A tenth grade biology teacher cured me of helicopter parenting forever. I rarely ran interference with teachers for any of my three sons, but when one of them was on the verge of failing biology, I called his teacher to explain why his homework was in the trunk of my car instead of in the inbox on her desk.
It was a longwinded explanation, the details of which involved a doctor's appointment, an older brother who needed my car, a traveling husband and a communications mash up.
"Are you kidding me?" she said when I briefly paused to inhale. "I don't care if he left his homework in Bangladesh while administering life-saving medications to malnourished children. He gets a zero for the assignment."
Sarcasm wasn't the deadliest weapon she hid in her teacher's arsenal. The next morning she informed my son that I had called, and all hell broke loose. On the Richter scale of humiliations, her nasty retort barely registered compared to the full-blown earthquake that was my son's outrage. I had never seen him that furious before, nor have I been subjected to that kind of vitriol in the 11 years that have passed since.
I can only imagine the histrionics that would ensue if I ever dared to interfere at his workplace. Even if my son and his teacher hadn't eviscerated me all those years ago, even if his teacher had plastered a gold star on my forehead for parental participation, I believe I would have drawn the line after high school. I know I would have drawn the line.
Apparently, parents are no longer drawing that line. According to a recent report from National Public Radio, as the millennial generation graduates and enters the workforce, helicopter parents are following them into the fray.
The NPR article featured Margaret Fiester of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) who is well acquainted with parents who act as lobbyists for their children. Fiester explained that some parents call to negotiate better salaries or vacation time for their kids. Others call to register complaints when their children don't get hired. They go into excruciating detail about the talents of their remarkable progeny.
NPR also reported that:
Michigan State University surveyed more than 700 employers seeking to hire recent college graduates. Nearly one-third said parents had submitted resumes on their child's behalf, some without even informing the child. One-quarter reported hearing from parents urging the employer to hire their son or daughter for a position. Four percent of respondents reported that a parent actually showed up for the candidate's job interview.
Are you kidding me? What is going on here?
I was appalled by the results of this study, but more appalling to me was the fact that some people weren't the least bit appalled. NPR interviewed Neil Howe, a researcher and consultant on generational trends for LifeCourse Associates, who encourages businesses to adopt a parent-friendly attitude.
"You don't want to block the energy of the parent," he told NPR. "It's like jujitsu. You want to channel it in certain directions."
Howe seems to have thrown up his hands in defeat, pointing out that schoolteachers such as the biology instructor I dealt with, initially tried to thwart over-engaged parents, but finally just got on board the Blackhawk. He claims that every time a teacher pushed back against a hovering parent, that parent became the teacher's worst enemy.
Howe believes it is in the best interest of business to get parents on their side. Companies such as Enterprise Holdings have taken his message to heart. When Enterprise sends recruitment packages to job candidates, they send identical packages to those candidates' parents.
NPR reported that some companies have even established "Take Your Parent to Work Day."
I say hogwash. And so does my husband and co-parent, Harold Weinstein, PhD, an organizational psychologist who consults with companies regarding talent assessment, selection and development.
"I can look at this issue from two points of view," he told me. "If I'm the employer, I don't want, and in fact I resent parents who intervene on an employee's behalf. It is inappropriate, intrusive and none of their business. My relationship is with their offspring, not with them. From a consultant's point of view, I would tell any employer who runs up against such an intrusive parent, to say, 'Thank you very much for your interest. We appreciate your concern, but frankly our relationship with your child is between us and your child.' The idea is to be cordial and pleasant while making it clear that there is no relationship between the parent and the organization."
When did the mission of parenting change from creating independent, self-sufficient citizens of the world to instilling insecurity and permanent neediness?
These parents may think they are acting in the best interest of their children, but I believe their meddling is a selfish indulgence that doesn't do anyone any good. By the time a child completes his or her education and enters the workforce, it is time for a parent to serve as coach or mentor rather than agent or savior.
Letting go is the most difficult part of parenting. But it is also the most essential. Clinging to our children until we leave claw marks on their bodies is detrimental to their growth. And it doesn't make us any happier either.
My sons would tar and feather me were I to contact their employers for any reason whatsoever. And thank goodness for that.
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