Helicopter Parents Now Hovering Over Workplace, Part 2

Last week I was inspired by this article. I talked about helicopter parenting in general.

Now let’s discuss how helicopter parenting would affect me as an employer. Yes, back in the day I hired people for the social service agency where I was executive director. Hiring people isn’t as pleasant as it sounds, especially in an economy when you are swamped with resumes for people not even remotely qualified for the job. I’m sorry, but having an MBA or an EE degree does not make you qualified to be a caseworker.

When I think of parents being involved in the hiring process, it makes me throw up a little in the back of my throat. I can’t imagine juggling resume sorting, interviewing, angsting over who to hire, and then dealing with helicopter parents! Of course you believe your child is appropriate for the job! He’s your child!

Unfortunately, you have no idea what any company is looking for or the type of person who will fit into the existing company culture.

This part of the article worries me the most:

“You don’t want to block the energy of the parent,” says Neil Howe, who studies and consults on generational trends for the company LifeCourse Associates. “It’s like jujitsu. You just want to channel it in a certain direction.”

Howe says boomers are incredibly close to their children, and in his opinion, that’s a good thing.

Besides, Howe says, there’s little point in resisting engaged parents. School teachers initially tried to push back against helicopter parents a decade ago, Howe notes, but ultimately learned it was counterproductive.

“Every time a teacher [resisted], that parent, who was so attached to their kid, would become that teacher’s worst enemy,” Howe says.

Today, Howe says, many schools now reach out proactively to parents, going so far as to offer online homework programs that allow parents to monitor a child’s progress. Colleges have also adapted, he notes, some even creating an Office of Parent Relations.

It bothers me because 1) I think parents are over-involved in school and 2) the working environment is completely different that the educational one. Being involved in school is one thing; parents are responsible for their children until they are legally adults. Parents have the ability to guide their children by interacting with school personnel. Once the child turns 18 there really needs to be independence.

The last thing I was looking for in an employee was lack of independence. Most jobs I’ve had have required me to make some decisions on my own to properly complete the job. If I had constantly gone to my supervisor with every decision, I don’t believe I would have kept that job for long.

As parents, our first instinct is to remain safe. We’ve been through the phase of life where the unexpected rules. It’s part of maturing. But sometimes, young people need to be unsafe. I don’t mean physically unsafe, I mean making decisions than aren’t going to lead to a known outcome.

Young people are young enough to make mistakes. Taking the wrong job isn’t the worst mistake they can make. Sometimes taking the “wrong” job ends up being the best decision ever made. Sometimes taking the wrong job means you learn something about yourself and how you want to spend your life.

Parents should encourage their children to make mistakes, blaze new trails, and learn who they are for themselves. We can make suggestions (e.g., go to college, don’t get married at 18, etc.). But for every suggestion, there are examples of people who made those choices and thrived.

Parents need to recognize that this need for control is really a need to keep our families safe and intact. But sometimes the best thing is to let go and see how far our children go. I have a feeling some of them are going to soar…

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