by Alexandria M.
Being involved in sports growing up, I saw all parenting styles in and outside the pool. I watched many peers in school and sport be stressed out to obtain a specific goal that their parents set for them. My peers are not the only ones being affected by this parenting style as a study by Odenweller, Butterfield, and Weber (2014) states that approximately 60-70% of university students report having parent(s) who exhibit hovering behaviour at one point or another. These levels are increasing do to the ever changing technology and the aging Millennials. The term coined for parents that exhibit these characteristics is “helicopter parent”. The helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions, and in sport. (‘‘Liftoff for ‘helicopter’ parents,’’ 2007)
It is often observed that children with parents who are highly involved in their children’s sport and education lack internal assets such as achievement motivation, learning engagement, planning and decision making, conflict resolution. Such children are prevented to learn “common” life skills as their parents do everything for them. But the issues these children have with helicopter parents is more than not being able to cope with common life skills. For example, research has empirically linked helicopter parenting practices with adolescent’s use of recreational painkillers and anxiety and depression medications (LeMoyne & Buchanan, 2011). This parent style also leads to diminished self-confidence, school engagement, and adult identity development (Padilla-Walker & Nelson, 2012); and a heightened sense of entitlement (Segrin et al., 2012).
Helicopter parents not only influence their own children ,but they also affect the people around them. I have been personally affected by a parent as she became involved in my synchronized swimming training to make sure I wasn’t getting more attention from coaches than her daughter at practices. Not only did she come to the pool just to watch me train, she also preceded to email, text, and snapchat the coach or my parents about any issue whenever she felt necessary. Although I now see she had the best intentions for her daughter, she is not the only parent acting in such a manner.
While we all joke about “dance- moms” and “hockey- parents,” this has become a serious issue, in school and sport. The former Dean of Freshman at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims, states that students lack basic life skills when attending university because of over-parenting. She lists many examples from the minimal level to the most extreme; from first year students not having the ability to ask for help from strangers to the most outrageous examples of parents calling professors or employers for working their child too hard. (CBS News, July 16th 2015)
As parents and/or coaches where do we place guidelines to limit the parental involvement in sports or education? “Coaches, referees, principals and teachers were once respected adults and authority figures in our children’s lives and in the life of our community. But now parents seem to think that they need to go and argue with that adult on behalf of their kid”( Julie Lythcott-Haims CBS News, July 16th 2015) This sad realization, that sport can see the involvement of overbearing parents, has resulted in many rules and regulation changes in the world of sport and education. I have observed some sports not allowing parents in ear shot of the practices in order to keep their comments to themselves while others take more extreme measures by banning parent all together. Even sports on a provincial level have placed rules and a consent forms for parents to sign about their own behaviour. During tryouts for Synchro New Brunswick there is a rule in place that prevents parents from speaking to the coaches in regards to any decisions being made (of course the mother previously mentioned broke that rule).While some universities and schools have also adapted do to the overwhelming parental involvement that now some have put in place scheduled family days to limit the amount of parents visit campus.
Perhaps, I have a pre-determined bias based on helicopter parents but I think it is time we loosen the reigns on children. The affects on children are much worse than them acting out and misbehaving, these are long lasting mental and physical issues that can be avoided.
How to Raise an adult: break free of the overparenting trap and prepare your kid for success – Julie Lythcott-Haims
Odenweller, K. G., Booth-Butterfield, M., & Weber, K. (2014). Investigating Helicopter Parenting, Family Environments, and Relational Outcomes for Millennials. Communication Studies, 65, 4, 407-425.
Personal experience thanks to a very annoying parent