Today officially began the worst time of the year for student service providers at my institution. There are four weeks left until the start of Fall Term. That means that all of the late-comers are now waking up and coming to college. From the moment we walk into the door until the moment we walk out, we are talking to students (in person, on the phone, by email): how do I get admitted? how do I test? what do I take? how do I register? what's my ID number? I forgot my password! the classes I want are full! what do I do next?
Many parents accompany their children through this challenging process. Parents who assist their children and let their children take the lead are wonderful! But there is a whole new group of parents know as "hoverers" or "helicopters". Colleges and universities have dubbed them Helicopter Parents.
These parents want to micro-manage their children's lives. They talk about "we" all the time - "we" didn't test well, "we" want to take a certain class, "we" don't know how to register, "we" want special permission. The parent is the one who holds all of the paperwork, takes all the notes, and does all of the talking. The parent would go to school for the kid if possible. In their effort to be helpful, the message they give their child is "You can't take care of this for yourself, so I have to do it for you."
Many of these students are passive and quiet, but some are quietly seething. Most often I see the mother-son helicopter combo. It's so common that everyone in the advising/counseling office is familiar with this fun duo. Fathers tend to be a bit more laid-back with their children and female students often come into the office with their friends if they live in the area.
One parent wanted me to spy on his daughter to see if she was attending classes. When I told him I couldn't do that, and that it would be a violation of FERPA, he asked, "Then how am I supposed to know what she's doing????" So much for the laid-back Dad generalization.
Here are a few web articles I found on the topic.
Colleges Ward Off Overinvolved Parents
No Escape from 'Helicopter Parents'
Are You a Helicopter Parent?
Do 'Helicopter Moms Do More Harm Than Good? (btw, the answer to this is YES)
I'm just gonna hunker down and try to make it through the next four weeks. The Testing Coordinator said we need to find a way to make this fun! Is that possible?