"Helicopter parenting" harms the child

"Helicopter parenting" harms the child

Recently I congratulated a boy who had secured a very good rank in the medical entrance examination and sought my blessings. I appreciated the boy's...

Recently I congratulated a boy who had secured a very good rank in the medical entrance examination and sought my blessings. I appreciated the boy's parents for the support they had given to their child for realizing his dream. While the parents were quite happy with my compliment, the boy told me with a smile that he could have surely performed better if they had had confidence in him and left him to fend for himself instead of visiting his college every other day (without exaggeration,) calling him every day to find out how he was and thereby indirectly increasing his tension. What the child was hinting at was that the well-intentioned parental concern had the unforeseen result of making him more and more self-conscious. This set me thinking about the art of parenting in a child's journey in academics and career goals. Undoubtedly the bond is for life but when, where, how, how far, what for and why a parent might be more of a positive influence or the contrary has to be carefully observed and adhered to. There is a difference between parental responsibilities, involvement, guidance, control, support, dominance, and, as a child grows up, the role of the parent has to be less intrusive and more supportive than dominating. The new term "helicopter parent" was introduced into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2011 as "a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child." This expression has been coined to capture the modern parent's negative influence. CNN had an article on the increasing number of such parents in the US, but I realize that it is a global problem, more so for the modern middle class. While quoting several examples from university students who opposed their parents' unannounced visits and cyber monitoring as 'intrusive' and narrating the problems encountered by prospective employers while selecting an otherwise competent but 'overly guarded' candidate for any responsible post, the opinions of psychologists have been highlighted .
Psychologists, along with career experts, assert that hovering guardians are stalling their kids' hiring future by being hyper-present. Children must be capable of forming and expressing their personal opinions, create their own experiences in order to build professional confidence and respect. Parents can encourage them to share their thoughts, and even their fears, but can they 'give a career' on a platter? A career has to be 'earned' by the individual. By their 'hovering' presence, being overprotective and not realizing when to step away, parents are becoming an obstruction in their children's progress, "making it hard to develop resilience, self-sufficiency and autonomy". Aaron Cooper, a clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, says mollycoddling mothers and doting dads can become a child's crutch. Many children become super-reliant on their parents and unable to stand on their own. The reasons for such excessive attention could be: "I'm-going-to-make-up-for-it mentality," a sense of guilt among the employed couples with full-time careers who may feel that they never really spent enough time with the children as they grew up; children have increasingly become an emblem of their parents' success or like an 'extension of their resume'. We realize the invaluable support a parent can extend to his child in a positive way in education, right from the day the school becomes a major contributor in the child's social network. A healthy and ideal triangle in any child's growth would be with a proper understanding, cooperation, and flexibility, interaction between the school and the parents with the common goal of the child's all-round development. In study after study, researchers discover how important it is for parents to be actively involved in their child's education. Here are some of the findings of major research into parental involvement: When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school � and the schools they go to are better. Three kinds of parental involvement at home are consistently associated with higher student achievement: actively organizing and monitoring a child's time, helping with homework, and discussing school matters positively. The earlier that parent involvement begins in a child's educational process, the more powerful the effects. Positive results of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behaviour, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling. The problem today is that we miss the clear dividing line between lending support and interference, either in the child's academics or in the school administration. If a child has a doubt regarding his performance or his teacher's evaluation, let the child approach his teacher. It is a sacred zone and any conscientious teacher would be happy to explain the criteria of her evaluation. When we expect our teachers to work judiciously, design critical thinking questions, and enhance the child's higher order skills by going beyond the prescribed text, when we expect them to be transparent, knowledgeable, committed and unbiased in their continuous assessment, their autonomy has to be respected. Unfortunately, parental support and guidance seem to be taking negative, undesirable connotations with undue pressure on teachers to digress from their code. It is the 'helicopter' parenting that makes parents pressurize teachers even for the kind of 'role' they think their child ought to be given in the school play, based on their social status and whims. So, we see how, instead of guarding and letting their child grow in a healthy way, parents unknowingly 'promote' or dictate their child's schooling ingraining or perpetuating their lopsided views, prejudices and corrupt philosophies. Coming to college, in our country the process of selecting it is neither time-taking nor engaging. Mostly the children opt for courses based on the popular market trends or peer pressure if not parental pressure, and while admissions even to professional courses are done without visiting the institutes and assessing them personally, admission to other streams in academics at the undergraduate level are done in a further offhand manner. Parents choose the college and the stream for the child based on a hasty last-minute shopping, glittering ads in bus stops and shopping malls or the pseudo impression that everything costly is of quality. How many of parents in India take time to visit the prospective colleges along with their child to know the truth first hand? How many are doing this even before clicking their options in EAMCET counseling? Is it not time wisely spent rather than making a double investment in special coaching for careers after the graduation from a substandard college chosen in haste? What I have observed here, in the U S, is worth sharing with our parents at least for their future plans. In spite of all the information being available on websites, both the child and the parent make time, when the child is in the 11th class, to visit the prospective colleges, study the facilities, know the strength of the faculty, interact with the academic advisors and form an idea. Schools organize 'Gear up' trips to create awareness. Both the parent and the child know the selection procedure, finances involved, and they plan in advance. The parameters for selection are a combination of the candidates' grades in his class, his aptitude as assessed in a test, his extent of social service, the number of summer institutes attended, etc,. In our country we too can introduce such parameters for they help in assessing the personality of the candidate better. Another feature that caught my attention is the transferable credits from school level to graduate level if a student completes any advanced level courses over and above the normal curriculum. We have many schools coaching children for Olympiads in many subjects, but we do not yet have this facility of extra credits to motivate children to aim high and work in advance. In our country where corruption and false values are in a higher proportion than in the developed countries, the need for proper parental support and less of 'helicopter parenting' must be arduously worked for. Let the media take an active role for this healthy turn.
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