Are You Being a 'Helicopter Parent'?

A new study shows that over-controlling parents can cause their college-aged children to be depressed. What sort of tasks do you preform for your student? Is there such a thing as too much?

Do you still do your college kid's laundry? Wake him or her up for class? Manage the student's schedule? Make calls to tutors? If so, a new study shows you could be doing more harm than good.

According to a recent Reuters article, Holly Schiffrin from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia found so-called "helicopter parenting" negatively affected college students by undermining their need to feel independent and competent. Helicopter parenting refers to parents who hover over and micro-manage their child’s school and social lives, according to a PsychCentral.com article on Schiffrin's study.

"To find parents so closely involved with their college lives, contacting their tutors and running their schedules, is something new and on the increase," Schiffrin told Reuters. "It does not allow independence and the chance to learn from mistakes."

The article went on to say that Schiffrin's study found students with over-controlling parents were more likely to be depressed and less satisfied with their lives. One reason for this emerging phenomenon could be parents being concerned with their child's chances of success in tough economic times, the article said.

So, Patch asks: What is an acceptable role for a parent in a college student's life? How do you let your college student make their own mistakes? What is something you do for your student that you think you should start or stop doing? Tell us in the comments section below.

Willow February 14, 2013 at 08:31 PM
This has nothing to do with concerns over tough economic times. I think it has everything to do with parents 1. Not trusting their kids to make wise choices, 2. Parents too soft and not wanting to witness their kids suffer natural negative consequences, 3. Parents feeling guilt if their child makes a mistake that they feel they could have prevented. "Oh, Jr. missed a major test that he can't make up because he forgot to set his alarm? Well I was here and awake and I could have woken him up. It's my fault he didn't get there." I love the saying, Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, he'll eat forever. I'm in the business of teaching my kids to fish!
Al Tate February 14, 2013 at 08:37 PM
This is garbage.
Shawn Aune February 15, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Helicopter parents do very little parenting and a whole lot of micro-managing. I've seen first hand how sad and disturbed some of these kids are due to their ridiculous schedules.
Diane Siegler Fritz March 05, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Helicopter parenting is bad, but under-protective parenting is worse. It seems as though people like to complain about over-protective parenting than under-protective parenting. Perhaps the people chanting, "helicoptor parent", need to review their parenting style. There are too many "me, myself, and I parents out there. That is what makes kids depressed the most (in my opinion). Put your kids first, your career second. Your job may put a roof over your kids head, but that is not the only factor about being a parent. If you are not there for your kids, then the kids suffer -mansion or tiny studio apt.
Liberaltarian April 19, 2013 at 04:06 AM
The hardest thing for me is remembering that it's my daughter's life, not mine. I 100% agree with Willow's philosophy and that's what I try hard to follow. But my daughter is able to, and is doing, so many more cool things than what I did at her age. So there's this urge to become more involved in her life than I should be. I have to always remind myself that, even with a college-aged child, I'm still a parent and my job is to help her develop into a happy, healthy, confident, contributing member of our society. That helps me keep my mouth shut.


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