As some of you know, I’ve had a couple of rough weeks at work.  I love my students.  I love teaching.  But I’m slowly learning that a large part of my job includes appeasing the parents.  And what kind of parents do I have to appease?

Helicopter parents.  

As a teacher, I see all sorts of parents as they interact with their children.  And lately, I’ve seen more than my fair share of helicopter parents.  I see parents overpraising their children for tasks they should be doing anyway.  I see parents give in to the demands of their children even when those demands are unreasonable.  I see parents baby their children instead of encouraging independence.  And worst of all, I see parents making excuses for their children’s behavior.


Last week I gave my students a timed math assignment with addition problems.  Nothing too difficult, nothing they haven’t been practicing for months.  Most of my students sailed through it with flying colors, but like most classes, there will always be the few who struggle.  One child in particular answered only 1 out of 20 correctly.

The next day there was a note from the child’s mother in her folder.  “My daughter was very upset about the test you gave.  She said that your instructions were to add 1 to everything.  So she did, and if you notice she answered them all correctly when adding one to the last number of each problem.”  There was more, and I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.  This mother was trying to tell me that I should have given her daughter a perfect score because she was following the directions she thought she heard.  I’m sorry, but 6 + 2 does not equal 3.  There’s no room for interpretation.  It’s just wrong.

This note saddened me because not only was a parent making excuses for her child, but this parent also happens to be a teacher herself.  She should know better.  But what really got my blood boiling was what this student said to me when I called her up to my desk for our daily reading.  She asked if I read her mother’s note, and I said yes.  Then she said, “My mom said I got them all right.”

You’re teaching her that, instead of practicing a skill in order to improve for next time, she can grasp onto a false sense of success and ignore the problem.
You’re teaching her that her side of the story is correct, regardless of whether or not she misheard or misunderstood directions.
You’re teaching her that every time she fails at something, mommy will skew the facts in order to avoid letting her experience failure and disappointment. 
You’re teaching her that it’s not ok to fail every now and then, that perfection is the desired goal.
You’re teaching her that every time she gets upset, mommy will step in and fix it.

Another example.  I watched a parent rock her 6-year-old son like a baby for 20 minutes in the school office after he got into so much trouble she had to come and pick him up.  Even worse, instead of reprimanding him, she said (loudly enough for everyone in the office to hear): “I know son, I don’t like that rule either but they won’t change it.” 

You’re teaching him that he can make up his own rules if he doesn’t like other people’s rules.
You’re teaching him that he will get hugs and kisses as a reward for getting into trouble at school.
  You’re teaching him that he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his actions.
You’re teaching him that mommy is always going to defend him regardless of what he does.

I just can’t wrap my head around these parents.  In my opinion, being a helicopter parent does nothing but set children up for failure and teach them to be selfish and needy.  It’s not teaching them to be self-sufficient, independent, confident, responsible human beings who can make their own decisions and be accountable for those decisions.  Isn’t that what we want for our children?

I’m far from the perfect parent.  I don’t know all the answers.  I make a lot of mistakes.  And I’m sure there are aspects of my parenting style that others would criticize.  But my children know it’s ok not to be perfect.  They know if they get in trouble at school, they’ll be in trouble at home.  They know that it’s their responsibility to clean their rooms, and when those rooms are clean, a statue will not be erected in their honor.  They know they will not get a toy every time we go to Wal-Mart.  They know it’s just as important for them to feel proud of themselves for an accomplishment as it is for me to be proud of them.  They know what the word independent means.  And most importantly, they know I will always be there for them regardless of whether or not I’m hovering over them.

{{{Thank you.  I will now step off my soapbox.}}}
Do you think you’re a helicopter parent?  Do you know any helicopter parents?  How do you feel about helicopter parenting?

34 Comments on Helicopter Parents (Caution: Soapbox Alert)

  1. I totally agree with you! There are so many parents out there who are oversteping and they are going to regret it when their children get older. No one thinks that anything is their own fault anymore! I forsee this problem getting worse before it gets any better!

  2. As a high school teacher, I am privileged to enjoy the effects that helicopter parenting has after 14+ years of it. The most successful students I have had are students whose parents expect them to be responsible and refuse to step in and fix it for them. And, in my experience, the students who have gotten pregnant, caught with drugs or alcohol, or arrested for stealing, etc., are more often than not, the students whose parents have fixed everything else in their lives to appear perfect.

  3. It's so sad to see this and realize these parents have no idea the disservice they are doing in preparing their children for life and the real world. Thanks for a peek into it as I hear similar stories from friends who are also teachers. Good soapbox forum today, for sure. Hopefully some parents will get the message and stop trying to correct the teacher when the child is the one in need of correction.

  4. I agree with Kae… this is sad. This is why we see more kids getting in trouble, acting out in public, etc. We never see discipline anymore- except in my home 😉

  5. The really sad thing is that helicopter parents are now showing up at the college level. I had a student tell me that she and her mom were going to the Dean to get me fired after I failed her because she chose not to attend class all semester. Guess what, if you don't attend a lab class, you can't make up the work, especially when I email you every week for the first half of the semester and never get a response.
    We routinely have parents who are angry because their children were valedictorians of some high school and fail out of college, because we don't hold people's hands in college and make sure they don't get wasted the night before the exam.
    The sad thing is that more and more the university system is moving toward accommodating these parents and children because that's what it takes to make money. Grade inflation is rampant. Faculty evals play into tenure, so if students think your class is hard they can get you fired. It doesn't matter how many millions of dollars in NIH grants you bring in or how good your science is, if you don't keep Johnny and his mommy happy, you can loose your job. That's really wrong.

  6. My son and I, both teachers, are just finishing a parenting book discussing those same issues! Many kids today believe very unrealistic things..They think that "No means yes", "Don't Worry they'll say it again", "It's never my fault"….not very helpful in promoting independence and responsibility!!

  7. That is completely and utterly ridiculous! I can't believe that mother is a teacher and *still* behaving that way! I know that every mother thinks their child is perfect and amazing, but how will the child ever learn anything if they're constantly being coddled and having their every mistake or shortcoming justified?

  8. In a way I guess I am. I'm always asking "how is he doing?" "are there problems I need to know about?" "what can I do?" I also make sure his homework is correct before he takes it back to school. Sometimes i don't agree with the rules but I'm not in there teaching, so I figure they must be there for a reason. Sometimes I ask why when it really bothers me. Two days in a row last week my son got in trouble for not having his homework. It was done, he just didn't put it in his folder and take it back to school. He tried to blame me (little poop!) and without speaking to each other his teacher and I gave him the same answer "Your homework is your responsibility." He's learning!! I may hover slightly and be super demanding (yes, all his teachers tell me I'm too strict) but I'm trying to teach him rules are rules – we don't have to agree, but we have to obey. Hmm maybe I should have written a post…..

  9. Amen, sistah! This semester, I have been teaching Constitutional Law to high school seniors (I am not a teacher, so this has been a big challenge and a great experience all in one!)

    I totally agree with you and I see it all the time with so many cousins, friends, etc… and their children. It's sad, really.

    In the school I'm teaching in, however, we have an opposite problem. We have students who really want to learn and really need help and encouragement from their parents and they get nothing. There is only so much I can do in a classroom if the home life isn't backing it up.

  10. Well said! And to answer your question: Are you a helicopter parent? No, I am not. And neither is my wife.

    Like you, my son is keenly aware that, if he misbehaves at school, he’s also in trouble at home.

    And you’re absolutely right. Parents only make it worse for their children when, they foster all the nasty little behaviours mentioned in your blog. I know of one parent at our school who, on a regular basis, complains to the child’s teacher about everything under the sun. More often than not, it’s the parent who is to blame, not the child. She’s clueless.

  11. OMG! Sadly enough, it doesn't shock me though. I am a music teacher… taught elementary for a year… talk about looking for someone to blame!! you should hear some parents trying to fish for things to blame me! Seriously! Sorry you couldn't find a black shirt for the concert, that doesnt' mean I'm a bad teacher. whew… parents are sometimes a rare breed.

  12. WOW I am frustrated just reading this!! I'm not a teacher, but I used to work in the commencement office at a university. Parents would ALWAYS call on behalf of their students, think they knew all about the kid's curriculum, and demand to know why something didn't transfer in or why their student didn't graduate. Thanks to a federal law, I was unable to give out that information to anyone over the phone. It had to be the student asking, and in person. Point is, these are 18-21 year olds (mostly) and they should be able to handle their affairs on their own. What's next? Are their parents going to call their kid's boss every time they have a bad day? Annoying!!

  13. Yikes… I sure hope I'm not, nor ever become, a helicopter parent… And if I do, I sure how someone smacks the snot out of me and tells me to wake up and realize what I'm doing. I can almost guarantee that if I have to go get my child from school because of behavioral issues, that I will not be "rocking them for comfort". Give me a friggin break..

  14. You hit the nail on the head. Nothing scares me more than helicopter parenting. It seems to be very prevalent in the military, so I don't know if I am even going to have any mommy friends when I do reproduce. My best friend is a teacher and sees this stuff One family refused to give their son medication that could have made him a productive, teachable student for so long he is now being held back because he doesn't learn. He crawls on the floor and can't add 2+4 in 3rd grade. The parents just simply wanted to try a lot of other things, but with the knowledge that the medication had worked the previous year. Of course, it's the school's fault. 🙁 Good luck with all that.
    And you sound like a great mom.

  15. We went trough Love and Logic this past year- so helpful. Kids have to see the consequences of their own actions. No one enjoys seeing their child "fail" but you have to let them learn…on their own! great post!

  16. Nothing gets me more than students and parents who think that the world owes them something. I would for a university and every time a student/parent (yes even in college we get the parents talking for their 20 year old children) it is "you are causing my student to fail if you give this bad grade" or "you are the reason my daughter won't get into nursing school" etc. Um excuse me… your son or daughter earned the grade, the teacher gave the grade it deserved, who is at fault here?!

  17. My little brother is ten years younger than me, so I have gotten a different perspective on things despite not being a parent. My brother is dyslexic/dysgraphic and works very hard to get things right. My mom has had to step in a few times, but she knows which battles are hers to fight. Some of the parents of his friends are soooo helicopter parents!

    One of his good friends has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and her mother is the biggest helicopter I've ever seen. Yes I know having a child with an illness changes things, but you have to let the girl out a little! Cut her some slack! They missed my wedding (as good friends of our family) because she thought it would " too much for K to handle". It's just frustrating.

  18. When I was teaching I hated dealing with helicopter parents. Let me tell you it doesn't get any better by the time they are in middle school! I had a few parents try to get me to change their kids grade so they could make honor roll. I'm sorry I don't give you kid a random grade…that's what they EARNED based on the criteria I told them about on day one of my class. I would also remind them of the criteria and what they would need to do to get a good grade. I was there to help them when they needed it. I feel very sorry for those kids…they are the parents that are contacting employers and asking why their kids didn't get the job! Since when is that ok?!?!

  19. As a step-parent, my hubby and I have to deal with a lot of these same issues. Most people wouldn't believe how difficult it is to repair the 'damage' that is done by such behaviors. I mean, how difficult is it to teach a child to be responsible for themselves, take credit for their own mistakes and learn to take no for an answer?

  20. TOTALLY agree! Yes failure is sad. Getting in trouble is not fun. Sometimes you don't get your way.
    Get over it. That's life. It just makes a bunch of spoiled, self-centered brats. Teaching consequences is much easier with 3 and 7 year olds than it is with 18 and 27 year olds.

  21. My mom is a fourth grade teacher and talks about parents like these ALL the time. She says the parents are the hardest part of teaching. Stick to your guns, you may be the only hope that child has for learning about "the real world"

  22. Oh my gosh. You are so right. I don't have kids myself, so I feel like I shouldn't be criticizing. I've seen it too, though. It even happens with high school kids. Mommy steps in when they think their "perfect" child is being mistreated and they need to fix it. I don't understand how these parents can do that! What's going to happen to these kids when they grow up? Or when they're away at college and those professors expect certain things of them? These parents may think that they're just protecting their children, but they are doing them a HUGE disservice. I shudder to think what the next generation is going to look like in 10-15 years.

  23. Oh my goodness! I feel sorry for the children that have parents like these. (And I hope nobody thinks I am a "helicopter parent") I agree with you 110%!!! We as parents need to allow our children to make mistakes and learn from them, for them to learn that life is not fair, that there will be failures and that its ok, that just because something doesn't work out the way you want the first time doesn't mean find excuses but it means you try again, you work harder and you move on. Loving someone unconditionally does not mean excusing them or sheltering them from all things negative. Children that grow up like this will never be able to manage on their own, they are the ones still living with their parents at 40.

  24. Stay on the soapbox! Maybe one of these crazy parents will hear you and understand how unreasonable their behavior is.
    About a year ago I read a book called "A Nation of Wimps" by Hara Estroff Marano, all about this. I highly recommend it.
    I'm so sorry for teachers like you that have to put up with this. Thanks for sharing your frustration!

  25. Wow, everyone! Thank you so much for the amazing comments. It's so nice to know I'm not the only person frustrated by this issue. 🙂

  26. Yeah…pretty sure I'm a helicopter parent….but thanks for bringing this to my attention in such an entertaining manner. Thanks for being a teacher – we sure need more great ones!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, following back, so I don't miss any of the good stuff.
    The Survival Mama

  27. Oh dear. Bless you and all of the teachers who have to cope. I think we all go through our parenting mistakes, but you send a good message to us to REALLY think about the legacy of our actions. Love you mama!!

  28. What an inspiring post! You bring up so many good points I will definitely be taking it to heart for one day when I'm a parent… I will not be a helicopter parent, it's not the way I was raised either!

  29. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Great post and some of the helicopter parents out there need to listen to what your saying. My wife and I are not helicopter parents! My children know the expectations set by us for there behaviours. They need to take responsability for their actions. As a parent you want to encourage them but at the same time there has to be a level of independence that you teach them. Great site you have! I'm following you now.

  30. completely agree with you!
    goodness, I hope I don't helicopter parent. I do find myself often overpraising my children for something they do that in reality they should be doing anyway (I think I am trying to make up for daddy not being here) But children absolutely need to learn from mistakes, take responsibilty for their actions, and learn consequences. I hope I am never found rocking my 6 yr old in the office after he got into trouble. Yikes!
    Bless you for having to deal with that.

  31. I *know* that sometimes I let Goose get away with things that I shouldn't… and always the first thing that happens after a timeout is a hug, a kiss, and an apology from her to Momma, Papa, the dog – whoever (and sometimes one from me back to her) and sometimes I'm at fault of overpraising for certain things, like after picking up every.single. piece of food she threw on the floor… BUT – I also *DO* enforce rules, and let he know when she's done something that isn't acceptable, and promote/allow her to assert her individuality and independence… although she did just turn two… and I know that those "bad" habits will need to be phased out, and in the not-too-distant future before they become harder to break… but she's still learning… so yes, I encourage, overpraise, overprotect a bit even… but not to the extent of the moms in your examples. Not even close. Those moms?? they're only hurting their children in the long run… for sure.

  32. Thanks for following me!

    Man am I glad my parents were not "helicopter parents". My sister and I were always told to do our best but they knew when we weren't doing what we could and always held us accountable whether that be by asking us what we needed for help or telling us to stop being lazy lol. Teacher's are such brave people…I don't think I could ever be anything but a dance teacher and that is even stretching it.

    I love your blog! You're so honest, its really refreshing.

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