Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Helicopter Parents and College Life Lessons

A while back I saw a "20/20" story about helicopter parents. It featured a single mother with two college student sons to illustrate the growing helicopter parent phenomenon in the States. The mother takes care of her sons' needs so that they can concentrate on their studies. Mom has both sons' class schedules and gives them a wake-up call so that they'll get to their first class on time. The sons don't even choose their own classes, Mom does. She has a copy of the boys' syllabi so that she knows when they have papers due and exams. Of course she calls them to remind them of upcoming tests and deadlines. On the weekends Mom drivestwo hours to the university, cleans her sons' dorm rooms, and does their grocery shopping and laundry for them. When the boys were questioned about how they felt about their mother doing so much for them, the response was that it helped to make their lives easier. No surprise there! If I had someone taking care of all of my needs, my life would be easier too.

Those boys have it much easier than when I went to college. I had an alarm clock instead of a daily wake-up call from Mom. If I missed a class because of oversleeping, it was my responsibility to find out what I missed. Nobody reminded me when I had exams or papers due; I had to read my course syllabi on my own and plan my study time. I even chose my classes without any parental input. I read the information about the required classes for my major and picked my classes accordingly. My half of the dorm room sometimes looked like a tornado came through it because nobody cleaned up after me. When I got tired of my room looking messy, I cleaned up. My mother did my laundry for me once when I came home for a weekend. After that one time she told me to buy a box of Cheer and read the back. At that time, Cheer laundry powder had directions for which clothing went into hot, warm, and cold water.

Being away at college on my own taught me a lot of real life skills. From my sophomore year on, I worked part time while going to school. I learned to use my time wisely because I had less time to study than non-working students. One of the most important things I learned was how to prioritize tasks. For example, if I had a limited amount of time in which to study, I had to decide which subjects were the most important to study at that moment. Prioritizing tasks is an important part of my life as a parent with a full-time job. Another important life lesson was doing a little bit of a project each day to meet a deadline instead of putting it off until the last minute. That has served me well in my various jobs because I always met my deadlines. Getting along with others and resolving problems with roommates through compromise was something else that I learned. It would have looked silly to call my mother to help sort out any minor roommate issues. She would have told me to fight my own battles. In college I really learned how to organize my things and follow the saying, "A place for everything and everything in its place." It was much easier to find my books and papers if they were in the same place and if I kept my part of the room clean. I also learned to sort laundry carefully so that my whites wouldn't turn to pinks due to errant red socks.

I wonder how the boys in the "20/20" episode, and other kids with helicopter parents, are going to fare when they graduate from college. They seem to be missing out on learning vital life lessons because they are not doing much on their own. Will their mothers accompany them to their job interviews and negotiate their salaries for them? Eventually those kids will have to leave the nest and have their own families. Will their mothers continue to micromanage their lives as they have kids because they never learned how to do organize their lives on their own? The mother in the "20/20" episode alluded to that when she said that she hopes to become good friends with her future daughters-in-law. I wonder how the grandkids of helicopter parents will turn out. Will they rebel and become more independent, like kids of previous generations, or will they also end up dependent on their parents (or grandparents) for every little thing? Only time will tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment