Sometimes, life is complicated. Take the case of the helicopter parent. You know who I’m talking about, the parent who is constantly present and hovering, who tells her (usually it’s a mother) child what to do, what to wear, what to say, who to see and so on. See this Slate article.
Apparently, these parents want their children to go to the best schools—which parent doesn’t?—and do not care if their children are really happy.
One wonders whether this is a veiled attack on the Tiger Mom?
Once we address the matter more closely, we run into a number of difficult questions.
Consider one obvious point. I could be wrong, but I had been led to believe that today’s mothers are not just stay-at-home Moms; they hold down jobs; they pursue careers. Unless they work part-time or hold down a job in which they can control their schedule, it is difficult to understand how they can be hovering over their children day and night.
Consider another point, one that the jeremiads against helicopter parenting and high achieving children often neglect: namely that there’s more to growing up in America than one’s relationship with one’s parents. For all I know an overly protective parent might feel a need to protect his or her children from the ambient American culture, which is saturated with sex, drugs, alcohol and rock ‘n roll.
How many children, upon entering college find themselves surrounded with a culture of decadence and depravity, one that their parents have successfully shielded them from, but that now is assaulting them?
Parents are being assailed by stories about the hookup culture and the rape culture, about drinking and drugs at the Bacchanalian festivities called Spring Break, about sexting and worse. Why would they not feel a need to protect their children from today’s American culture? If they do, why is it their fault?
Rather than blaming helicopter parents for making their children sick, why not consider that these parents might be thinking of what is best for their children? Perhaps they understand that the culture rewards high achieving students more than it does well-rounded children.
In addition, the attack on helicopter parents does not seem to consider the importance of the school system. When teachers shower everyone with empty praise, don’t they undermine the will to achieve? If the school system is indoctrinating children in political correctness, a parent might very well feel that his or her child should work on STEM subjects, the better to escape the brainwashing.
Also, if a young woman, as the story is told in the Slate article, has been harassed by her father about majoring in economics, a subject in which she has little interest or talent, isn’t this father just being the good feminist? Isn’t he treating his daughter as if she were a boy, as if there is no significant difference between her and a boy? His problem is not helicoptering, but being too politically correct.
Moreover, ask yourself this: What does a teenage girl hear when her father tells her that she must have a major that will prepare her for a lucrative career? Does she hear that her father is not sexist or does she hear that her father believes that she will have to care for herself because no man will ever want to support here?
It’s nice to see parents as omnipresent and omniscient figures that do everything for their children. It makes for an interesting narrative. And yet, the children who are accepted into Stanford and Yale took their SATs all by themselves.
Surely, the attack on helicopter parenting is an attack on a culture of achievement. And yet, American students are not notorious overachievers. Compared their peers, they tend to underachieve. These parents might be trying to protect their children from the ambient decadence, to help them to achieve in a culture that is militating against it.
And besides, since these helicopter parents are invariably mothers, why are we still inclined to blame everything on mothers?