The Effect or Non-Effect of Helicopter Parenting

Image: The Effect or Non-Effect of Helicopter Parenting

Does Being a Helicopter Parent Make a Difference when Children Enter the Workforce?

While n-gen researches and works with clients on the impact that a multigenerational workforce has on engagement, performance and productivity in the workplace, we have to be aware of the research that explains causal roots. The Economist (July 26-August 1, 2014) recently had a series of articles on helicopter parenting citing various articles. Primarily, the articles highlight that families of higher incomes versus lower income families were likely to have children who would reach higher levels of education. Those parents also think that a high level of involvement in children’s development is the key to that success, though this may not necessarily be true. Of interest was the commentary that being a helicopter parent may not make that much of a difference in your child’s success.

Defining helicopter parenting

In one article, helicopter parents are defined as parents “who hover over their children’s lives, worrying themselves sick, depriving their offspring of independence and doing far more for them that is actually beneficial”. While clearly these parents are positively intentioned, the articles do describe that all of this focused attention makes parents more stressed and does not guarantee child success in adult life. In part, the nature vs. nurture debate still exists, with studies showing that genes ultimately play the final card, other factors being equal.

Which generation is the helicopter parent cohort?

While every generation cohort may have had members who were helicopter parents, the term has commonly been used to refer to Baby Boomer parents. This generation was the first generation that became the friends, coaches, advocates, supporters, cheerleaders and protectors of their children. Perhaps also because of the competitive workplace culture that Baby Boomers worked in, they wanted to make sure their children had every advantage for success when they would have to be in the workplace. So they scheduled their children, (sometimes criticized as ‘over-scheduled’ their children) from academic to extra-curricular activities. Years ago, the CBC National TV program had a mini-documentary of an 11-year-old girl who told the reporter that she had 3.5 unscheduled hours a week free.

Are Gen Xers also helicopter pilots?

Many Gen X parents have fallen into the belief system that they too need to parent in the same way as Baby Boomers because that has become the norm. Though many have also decided to carve their own path, creating a parenting style that is between Traditionalists and Baby Boomers. While Traditionalists parented from a perspective of their role being to shape, mold and scold a child, Baby Boomer parents came from a perspective of wanting to praise, prod and reward a child. Gen Xers often parent in a hybrid way between the two.

“Cancel the violin lesson”

Either way, the article states that parents need to ease up a little. As per economist, Bryan Caplan from George Mason University, ‘middle-class parents should relax a bit…” Researcher Ellen Galinksy asked 1,000 kids “what they would most like to change about their parents’ schedules. Few wanted more ‘face time’ the top wish was for mom and dad to be less tired and stressed.” So for both parents and children, whether as pilot or passenger, the helicopter ride may not create a more successful workforce.

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