Why kids want instant gratifcation and how helicopter parents make it worse

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Here’s a story I wrote two years ago about why kids today have more trouble facing challenges their first year away from home than previous generations. As parents, is it our fault?

The numbers don’t lie. ACT states that 50% of kids do not return to college for their second year, and then only 25% of those graduate in five years. US News and World Report, which ranks colleges annually, changed one of its measurements from a graduation rate of five years to six years! I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know the percentage of kids that get out in four!

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Letting my kids be kids.

I’ve given my two cents worth in Four Reasons Why Kids Fail Their Freshman Year. This time around, I asked Nicolle Walters, RN, PhD, Clinical Psychologist for her expertise. In addition to being a practicing therapist, she’s the mother of two kids about the same ages as mine.

Why do our kids have such a hard time once they’re away from us? They’ve worked so hard to fill their resumes with high grades, SAT scores, leadership, community service, sports, or music. Yet, these kids who look perfect on paper can’t handle the daily demands of life on their own. How much of the failure is our fault? 

According to Dr. Walters, our kids aren’t prepared for college. She said, “Part of the reason is our instant gratification society. They want everything right now—and get it with technology like streaming, etc. They don’t learn self-discipline. They don’t have to wait for things like we did.”

She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

“Also, A lot of kids don’t learn how to work hard. If you’re smart, you don’t need to work hard in high school, and they aren’t prepared for college. Our kids need skills like planning ahead and self-discipline.”

Here’s another thought she had, “College is totally different. Class time is switched and it’s the opposite of what they are used to. They are used to spending eight hours in class and studying a smaller amount of hours at night. In college, it’s two or three hours a day of class, but they need to study for six to eight,” Dr. Walters said.

Today on TV, I heard a Stanford expert, Julie Lythcott-Haims, talk about her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” She says we are literally ruining a generation of kids. She said it’s not just at Stanford, but in colleges throughout the country. You can read more here.

This week on SwimSwam I list the things we do for our kids that we need to stop doing. Like today.

We are smothering our kids and crippling their self-development. I know this because I’m guilty of a ton of it. I’m looking back at how concerned I was with performance, how busy my kids’ lives were, and because of those two factors I jumped in and did too much for them.

My kids being kids. They're okay despite my hovering.

The kids are okay despite my hovering.

Here’re are links to a couple other stories I’ve written about getting our kids ready and self-sufficient for college:

My Confessions as a Helicopter Mom 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Know Before College

If we as parents are over parenting like the experts claim, then what should we do to help our kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

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Parents Beware: Coaches Are Watching You, Too

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Signing day.

It’s college recruiting season for swimming and articles are tweeted and posted hourly of recruits signing with universities. I ran across an interesting article from USA Today about parents and recruiting called “How college coaches evaluate parents” by Fred Bastie, owner and founder of playced.com, a college recruiting company.

In the article, Bastie interviewed Pat Fitzgerald, the football coach at Northwestern University who said, “An increasingly larger part of the evaluation of the prospect, for us, is evaluating the parents. It’s a big part of the evaluation.”

He breaks down the troublesome parents into five categories:

The Helicopter Parent
The Sideline Coach Parent
The Scouting Director Parent
The Sports Agent Parent
The Lawnmower Parent

I remember my daughter’s college recruiting experience and I’m pleased to say that we did not do the things listed in this article that wave red flags in front of college coaches.

Isn’t it sad that some parents, who are honestly trying to help their children, could be the reason their child misses a chance at a scholarship or a spot on a team? I remember when my kids were younger, like 13 or 14, and at a swim meet with college teams and coaches. I was at the end of the lane, enthusiastically cheering for my kids and their teammates. One mom with two kids around the same age, pulled me aside and said, “Don’t you know that the coaches won’t want your kids because of you standing at the end of the lane cheering?”

At the time, I thought she was crazy. My kids were too young to be thinking about college and surely no coach cared what I did. I went on cheering. I do not think being enthusiastic is a red flag to a coach. And I was probably right that no coaches were looking at a 13-year-old who barely made it into the meet.

When I interviewed coaches for an article for SwimSwam magazine, many of them expressed concern about helicopter parents, but several coaches had another take. They looked at how the athletes treated their parents. One coach passed over a child for being rude and obnoxious to her mother. In that case, it wasn’t the parent who ruined the opportunity, but a kid who acted like a rude, spoiled brat. Of course, you have to consider someone raised that ungracious child in the first place.

In my opinion, it’s not the parent who coaches want to avoid dealing with, but it’s how well the children of overbearing parents will adapt to being away from home for the first time. It’s how well they’ll handle adversity and be productive, giving teammates. In the article, it states something our own club coach has said, “There are only two people the college coach wants to talk to: 1. the athlete, 2. the athlete’s coach.”

That said, what role do you think parents have in the college recruiting process?

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My daughter and friend on a recruiting trip.

 

 

Are millennials awful? Or, is it the normal “old vs. young” thing?

 

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My millennials and pupper.

While my husband and I were driving to the movies, I had the radio tuned to a top-40 countdown. We were at number two–ready to find out who was the top song of the week–when he turned off the radio and said he couldn’t stand today’s music.

I told him, “I guess you really are an old fart.”

He said he was thinking exactly the same thing. “I’ve become one of those old geezers who can’t listen to the younger generation’s music.” He said it sounded like noise to him and he didn’t get it.

That exchange struck me today when I was reading an article in Business Insider that talked about how helicopter parents may be better than what we get credit for and that the millennials are turning out okay.

According to Libby Kane in “Millennials are turning out better than anyone expected — and it may be thanks to their parents” her generation was set up for success better than previous generations and a lot is thanks to their parents. Many of the bias against them could be due to generational differences. She talked with researchers to find out if her theory was true.

“ ‘What we’ve learned in our Generation Nation deep-dive is that, while behavior and beliefs may be influenced by generations, they’re dictated by life stages,’ wrote the researchers, who decided to do this research to have cross-generational data points after years of studying millennials specifically. ’In other words, how Gen Z is today is just as Gen X would have been today had Gen Xers been born 35 years later.’

“I spoke to principal researcher Michael Wood about the report, and floated my theory by him. Are millennials really so entitled, and lazy, and difficult to deal with? (You know you’ve heard it.) Why is hating on millennials so popular?

“ ‘If you go back in time, Boomers were also referred to as the me generation,’ Wood told me. ‘We’ve always carried biases against people who are younger than we are.’

Millennials are those between the ages of 20 and 35. Both of my kids fall into that category, although on the younger end. The older millennials were set up for success by their “helicopter-caring” parents, and then their futures got hit by the economic crash a decade ago.

“One of Wood’s standout findings from the research was the incredible resilience of millennials. ‘They’re still very upbeat, they’re very hopeful, and they have a positive outlook on their generation and what they’re going to contribute to the greater good,’ he said. ‘I find that fascinating and reassuring, and it confirms what we’ve always believed.’

“In the report, millennials were more likely than other generations to agree with statements expressing a desire to make the world a better place, confirming a purpose in life, and projecting a confidence in the US, the government, and each other to work together to solve problems.

“Plus, here’s a sentence from the report to inspire some teeth-gnashing: ‘Playing against type, millennials are actually an employer’s dream.’ This is largely because millennials are willing to work hard for an employer who supports them, and they tend to blur the lines between life and work — they’re more willing than members of other generations to catch up on work during their personal time. ‘Millennials truly care about their work,’ wrote the researchers. ‘And they care about it beyond being a means to a paycheck.’ “

During college orientation with my daughter at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, I learned many of these facts about millennials in a talk called “Supporting Your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Affairs, and a psychologist. I wrote some parenting tips from her talk here.

I think it’s important to learn about generational tendencies to better understand our own kids and what they’re going through. Here are a few of the things I learned from Dr. Ellingson:

Millenials are those born from 1980 to 2000. They are a generation that doesn’t like to suffer. They like having nice things and they don’t mind working for it. But, that can interfere with their education. It’s best if they work on campus. A student that works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Also, delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 and 28.

HOPES
We all have hopes for our kids that include these things: Graduation. Career. Education. Responsible Adult. Financially Responsible. Time Management. Problem-solving.

FEARS
Our kids will go through fears during their years in college. For example, those who did well in high school with very little effort will find they won’t do as well in college and it can become an identity crisis.

They firmly believe not to stay in a major they do not like. A child dreams of being a doctor their entire life, but they may find they don’t like the smell of hospitals, or they can’t pass the Chemistry class–this can be another identity crisis. It’s important for them to take advantage of general ed requirements their first years of college to find what they do like. Internships are important, too.

INDEPENDENCE
First steps are towards you as a toddler. Every step after that is away from you. “How can I be on my own?” is another one of their fears.

Dr. Ellingson’s final statements stayed with me. “Most people who enter crises come out stronger and ahead on the other side.” And as for us parents of millennials?
You will change from “taking care of them, to caring for them.”

What are your opinions of millennials? Do you they think they are a different generation from us because of technology or traits such as laziness? Or are our differences between generations the normal living through life’s phases that we all go through?

 

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Back in the day.

 

What are 14 things helicopter parents do?

 

 

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My kids had long days of unstructured playtime at the beach.

 

I found three interesting articles about helicopter parents today. The first from the HuffPost is called “Do You Recognize the 3 Warning Signs of a Helicopter Parent?”
The author David Wygant goes into more detail that you can read here, but the bullet points are below:

#1: Their kids can’t really leave or go anywhere without them
#2: Vacations basically don’t exist without the kids
#3: No sleepovers allowed

I can add to this list, from my own mistakes and from watching other helicopter parents. I like to think of myself as a reformed helicopter parent—or at least one who’s been grounded. Here are my warning signs to add to the previous three points:

#4: You walk your kids into their classroom and “help” them put their things away.
#5: You chat with the teacher daily about your child’s progress and what they can work on to get ahead.
#6: You never turn down an opportunity to volunteer at your children’s school.
#7: You’ve been room mom every year.
#8: You arrange playdates with kids you would like your children to become friends with.
#9: After school, you empty your child’s backpack or book bag and go through all their graded work and homework assignments without them.
#10: You supervise homework sitting down at their side.
#11: You go to every swim practice and talk to the coach every day after practice to ask how your child is doing.
#12: You have nothing to talk about with your friends except how exceptional your children are.
#13: You have a tough time listening to anyone else and often interrupt or walk away while someone else is talking.
#14: Your children don’t have any downtime in their lives and you’re always involved in everything they do.

Like I said, I honestly did not do these things. Well, at least not all of them. Here is the second parenting article I read today called “Time To Ditch the Helicopter, Parents” written by Kevin Thomas:

During orientation programs, when students and parents split into separate groups, there are often talks to Mom and Dad about letting go and the dangers of the helicopter parent. These are nice ways of saying it’s not about you.

The helicopter parent, for those new to the term, is the one who can never stay out of the kid’s life, interfering, making the most the routine choices or performing the smallest chores for the child (who is no longer a child).

When my previous offspring prepared to attend a military academy, we read posts on a parents’ Facebook page, asking how to pack for their child. These young people were going off to college to learn how to become military leaders in battle, and they couldn’t pack their own duffle bag?

Love is not coddling. It about knowing when to let go.

The last parenting article is from 2015 and reposted recently. It includes an excerpt from Julie Lythcott-Haims in her book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” You can read more here.

Former Stanford Dean Says Overparenting Leads To Kids Being Unprepared For College

Around the country, students are moving into college dorms for the first time. As former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims observed parents becoming increasingly involved in their children’s lives. Consequently, their kids arrived at college without some basic living skills. In response, Lythcott-Haims published the 2015 book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti’s revisits a conversation from August 2015 with Lythcott-Haims (@DeanJulie) about the book.

3 Parenting Tips From Julie Lythcott-Haims

Stop staying “we.” In conversation about your children, don’t refer to their work or achievements by using “we.” “We” are not on the soccer team, “we’re” not doing the science project, and “we’re” not applying to college.
Stop arguing with the adults in your children’s lives. Kids need to learn to advocate for themselves with their teachers, coaches or other school staff. They should have these conversations themselves.
Stop doing your children’s homework. The only way kids will learn is by doing their work themselves.

Have you seen parents doing things on my list? Can you add to it?

 

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I supervised from a distance, of course.

 

Pro Tip: Don’t Go On Job Interviews With Your Kids

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Doesn’t it seem obvious that our job as a parent is to put ourselves out of a job? If we prepare our kids to be independent and self-sufficient, then yes they should be able to find a job without us sitting at their side.

I’ve read several articles in the news where parents are doing more and more for their kids—kids who have graduated from college and are ages 22 to 25. Here’s one of the articles I found called “Parents, Please Don’t Attend Your Adult Child’s Job Interview,” by Amy Morin.

Twenty years ago, parents told their children to get jobs. Ten years ago, parents encouraged their children to get jobs. Now, parents are attending job interviews alongside their children.

Michigan State University surveyed employers who recruit recent college graduates to learn how parents are getting involved in their adult children’s job search. Here’s what employers had to say:

• 40% had dealt with parents who were trying to obtain information about the company on their children’s behalf

• 31% had received resumes submitted by parents on behalf of their children

• 26% had contact with parents who tried to convince them to hire their sons or daughters

• 15% had heard complaints from parents whose child did not get hired

• 12% had dealt with parents who tried to arrange their child’s interview

• 9% had contact with a parent who tried to negotiate their child’s salary

• 6% had received calls from parents who were advocating for their child’s raise or a promotion

• 4% had seen parents attend the interview with their child

The article goes on to say that parents involvement doesn’t end at the job search. Once the “kids” are employed, parents help out by making sure work is done on time, often finishing writing reports or editing them to make the work “better.” What do you bet these are the same parents who stayed up at night writing reports or completing science fair projects for their middle school and high school kids?

What are your thoughts about helping your kids find a job? In what ways do you think it’s okay to help?

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I haven’t helped my son get a job–ever.

 

Remember It’s Their Sport–Not Yours

 

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My son and teammates in the pool.

We all know helicopter parents are out there. Some of us may have been former ones ourselves or we may know friends who are overly involved with their kids. We see them at practice, meets or games—whether it’s soccer, baseball, football or swimming. They hover in the classrooms, waiting to talk to the teacher every day before and after school to make sure their child is adequately challenged and grades reflect that.

Here are two excerpts from articles I found helpful, the first written by a youth football coach and the second from a sports coaching and parenting expert.

From GridIron Now, A youth football coach’s advice for ‘helicopter parents’ By Dan Hancock:

It’s not the first time in my many years as a coach that I’ve dealt with a “my kid only” parent. On this occasion, though, I was amazed at how truly focused this parent was on his child only and not the team. I’ll skip the gory details and say that I removed the family, and consequently, the player from my team.

My job is to do what’s best for the team. This may mean putting a player into a position that he may not like if it helps the team. It also may mean removing a player from the team if effort is not given or respect not shown to the coaching staff.

I’d like to offer parents with kids playing youth sports advice from a coach’s perspective: Be supportive. Period.

Of course you want to see little Johnny score every touchdown, but it takes a team to get in the end zone. If your son or daughter is not playing in the position they want, or receiving the amount of reps that either of you find sufficient, be supportive. Work harder.

Talent and ability never goes unnoticed. Talking about ability does little come game day. Playing time is earned in practice.

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My daughter racing.

Here is an excerpt from David Benzel’s article that explains the only thing parents need to ask of their child. He’s an author and founder of Growing Champions for Life. Go check out his website and blog. He has so much valuable information and books and workbooks to order for you and your kids. USA Swimming has partnered with him to help swim parents, and he works with many other sports, too.

There’s No Strings Attached Parenting in Youth Sports

To see it we’ll have to go back to the early days when our child was in T-Ball, Guppy swim class, Tiny Mites football, or half-court basketball. In those days, we gave our parental support with no strings attached. It was an unconditional gift given for the sake of an experience we wanted our child to have. They were not expected nor required to do anything but have an enjoyable time playing the sport they loved.

Then things changed…

As we invested more time and money we expected them to learn and improve. And when the dollar figure got high enough or the miles reached triple digits, we expected maximum effort and peak performance every time!

Unfortunately for our children, what starts out as a gift suddenly appears to have strings attached and comes with the message, “You must perform well for me to feel good about the money and time I’m spending.”

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My daughter with her first medals.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a helicopter sports article I wrote for SwimSwam this week:

 

What could possibly go wrong with ensuring our children’s lives are smooth and saving them from costly mistakes? Studies show that kids of helicopter parents often suffer at school and in the workplace. By hovering over our children and never letting them learn from their mistakes or face consequences, we can stunt our kids’ growth. Here are traits children of helicopter parents may share: acting out in the classroom, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, lack of “adulting” skills, and struggling in college and at work.

I’ve never heard of a parent who wants their kids to fail in life. That’s obviously not our objective when we help finish homework and drive forgotten lunches and papers to school. We’re just trying to help with the best intentions.

We should take advantage of the pool and swim team as a unique world within itself where our kids can practice skills for “adulting.” There are many life lessons inherent through years of swimming—we just need to let our kids experience them.

Kids gain so much from sports—from time management, good sportsmanship to being physically fit. They also have fun with their friends. It’s wonderful to encourage sports, but we need to always remember it’s their sport, not ours.

Do you know any helicopter sports parents? What have they done that bothers you the most?

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8 and under girls holding the team’s trophy after breaking a team record.

The End Result of Helicopter Parenting–Ruining Your Kids’ Lives

 

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I tried not to helicopter my kids or Angus.

Millennials are having trouble “adulting” because of us—their helicopter parents. My daughter scolded me this morning, “You are totally a helicopter parent, you do realize that?”

I corrected her and explained that in some ways I was—and I meant that in the past tense. I’ve worked hard to NOT helicopter. I’m well aware of the mistakes I’ve made and I’ve tried to let go of my bad helicopter tendencies. The stakes are too high if you want to raise independent adults.

There are several articles today about what happens when parents helicopter over their children’s every move—from unruly kids in the classroom to anxious, young adults who lack “adulting” skills, have messy apartments and have trouble at work.

In 11 Signs You Had Helicopter Parents & It’s Still Affecting You Today you’ll read about 11 problems helicopter parents have inflicted on their kids.

“While it’s totally possible to escape from a less-than-ideal parenting situation unscathed, the way you were raised almost always affects, to some degree, how you feel and act as an adult. This is especially true if you grew up with helicopter parents. You know, the kind who were way too hands on. If yours “hovered” and coddled you 24/7, it may be showing up in the form of self-esteem issues and stunted “adulting” skills, among other things.

“Now, I’m not saying your parents didn’t have the best of intentions. Or that they should have let you do whatever you wanted. But that doesn’t mean their approach didn’t hold you back from becoming a bonafide adult. “A helicopter parent is a parent who is overly involved in the basic day-to-day aspects of their children’s lives,” Dr. Sanam Hafeed, PsyD, a NYC-based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, tells Bustle. “This may hurt kids as they grow up because they may not trust their intuition when meeting others … They [also] often have arrested development and lower emotional consciousness.”

In a separate article that’s being published widely about “JUST SAY NO,” an expert warns that “parents who pander to their kids are damaging them for real life.”

The “wild and unruly” children that primary school teachers have to deal with are often the progeny of their parents, according to Dr. Amanda Gummer.

The “wild and unruly” children that primary school teachers have to deal with are often the progeny of their parents, according to Dr. Amanda Gummer, a research psychologist specialising in child development.

Writing for the Daily Mail she said: “Wild, unruly children are increasingly likely to be the progeny of so-called ‘helicopter’ parents.

“They are ruthlessly ambitious for their child’s future — failing to realise how badly their mollycoddling is preparing them for the compromises of real life.”

It seems that overbearing parents who try to save their kids from any unhappiness or failure are instead guaranteeing the opposite–their kids are destined to feel like failures throughout their adulthood. With our best intentions to keep our kids happy and have them succeed we are hindering their self-reliance and ability to deal with the ups and downs in this thing called life.

Do you know any helicopter parents? What specific examples can you describe of their helicoptering behavior?

 

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We can learn from dogs on how to raise our kids.