The 12-Step Cure to Helicopter Parenting

It’s spring, and kids are graduating from University and starting their careers.

Those young people whose parents raised them to be hard-working, responsible and self-directed are going to be at a huge advantage, compared to those who have helicopter parents or those who’ve studied at schools that act like helicopter parents.

Frighteningly, our schools, from elementary, to high school to college are being pressured by both parents and government bodies to pass students, even if they haven’t shown up to class, haven’t done the work, and haven’t learned the material.

Someone I know who teaches elementary school is appalled to see how many of the parents question every grade their kids receive, without wondering about the more important issue, which is whether their children are learning what they need in order to prepare for their futures.

An acquaintance of mine who teaches in a professional program at a college tells me that their post-secondary institution is being pressured to give its students an experience of “student satisfaction,” rather than a proper education.

When I talk to people who run businesses and are in the process of hiring, the stories of young people entering the workplace are shocking.

I hear about young people who are grossly unprepared, both in attitude and skill set, to perform the jobs they’re applying for.

I recently heard of a young man who was offered a summer job. It would be five or six weeks, six days a week, and he’d earn upwards of $3000. His mom refused to let him take the job, telling the prospective employer that it was “too much work.”

A young person I know of got their first job out of school. It was well-paying and had opportunities for advancement but they didn’t like the 45-minute commute. When they mentioned to their father that they were thinking of quitting, he went along with the idea.

These parents clearly love their kids but the way they’re showing it is backfiring, big-time, if they want to raise kids who are employable.

A young woman I know attended a two-year training program which prepared her for a great career in the entertainment industry.

The course cost close to $30,000, but even so, the young woman told me that many of her classmates were skipping classes and not handing in their assignments.

By the end of the two years, a fraction of the people who began the program ended up graduating, despite the fact that everyone had paid the full tuition in advance.

I wondered how the parents who were funding this costly program might be reacting to their kids not taking the program seriously.

Would these parents go ahead and fund another program, and another, in the hopes that their kid might eventually find something they felt more inclined to participate in? Is this the right message to send to a young person?

If parents and schools make it too easy for young people to shirk their work, it’s unlikely that these youth will ever be willing or able to do what’s necessary, in order to excel in their training or in their future jobs.

If a young person has had helicopter parenting and/or has graduated from a college that coddled them, how can they overcome these disadvantages and achieve success in the workplace?

It’s simple, if not easy. They have to learn the attitudes and skills that will make it possible for them to succeed.

I believe that there are twelve things a young person needs to learn if they want workplace success. They can learn these things, even if their parents and/or schools were too busy bubble-wrapping them to instill these essential lessons into them.

These twelve things are: 1: self-reliance, 2: independent thinking, 3: hard work, 4: perseverance, 5: frustration tolerance, 6: good learning habits, 7: rigorous thinking, 8: good judgment, 9: interpersonal skills, 10: conscientiousness, 11: humility and 12: integrity.

1: Self-reliance. Helicopter parents do too much for their kids, so they grow up overly dependent and unable to do things on their own. The kids need to learn how to trust themselves and believe in themselves, so that they can make their own decisions, solve their own problems and function independently.

2: Independent thinking. Helicopter parents do much of the thinking for their kids, so they grow up feeling uncomfortable thinking for themselves. The kids need to learn how to ask the right questions, analyze the data and make up their own minds about things.

3: Hard work. Helicopter parents make everything too easy for their kids, so they need to learn how to apply themselves to a task and complete it, even if it’s not easy. The kids need to appreciate how much confidence and mastery will come from working hard at tasks and accomplishing their goals.

4: Perseverance. Helicopter parents tell their kids that if something is hard, they can just give up. The kids need to learn that if something is hard, they have to try harder, and stick with it. That’s the only road to real success.

5: Frustration tolerance: Helicopter parents cushion their kids’ every fall, depriving them of all the learning opportunities that come from experiencing loss or failure. The kids need to learn how to fall down and pick themselves up, how to fail with grace and how to be a good loser.

6: Good learning habits. Helicopter parents do all the work for their kids, or tell them not to bother because something is “too hard.” These kids need to learn how to research a project, write a complete, grammatical sentence, finish an essay and prepare for and write a test.

7: Rigorous thinking. Helicopter parents spoon-feed their kids, making it easy for them to have lazy thinking. These kids need to learn the difference between facts and opinions, between what they wish to see and what actually is, and between scientifically-proven truths and things they’d prefer to believe but simply aren’t true.

8: Good judgment. Helicopter parents do too much for their kids so they fail to develop good judgment. They need to learn how to assess people and situations accurately, make good choices for themselves and keep out of trouble.

9: Interpersonal skills. Helicopter parents spoil their kids, so they grow up with an attitude of over-entitlement. They need to learn respect for others, tolerance of differences, recognition of hierarchies, patience, tact and strategies for coping with conflicts.

10: Conscientiousness. Helicopter parents make things much too easy for their kids. They need to learn the value of coming in every day, showing up on time, staying until the end of the day, taking appropriate- length lunch and coffee breaks and doing the work assigned to them, all without complaining.

11: Humility. Helicopter parents spoil their kids, making them feel superior to everyone else, including their superiors. These kids need to learn that they might be bright and talented, but they’re the lowest on the totem pole and have the most to learn. They need to learn to appreciate the wisdom and experience of their elders, and to listen more than they speak.

12: Integrity. Helicopter parents make everything too easy for their kids. These kids need to learn the values of honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty and keeping their promises. In the workplace, soft skills like integrity, conscientiousness and emotional intelligence are often valued more highly than specific technical skills.

All of these things can be learned over time, even if a young person has had helicopter parenting and/or schools that overly coddled them. The bubble-wrapped young person can break free and make the changes necessary to eventually have a good job and a fulfilling career.

Keep following my website for announcements about my Udemy courses for parents, on how to give up helicopter parenting, and for young people, on how to recover from its effects.

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