Helicopter parents are in the news a lot these days. These are the parents who can’t stop hovering around their kids. They practically wrap them in bubble wrap, creating a cohort of young adults who struggle to function in their jobs and in their lives.
Helicopter parents think that they’re doing what’s best for their kids but actually, they’re hurting their kids’ chances at success. In particular, they’re ruining their kids’ chances of landing a job and keeping it.
Helicopter parents don’t want their kids to get hurt. They want to soften every blow and cushion every fall. The problem is that these over-protected kids never learn how to deal with loss, failure or disappointment – inevitable aspects of everyone’s life.
Over-protection makes it nearly impossible for these young people to develop frustration tolerance. Without this important psychological attribute, young people enter the workforce at a great disadvantage.
Helicopter parents do too much for their kids, so the kids grow up lacking a healthy work-ethic, as well as basic skills. Without this work-ethic and these necessary skills, the young person won’t be able to accomplish many of the workplace tasks expected of them.
Helicopter parents over-protect their kids and deprive them of any meaningful consequences for their actions. As a result, they miss out on the opportunity to learn valuable life lessons from the mistakes they make; life-lessons that would contribute to their emotional intelligence.
Helicopter parents protect their kids from any conflicts they might have with their peers. When these kids grow up, they don’t know how to resolve difficulties between themselves and a colleague or supervisor.
People solve problems by trying things, making mistakes, learning, and then trying again. This process builds confidence, competence and self-worth. Helicopter parents prevent their children from developing all of these important attributes which are necessary for career success.
Helicopter parents think that their kids should win at everything. Everyone who competes in a sports meet should get a trophy. Everyone should get a passing grade, even if their assignment is overdue or poorly-conceived.
In a functional workplace, there’s only one winner of a competition, and only high-quality work is rewarded. If children grow up thinking that no matter what they do, they’ll win, they won’t realize that they actually have to work hard in order to succeed.
These spoiled young people will be devastated when they keep losing competitions, blowing interviews or getting fired from their jobs. They won’t understand how much effort is actually required in order to be a winner in the work world.
These young people lack competence and agency from never having had to work through a problem or complete a project all by themselves. They expect others to do these things for them, just as their parents always have. In essence, they can’t think or act for themselves.
Helicopter parenting instills a set of bad attitudes in kids. They grow up with great expectations of success, unrelated to how much time or energy they invest, and they feel deserving of preferential treatment – neither of which go over well with their colleagues or bosses.
In a job interview, prospective employers might be put off by the overly-entitled attitude of a young person, or be alarmed by their lack of basic skills.
The young person’s general aura of ignorance and incompetence, combined with expectations of immediate and substantial rewards unrelated to performance are likely to be the kiss of death in any interview for a good position.
When parents decide to accompany their 20-something offspring to a job interview, it undermines any confidence a potential employer might have in this potential employee. “Why,” the employer might ask themselves, “would a job-seeker need to bring their Mommy or Daddy along on an interview, unless this young person was more child than adult?”
Even in smaller ways, helicopter parents cripple their kids. The adult child of helicopter parents will take their coffee break and then walk out of the break room, not having cleaned up their mess or washed out their cup. You can see how this will foster resentment among their colleagues.
These young people expect “someone” to clean up after them, in the same way that their mess was always cleaned up when they were kids. They don’t see that there’s no-one following them around anymore, cleaning up their messes, whether physical, interpersonal or professional.
In a WebPsychology article by Barb Nefer, “millennials are getting hit hard by depression. One in five young workers has experienced on-the-job depression, compared to only 16 percent of Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers.”
Nefer goes on to say that according to “a white paper from Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, millennials have impaired functioning on the job and higher rates of absenteeism, as well as more conflict and incidents of getting written up,” all of which “can impede job performance.”
According to an article by Brooke Donatone in the Washington Post, a 2013 entry in the “Journal of Child and Family Studies found that college students who experienced helicopter parenting reported higher levels of depression.”
The Washington Post article goes on to say that “intrusive parenting interferes with the development of autonomy and competence. So helicopter parenting leads to increased dependence and decreased ability to complete tasks without parental supervision.”
It’s clear from the above articles that helicopter parenting is contributing to a growing rate of depression among young people as well as an inability to function optimally in the workplace.
If you’re a parent who wants your children to have career success as adults, you need to be aware of any tendencies toward helicopter parenting in yourself and your co-parent.
Loving your child means guiding them, protecting them and supporting them. It doesn’t mean smothering them, over-protecting them or doing so much for them that they never learn to think on their feet, cope with challenges or deal with disappointment and failure.
The most loving thing you can do as a parent is take a step back and let your child fall down, flail about and figure things out on her own. Sometimes the best way to “be there” for your kid is not to be there for them. This is how you enable them to develop confidence, competence, self-worth and emotional intelligence.
Young people today need parents who support them in becoming functioning adults. This means less hovering and bubble-wrapping of kids and more empowering them to do things for themselves, figure things out for themselves and learn how to cope with difficulties, all by themselves.
Sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. June is all about having a more meaningful summer.