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Helicopter Parents Could Damage Children’s Careers


The term “helicopter parent” is used to describe parents who hover over their children, smothering them with concern, attention, advice, and especially involvement. It’s important that parents be involved in their children’s lives, but helicopter parents, by definition, take it too far. Still, some folks proudly cop to the label, feeling that a desire to protect their kids is natural, and indeed it is. But, this style of parenting, when taken too far, can hurt more than it helps, especially if kids grow into adults and the helicoptering continues.

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(Photo Credit: katieb50/Flickr)

Here are a few ways that helicopter parents could hurt their children’s careers.

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1. A lot of people won’t understand it.

Helicopter parenting has been normalized to an extent because it’s a relatively common practice these days. But, a lot of older folks don’t really get it. People have a hard time understanding the micromanaging of homework (and free time too) with children. So, when parents are still involved in their adult children’s lives and careers in a helicoptery way, it’s really hard for a lot of folks to understand. This leads to a disconnect for “kids” who are trying to develop mature, professional connections at work because their co-workers struggle to relate to and understand them.

2. Direct involvement with adult children’s careers makes the “kids” look bad.

Helicopter parenting really gets dangerous when it’s carried over into adulthood. Some grown-ups have been known to invite their parents to participate in important professional conversations or even join them for job interviews. This sends a bad message to employers, mainly that the prospective employee possibly lacks independence or is immature in a detrimental way. It’s hard to find an upside to these kinds of practices, but it’s fairly likely that being overly involved during this stage of life could cause damage to “children” professionally.

3. Self-reliance and self-motivation are important.

Parents are participating in the college admissions process, and even graduate school admissions, in higher numbers than ever before. The problem isn’t just the message this sends to prospective schools, but the impact it has on students. When parents are there every step of the way, self-reliance and internal motivation lag, and these are really important traits to cultivate. Without them, life is a much greater struggle. Sometimes the best way to support grown children is to help them learn just how much they are capable of supporting themselves.

4. Their accomplishments won’t feel as good.

Some have started to dub the generation raised by helicopter parents, “the tethered generation.” With parents reliably at their side, developing a full, independent identity can be a little more difficult. Even accomplishments won’t feel as sweet because others helped so much along the way. Allowing adult children to succeed on their own is as important as letting them struggle. They learn and grow a great deal from both experiences.

5. They might want to break away more than you know.

Parents talk about protecting their children, even as young adults, as if the kids are the only ones benefiting from their involvement. It might be worth considering if that’s all there is to it. It’s hard to see kids grow up and break away, but this is a normal practice and process. It can be hard for children to assert their desire for distance, especially when they’ve gotten so little of it along the way. But, eventually, they need a little space, and they might not know how to ask for it. Building up kids’ confidence in themselves is extremely important and will benefit them tremendously. The tough work of the parent is to find a way to emotionally handle letting them go – just a little.

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