When I first decided to write about this topic it came from a place of total and complete frustration. As an educator for the past 8 years, I have come across many different types of learners and their parents or guardians. However, lately I have an abundant amount of what you would call, “helicopter parents.”
If you’re a fellow educator and have experienced this phenomenon, I feel for you. This has to be the most trying part of my day. As an online educator, my contact with a student is primarily through emails and face to face online. However, I spend more time fielding emails and phone calls from parents.
First and foremost, I want to state that I believe it’s important that parents take an active role in their child’s education, but there has to be a limit. I cringe every time my phone, or other device, indicates a new email or voicemail. Not because I fear it’s a student looking for me, no, I fear it’s a parent asking me questions about their child’s course.
These are some of the questions I field on a daily basis:
What can (insert name here) do to raise his/her grade?
Why did (insert name here) get number 2 wrong on the quiz?
Can (insert name here) have an extension?
I also receive panicked voicemails asking me to call them immediately regarding their child’s grade or status in the course. Did I mention sometimes these calls come in well before 8:00 in the morning? Perhaps at this point you don’t think these examples are a problem. However, when the parent is contacting me for their seventeen or eighteen-year-old, I become infuriated.
Why on earth are parents more interested in my course? Why are they asking me these questions and their children aren’t? So, I decided to do some research and what I’ve found is startling. According to Parents magazine, parents hover over their children for a number of reasons.
Some of the reasons include fear of dire consequences, feelings of anxiety, and overcompensation as well as peer pressure from other parents. This caught me by surprise because my first instinct was always to attribute the parent’s behavior from a child requesting the interaction. This, however, may not be true. A parent may suffer from anxiety over things they can’t control so they try to establish control over their child’s schooling or other activities.
Perhaps some parents exhibit this behavior because other parents they associate with do. For whatever reason, this behavior can negatively affect their child. These helicopter parents can inflict more damage than good, even though their intentions are pure.
Some students may have decreased confidence, undeveloped coping skills, increased anxiety, sense of entitlement and undeveloped life skills. Unfortunately, I have many, more than I’d like to admit, students that fall under these categories. I can’t help but wonder if their increased anxiety while speaking with me is due to their parents taking over every other aspect of their life. Sometimes I encounter a student that is so rude or demanding, I’m momentarily shocked. I refer to them as entitled, however his behavior could also be a product of “helicopter parenting.”
I’m not sure what I can do, other than insisting on speaking with the student directly. This may even be a the new parenting, model. I say this because when speaking with my friends, who work in a variety of fields, experience coworkers who act younger than their actual age. One friend even shared a story where their coworker’s parent called him in sick. Yes, that’s right a twenty-something-year-olds parent called him in sick.
I am nervous that this is becoming the new norm and I fear that more and more students will exhibit these traits. As an educator, I fear for these students and their futures. I also fear that I may lose my sanity as the educator who speaks to more parents than students.