The XX Factor

Helicopter Parenting, From Cradle to Dorm Room

An interesting confluence in the parenting blogosphere today: Over at Babble, Katie Granju, author of Attachment Parenting , worries that we’re fussing over our children too much ( update: I just noticed that this is a 2007 article that jumped to their most-viewed list) and that we’re doing more harm than good in the process. (I enjoy any article that eases my guilt over letting my 3-year-old dress himself in shorts, a T-shirt, and a ski cap this morning.) Meanwhile, the New York Times ’ Motherlode blog has a post about how some colleges are taking advantage of the helicopter trend to keep students in line. George Washington University, MIT, and other schools are now calling parents whenever a student is caught drinking, based on the idea that “one thing students seem to fear as much as expulsion is being found out by their parents.” Really?

College students are admittedly at a strange period in their lives-not kids, not quite grown-ups. And our laws contribute to that awkwardness-you are considered an adult and can vote at 18, but no drinking until 21. But one of the purposes of going to college-aside from all that book learnin’-is to force young adults to grow up, to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes, to help on that path from adolescence to full-blown grown-up status. But doesn’t “I’m gonna tell your mommy on you” lose its ability to induce fear sometime in elementary school? I don’t know if the schools have the right idea, but I don’t really blame them for trying. It’s more the parents who enable the schools to think this way. You don’t have to let your kids run wild, but you can foster their sense of independence. By the time you send them away to school, they should know that you’re not going to come running every time they need their nose wiped but also that they don’t need to fear you. What happens when they get into the workforce and they make a mistake? Should their bosses call Mommy, too?

I’m pretty sure that as long as I wasn’t drinking and driving or causing harm to myself, my parents would have laughed off any call they got from my college. And if I’m the recipient of such a call when the day comes that I have college kids? “He’s drinking beer?” I’ll ask. “Well, I sure hope it’s good beer. I tried to raise him right.”