

What is your opinion of hovering over kids, versus a laissez-faire attitude?

Helicopter parents blamed for “failure to launch”

 

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When they were young with our Natasha.

In an eye-opening article, helicopter parents are being blamed for the failure of their kids to launch, “Helicopter parents who put their children on ‘a pedestal’ are to blame for them still living at home at 25, according to an expert,” by Sarah Harris for the Daily Mail, explores how anthropologist David Lancy compares cultures to compare differences in how kids are raised. He believes we are screwing up our kids by being too involved and putting them on a pedestal.

I’m a former helicopter parent and I admit freely that I did way too much for my kids. I would help them with homework if it was getting late, I’d micromanage schedules and homework, and I’d run to the pool or school with forgotten swimsuits or papers. I cooked all the meals and did their laundry. I thought I was making life easier for them. I hated to see them fail. Looking back, it’s better to let them fail at a few little things, rather than wait for them to fail at college or life. The consequences of taking over for our kids makes them feel insecure and less self-sufficient. We are literally destroying their prospects to be independent, strong adults—which should be our goal.

I would tell my kids when they were selfish that “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” Yet, I had set up our household so my life did, in fact, revolve around them. I am glad that I made the choices I did, yet all of it wasn’t helpful to them. I’m grateful that I could leave the workforce and stayed home. I’m thankful for the opportunities I had to help out at their schools, plus for the three years I homeschooled my daughter. I loved helping out on their swim team, too.

Things I didn’t do: I didn’t take over for them on major projects, I didn’t write papers for them, nor do their research. I was there to help, not do the work. I do know many parents that completely take over and that’s not helpful at all. In any case, we are all trying to do the best we can. If you get a sneaky feeling that you’re doing too much, chances are you are doing too much. My 24-year-old isn’t living at home and is independent, and my college student is applying for jobs, so I must have done something right.

Here are some excerpts from the Daily Mail article about helicopter parents:

 

It can leave children only ‘patchily employed’ and reliant on their parents in 20s.

He said there is a worrying trend of ‘raising each child as special and unique.’

Anthropologist David Lancy has warned that mothers and fathers praise their children too readily, which does not adequately prepare them for modern life.

Young people believe they can continue doing ‘what’s exciting and wonderful’ and end up only ‘patchily employed’ and reliant on their parents by their mid-twenties.

The emeritus professor of anthropology at Utah State University, United States, said this results in their ‘failure to launch’.

He has examined different childcare models across the world for his book, Raising Children: Surprising Insights from Other Cultures.
In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES), the anthropologist outlined ‘our’ society’s ‘WEIRD’ way, which stands for Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic.

This has worrying characteristics including ‘raising each child as special and unique and patting them on the back for every achievement, to protect their self-esteem’. Referring to ‘WEIRD’, Professor Lancy told the TES: ‘I think one of the drivers (of this) is this underlying notion that children should never be unhappy and that if they are, that’s a problem that the parent is maybe responsible for and certainly has an obligation to remediate.’

Parents are ‘totally wrapped up and centred on their children’ – an approach that is problematic.

‘You can relate all sorts of things to that, including the spectacular rise of psychotropic medication being given to children,’ he said

‘When you put a child on a pedestal and say, “The horizons are limitless for you, my child, you can do anything you want to do, there’s no hurry, you can take your time,” that creates a situation that you say to your kids, “You don’t have to conform to society’s expectations or expectations of the workplace, you can continue to do what’s exciting and wonderful for you,” and we end up with kids still living at home at 25 and only patchily employed.’

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My kids ready to launch.

Do you know parents who do too much for their kids, helping with projects and homework? What are some extreme examples you’ve seen?

When should we jump in to defend our kids?

When they were young.

I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I see that is a trait of helicopter parenting and I might have done more good for my kids by letting them fight their own battles.

Here are a few battles I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion.

There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me last night that during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She’s a week from being done with the class and just wants to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of school during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?

A Word of Advice for Sports Parents: “Chill”

 

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool.

I volunteered a couple hours at my swim team’s big November meet. It’s been three years since I’ve had a swimmer at that meet and the distance of time allows me to look at parents and swimmers through a different lens.

Wow. Do parents ever get worked up watching their kids swim! I observed some parents running around the pool deck, yelling and visibly shaking. I was worried a few would have heart attacks. I acted exactly the same way years ago and I still get nervous and worked up. But I don’t show it as much, anymore. I believe it’s newer parents who are the most anxious because it’s all new to them and confusing. Give them a few years, and they’ll probably relax a bit.

One woman frantically came to the admin tent and said in a panicked voice—bordering on hysteria—“I can’t find my son! I don’t know where he is! Help me find my son!”

My friend, who was running things for the parent volunteers under the tent, asked in a very calm voice, “Please, tell me how old is your son?”

“Twelve.”

“Twelve,” my friend repeated. We managed to keep straight faces. If it was a child of say five or six, there might be a reason for a mom to panic. Well, not a real reason to panic, but the anxiety would be more understandable.

“Do you know where he is supposed to be?” my friend, who is also a psychologist, asked. Her calm approach led me to believe she faces many hyped-up parents in her practice. The frantic mom said he was swimming the 200 fly and she couldn’t find him with her coach or warming up. She asked us to have him paged to report to the admin tent.

“Do you want to give him a little time? If we announce for him to come to the admin tent to meet his mother, he’s going to be embarrassed,” she told her.

“Really? Why would he be embarrassed?” the mom asked.

We didn’t have an answer to that. We had a deck marshal assist the mom walking around the pool deck and into the men’s bathroom to help find her son. I never heard a word after that, so I’m assuming her son made it to his event and back to her side.

Another thing I noticed this past weekend was that the space behind the blocks can get really hectic. That sign that says “Swimmers Only” means just that. It doesn’t mean “Swimmers Only and Me the Swimmer’s Parent Because I’m an Exception to the Rule.” It’s amazing how many parents ignore the sign, have to be told to leave the “Swimmers Only” area and a few want to argue about it. Once again, it’s interesting to look at this from a distance, when a few years ago, I was the one trying to stand behind the blocks with a water bottle and towel for my kids.

I’m reminded of advice I received from Ref Paul on more than one occasion, “Relax, have fun. It’s just a swim meet.”

 

 

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The pool deck during a meet with the “Swimmers Only” area behind the blocks.

 

Why do you think we get so worked up over our children’s athletic performances?

 

 

 

 

 

The not-so-funny truth about helicopter parents

 

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The goal is to raise happy, healthy kids who experience failure at times so they can also experience success.

 

I often joke that I’m a recovering helicopter parent. But, it’s not that funny after all. It’s important to raise kids who can handle the curve balls life throws at them. By not allowing our kids to fail, we’re robbing them of the ability to learn, grow, and understand hard work. Not only that, but studies show that kids with helicopter parents suffer more from anxiety and depression.

In an article in USA Today by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed. called “How to help your adult children find success,” it appears success comes most often after failure. So, if we’re not allowing our kids the chance to fail, how will they be successful later in life?

Here are a few tips from the article:

“In a study reported in Psychology Today, the majority of children with helicopter parents have higher anxiety and view life’s challenges as being more daunting than those with more hands-off moms and dads. So what can we do, as parents, to truly support career success in our children? Psychiatrist Joel Young, M.D., suggests these strategies:

“Rather than sharing your goals and wishes for your child, listen to theirs. This builds their skills in independent thought and critical thinking, and sidesteps imposing your values on them.

“When your child receives a consequence, such as not getting hired for a job you think they’d excel in, don’t try to intervene to change the outcome.

“Avoid being your adult child’s keeper and don’t remind them of deadlines. By middle school, they should have learned to stay on top of their to-do lists.

“Instead of offering your solutions to their career challenges, encourage your child to come up with remedies on their own.”

Honestly, is there anything worse than watching your kids suffer, feel hurt or experience failure? We want to make life easy for them. But, while they are young, let them flunk a few tests, or oversleep for school. These are minor things that they can self-correct. They can learn from their mistakes. If we’ve helped our kids every step of the way from kindergarten through their senior year in high school, and they’ve never experienced failure, they may feel overwhelmed when they get a lousy grade on a college paper or fail an exam. They also may feel they aren’t worthy and are incapable on their own without their helicopter parent at their side to save them.

It reminds me of a book I learned about at a writer’s conference more than a decade ago called “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones” by John C. Maxwell. It was recommended for writers to read this book because in this tough profession we face rejection after rejection and the key is to keep going and fail forward, rather than failing backward. I believe it’s an important read for parents, too, so that we allow our kids the growth experience that only failure provides.

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Before my kids experienced anxiety, stress or failure. Those were the days!

What other sad side-effects do you think helicopter parents may inflict upon their children–with the best intentions? Do you know any helicopter parents? What have you seen them do that you would never do yourself?

 

Supporting your kids’ entrepreneurial spirit

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I believe these kids can do anything if they work hard and believe.

In an article by Melody Hahm from Yahoo Finance called “Parents want their teens to be entrepreneurs — but teens don’t want to” a majority of parents are ready to support their kids’ starting their own businesses. With our own kids, my husband and I express the same view. We encouraged our kids’ entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. Our son had interesting ideas and although he didn’t come up with a multi-million dollar start-up or app in high school like we’d hoped so he could buy us a beach house, he did work through high school as a tutor and website developer.

During a recent weekend together, we were brainstorming with him about start-ups. We had an enjoyable time playing “shark-tank” during a drive up to the mountains, coming up with a dozen practical as well as ridiculous ideas. I’m doubtful he’ll be starting a business anytime soon, but we hope someday he might.

We’re also encouraging our daughter to consider starting up a business after she’s gained some work experience. She’s creative and creates handmade gifts for her friends and family like mosaic picture frames, hand-painted gift boxes and wall hangings. 

She reminds me of a friend, who’s a fellow parent and introduced our kids to mosaics during their elementary school years. This friend has a business called Hippy Sister Soap Company, LLC and her gorgeous products can be found in catalogues, on line and in stores across the country.

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Gorgeous soaps from the Happy Sister Soap Company, LLC website.

 

Here are some interesting facts from the Yahoo Finance article with a survey from Junior Achievement:

Eighty-eight percent of parents would be extremely or very likely to support their teens becoming entrepreneurs when they grow up. In contrast, a mere 30% of teens say they want to start a business, according to a new survey by Junior Achievement (JA) and EY.

They surveyed 1,007 parents of children ages 13-17 and 1,005 13- to 17-year-olds. 

“Parents are seeing entrepreneurship as an exciting opportunity, especially because it’s embraced by society. While kids aren’t showing as much interest, this may change as parents encourage them to take risks,” said Ed Grocholski, Senior Vice President, Junior Achievement.

In 2013, startup activity was at its lowest point in the last 20 years. It has gone up for three consecutive years, nearly reaching the peak before the drop during the Great Recession, according to the 2017 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship.

Plus, hit shows like “Silicon Valley” and “Shark Tank” make the idea of starting a company accessible and entertaining, at least for parents. And young founders like Facebook’s (FB) Mark Zuckerberg and Snap’s (SNAP) Evan Spiegel have hatched small ideas into publicly traded companies.

Thirty-one percent of teens said their primary concern is that starting a business is “too risky.” Twenty-one percent said that there’s “not enough money in it.” Only 16 percent of teens indicate they have no concerns about trying.

Conversely, 53% of parents have no concerns about their teen starting a business as an adult.

“I do think there’s something to be said about being a risk taker and trying new things. Employers hire people with entrepreneurial mindsets. It’s not just about starting a business,” said Grocholski.

JA is trying to help young students make smart economic choices and realize the breadth of opportunities they have. The nonprofit reaches nearly 5 million students every year in 109 markets across the US. Grocholski said it’s his mission to support teens and continue to encourage parents to take the road less traveled.

We as parents see the world as wide open and believe that our kids can do anything. However, if we’ve been helicopter parents and made a practice of doing too much for our kids, they may lack the interest or belief in themselves as a consequence of our actions.

Also, there are so many studies and stories out there that the millennial generation is not doing the adventurous and often risk-taking things we did as kids. It will be interesting to see where they end up.

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We’ll support our kids in whatever they decide to do.

Why do you think that kids today aren’t interested in being an entrepreneur?