Helicopter Parents Following Children into Their 20s?

helicopter parents

My Parents are Still Hovering! When does this Helicopter Parenting stop?

Boy oh Boy. Anytime I post something on helicopter parenting, the comment box goes nuts. Usually those who are commenting are the children themselves—the ones trying to get out from under their parents’ thumbs when it comes to school, new situations, going out, dating, and more. But get this—these children are hardly children anymore—they’re in their late teens, their 20s, or their 30s! When does this helicopter parenting stop?

Young adults are being treated like they’re still children:

Like Dee:

I am 18 years old, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t have a license and I don’t have a job. I am totally dependent on my parents. My dad is extremely overprotective. Sometimes I feel that he is deliberately holding me back from getting my license, because he hates it when I go out of the house and he prefers driving me to places himself. He wouldn’t let me ride with my friend who already has hers. Lately I feel that I would rather not go out at all than have him drive me everywhere, because he still makes me feel guilty for going out, as if I am letting him down or betraying him. –Dee

Or Christina–

I think I’m also a child of a pathologically overprotective parent. I am, however, in my early 20s. I live with my mother as my parents are divorced and things have got really bad lately. My sister and I are treated like 13 year olds. When we go out our mother calls us every 30 minutes to check up on us. Recently I had 96 missed calls on my cell when I didn’t reply. She has also threatened to send the police to the club we go to and has slapped and shouted at a guy (friend) who brought my sister and I home. Could you please give some suggestions about what we should do? We have already tried talking but she doesn’t want to understand. She thinks that what she does is right. –Christina

Of course, if I called my daughter 96 times and she didn’t answer, I would probably be panicked too. But I think there are 2 main problems here: (1) Parents wanting to know their children are safe and (2) the need for adult children to individuate and separate from their parents. It’s a control issue—but probably enforced out of live (not that love makes it any better or easier to deal with). There is also likely a trust issue– either parents are not trusting their children or they are not trusting who their children are with at any given time. Some of this we can understand— we want our children to be safe, warm, dry, happy, and loved– but some of it seems excessive. Some of it can be helpful— and some, detrimental.

Where it gets complicated is the living situation and in Dee’s situation, the lack of good transportation. The young adults still live in their parents’ house so the parents have made the assumption that the rules and the level of protection stay the same. Of course, this is a ridiculous idea. Children grow and change into adults and therefore, rules must change as well. Rules still should apply—but they should be commensurate with the developmental age of the people who live there. We all have rules—even spouses have rules for one another—even if they are unspoken (i.e. call when you’ll be late, don’t track mud into the house, clean up your own mess). Clearly everyone in the household should be respectful of one another and that means both giving people space and freedom and being respectful of feelings and the need to know that everyone is safe.

There are consequences of helicopter parenting. As we know from previous articles, helicopter parenting can lead to:
(1) Undermining children’s confidence

(2) Instilling fear of failure

(3) Stunting growth and development

(4) Raising anxiety levels

(5) Anger and resentment

But even our commentors had some consequences to add. Be forewarned—it’s not pretty.

Complete breaking of the ties:

I am an adopted child, and my adoptive mother is.. er was… extremely over-protective. We even lived in a very small town simply so she knew where we were at all times. Thankfully, I like to say that I”m “Grown-up”. I may only be 21 years old, but I am married, have two children, and even own my own home! Sadly, I’ve had to cut most of my ties with my parents, simply so I could live my life, the way I wanted to. Although it hurts to know that I’ve hurt them, the feeling of being my own person, after the 13 years I lived with them, for the first time! –Mikki

Stunted Growth, rebellion, frustration:

Well as I read over on what you wrote and what the topic points out I have to agree fully that they do exist. I’d say I might be the youngest person whose commented on this site. Truth be told I’m only a 14year old girl. I don’t really like the fact that there are overprotective parents out there, but I do know that they could be doing this because they love us and want to see us grow up in a safe environment. Though of course nothing goes as exactly planned. I have over protective parents and they both can be pretty annoying at times. I also have an older sister who’s about 20 years old and they won’t even let her date guys! /=o They said to me that I can’t date until I’m 24 and that’s only on a double date. Though the thing that really backfires on parents who are overprotective is that the child might feel a lack of faith from the parents, or it might cause a spark of rebellion in the child causing the child or teen to commit crimes or go to drugs and friends for relief. For me, well I just look up sites on the internet to see what the professionals have to say about this topic. I mean I’m not really allowed to go outside my own house unless it something that’s related with school or church. So to put this in a simple sentence. I got to the internet or television to blow off steam, but right now I really want to at least go out and exercise. Well thats about it. Man I feel better after writing this!

Parents—we must move forward to meet our children where they are. As they grow, new rules must develop and change with them. We don’t want to push our children so far away that they find it unpleasant to spend time with us or talk to us! We also don’t want our adult children to believe they are incapable of taking care of themselves. You can still be a great parent without being a hyper-overprotective one.

I’d love to hear your comments on the topic. Let’s hammer this out. As previously discussed, I am planning to lead a teleconference on the topic as it’s become a very important and popular issue on our blog. Let me know of your interest through Facebook or here on our blog.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Ask Dr. Robyn Silverman: Teach My Kid Some Courtesy!

Video: Teaching Children Courtesy

Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a reader’s question about how to teach courtesy to her children who talk back and yell.

How can parents teach their children courtesy? All parents want their children to be polite, considerate, and respectful of others both in and out of the family.  This addition of Ask Dr. Robyn features a letter from Paula in Scituate, Massachusetts.

This month, our Powerful Words Member Schools will all be partnering with parents to teach children to be more courteous at home, at school, and out in the community. Many of the articles and videos on our blog will feature the character concept, courtesy– so please check back! contact us with any of your questions and let us know your ideas of how to help your children become more courteous and considerate!

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Ask Dr. Robyn: How do I teach respect in my home?

Ask Dr. Robyn Silverman: Creating a Respectful Environment in My Home (Video)

Every parent has trouble with disrespect in the home from time to time.  Children are going to test boundaries, push your buttons, and learn about risk and consequences. It’s part of growing up! Of course, parents need to teach children respect, expect respect, and model respect if they’re going to get it! Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a reader’s question about how to create a respectful atmosphere in the home and provides 10 tips on the ABCs of respect.

Everyone has New Years Resolutions. The one thing I want to concentrate on this year is making sure my home is a place of respect. With 3 growing boys, it can get kind of rowdy in here. I don’t mind the noise but I do mind disrespect in the house. Even my husband and I have gotten caught up in it. It’s got to change. How can I set the tone for respect in my home for 2009?         –Lisa B, Tulsa, OK

Related articles:

Mommy, I hate you!

You’re Bothering Other People!

Dr. Robyn Introduces the Powerful Word: Respect

10 Tips on Teaching Respect

Send Dr. Robyn a question!

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Stop. Think. Show a Little Character

Are You Allowing Small Ways to Show Character to Ride By?  What are We Teaching Our Children?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Friday Musings…

Adults love talking about values with children.  Show respect! Be responsible! Demonstrate some kindness!

While we talk about character all year ’round, it seems that Fall gets everyone in learning mode again.

Since the Powerful Word for September’s Powerful Word was Respect, and October’s Powerful Word is Responsibility, I’ve been hyper-focused on those words.  It’s a good thing.  It challenges me to find ways to be more respectful and responsible. But it also makes me see the glaring ways we all fall down on the job– the job of actually showing children that we exhibit character ourselves NOT just tell them to do it.

A few weeks ago I was leaving for to see some of our favorite local teens from Randolph High in a summer production of the musical, Grease. It was 7pm. Rush hour. My husband and I sat in my car at the end of the street for about 7 minutes before some kind soul stopped and let me merge onto the main road. Thank goodness. Otherwise I might be still sitting there now.  I’d like to send out a public “thank-you” to the person who actually took the extra 3 seconds to let me in!  Thank-you, wherever you are!

There are daily opportunities to put our character into active motion. As parents, we must recognize them and make the choice to take them. These two steps are crucial to not only making the world a better place but also showing children that we actually do in fact “walk the talk.”

I say “recognize” because (and correct me if you disagree) some people just don’t see the opportunity to show character even if it hits them square between the eyes. Know anyone like this?

For example, my husband Jason and I were enjoying some quality time at the Dog Park with our fabulous furry friend, Casey.  We saw a mother walking with her son (maybe around 9 years old), when their dog squatted and did his “doggie business.”  Instead of bagging it up like everyone else, the mother and son just walked on by as if the rules of the dog park (and common decency) didn’t apply to them.

It makes me want to find more ways to show character– even in small ways.  I mean, look around!  You’ve got to stop and think! For example, it was about 9am on Monday morning. I had just finished at the gym and stopped at the local “Stop N’ Shop” to pick up my weekly groceries. I was rushing around…as we all tend to do. An elderly woman who had parked next to me was loading her groceries into her trunk when she stopped and asked me, “will you be needing a cart?” I said, “Sure. I’d be happy to take that for you.” She smiled gratefully and sighed, “that would be really helpful.” You know, it made me feel good.

I have to tell you that my initial thought when she asked me if I needed a cart was “yes, I’ll get one inside the store.” I mean, that’s what we’re programmed to do, isn’t it? We rush around and sometimes don’t even see the opportunities to put our character into active motion. We want our children to keep their eyes open for ways they can use their Powerful Character but sometimes forget that we have to slow down every once in a while to recognize the opportunities to use the lessons ourselves!

Funny, I walked away thinking; “That lady had a good idea. And it’s such an easy concept!” That small exchange would keep carts from hitting parked cars and store workers from having to chase carts in every conceivable place in the parking lot. We all know that most people do not return the carts to the assigned parking spot anyway.

So I figured, I’d try the same thing when I left the store. This must be “the lesson” I was supposed to get from this brief exchange! What goes around comes around right? Yes, I recognize that this is a very unscientific study– but it was worth a try.

There was a guy walking towards the store with his son (probably about 8 years old) when I had finished loading the groceries into my trunk. I turned to the father and asked, “Will you be needing a cart?” I had to smile to myself since I sounded just like the women who spoke to me a half hour before.

Well, guess what happened? The man looked at me with a quick side glance and said, “Nah, we’re only getting a few things,” and walked on by. I’m totally serious. He didn’t take the cart even though he was walking inside the store right past the cart retrieval area. His son just shrugged as he looked up at his Dad and they just kept walking.

I was a bit stunned. Should I have been? That wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen! What was this guy teaching his son? It made me wonder if I might have missed this opportunity before– how many of us do? I shook my head.

Stop. Think. Put character in active motion. So I figured that I could still do my part.  I mean, do we really need to leave our carts by the front of our cars and back out?  Why not show some responsibility? So I wheeled my cart across the parking lot to the cart return. It was a beautiful day. It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t even very far.

I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I think about these things because, as parents and as educators, we’re not just teaching character. That would be going only half way. We are teaching our children to act. If we don’t recognize the opportunities ourselves, are we just full of it? And if we don’t put our own character in active motion, even in these small ways, are we leading by example?

Would love to hear your take on the topic.  Please comment below.

Have a Powerful Weekend- I’m in Oklahoma City for a few days!

Warm regards,

Same as it never was

There’s something about coming home. I’m currently in NJ where I grew up and yet, I’m not really where I once was. Since my Dad passed away way too early and entirely too suddenly in 2006 from liver cancer, my Mom has since moved out of the house where I spent my entire childhood and moved into what I think can only be described as a college dorm of 55 and olders. Yes, the sticky floors and keg parties have been replaced with lovely apartments and games of cards, but still, my Mom lives steps from many of her best friends who get together nearly everyday.

These friends, all who seem familiar and yet many whom I had never met– appear to thankfully absorb some of the pain of loss and help to create new, fun memories for this now much more independent woman. I admit, I miss my old house– the memories– the way things were– but even if we were there, things wouldn’t be the same, would they? And my Mom wouldn’t be finding this new “life” in her life.

When I was a teenager, whenever I returned home from camp, or later, from college, I marveled about what was different. The bathroom countertop always seemed shorter, somehow, my reflection just a little bit older, and my room just a little bit smaller.

Now I look for what’s the same. It’s comforting to see the same restaurants, the same people, and the same stores. It’s challenging to rely on “sameness” though, isn’t it? It’s almost unfair. We change and yet, expect things to stay the same. Sameness gives us a marker of progress, a feeling of comfort, and something to depend on.

As the children go back to school in many areas of the world, and many tears are shed (mostly by the parents who are stunned that time has flown by) how can we welcome change when we rely on sameness?

  1. Talk about the good times but don’t dwell on the past: It’s often fun to meet up with old friends, talk about old times, and relive the memories. However, living in the past is both dangerous and impractical.
  2. Look for the good in change: While change can be unsettling for anyone– whether we’re talking about a child or a parent–it’s vital that we identify what benefits have made themselves known due to this change. There’s a reason cliches like “every cloud has a silver lining” exist.
  3. Don’t make “better/worse” comparisons: When we talk about what was better in the past, especially when it comes to things we can not change, we are setting ourselves up to feeling bad. Yes, things may be different, and yes, you might want to improve your current circumstances, but that should urge you to look forward rather than back!
  4. Tame your fears about change: Change doesn’t need to be negative. Change can be quite wonderful. We all have fears that tell us to hold onto the status quo. But often, the most wonderful things happen when we’re willing to take a risk and embrace the future.

Remember– the way you look at change is going to influence the way your children approach it.

Here’s to growing up and smiling at what’s to come-

Dr. Robyn Silverman Introduces the September Powerful Word: Respect

The Powerful Word of the Month is Respect!

Respect Quotes

“You can’t bully people into giving you respect.  That’s not respect, that’s fear. The only way to get respect is to give it.”  — Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

“Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself.” — Robert G. Ingersoll

He who does not have the courage to speak up for his rights cannot earn the respect of others.” — Rene G. Torres

A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day.” — Bill Watterson

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. — Aldo Leopold

“Seek respect mainly from thyself, for it comes first from within.” —Steven H. Coogler

“Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?” — Confucius

Men are respectable only as they respect” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Respect is love in plain clothes.” — Frankie Byrne

7 attributes children learn from Olympians

Sandi Stevens McGee and Dr. Robyn Silverman

copyright: Sandi Stevens McGee and Dr. Robyn Silverman

What does it take to become an Olympian in life?

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

New York Times

New York Times

Shawn Johnson sticks the perfect landing. Nastia Liukin falls flat on her back and gets back up. Michael Phelps wins another gold medal.

No matter what event you like, it’s difficult to watch the Olympics and not feel inspired. I can’t help myself—I have to stand up, my palms get sweaty, and I find myself shouting “go, go, go!” and “you can do it!” at the TV.

Children can learn a great deal from our Olympians. They’re not just role models; they are character in action. They take all of the Powerful Words that we learn and make use of them in their daily lives.

Here are just a few questions you can pose to your children:

  1. Perseverance: How do your child’s favorite athletes show perseverance in every part of competition and every practice? How can your children show the same kind of perseverance in their own lives?
  2. Discipline: What kind of discipline does it take to achieve a goal like being a member of the Olympic team? Where do you show discipline in your life?
  3. Responsibility: What do you think are the responsibilities of an Olympic hopeful? What kinds of responsibilities must you meet on your quest to be your best?
  4. Determination: Why do you think being determined is so important on our quest to reach our goals? When have you felt determined? What goals have you achieved by being determined?
  5. Indomitable Spirit: Which athletes kept going with all their effort even when they weren’t “the favorite” or even when they were behind? How did that indomitable spirit pay off? When have you showed indomitable spirit in the face of challenge?
  6. Respect: How do you see the Olympians showing respect for themselves and their fellow athletes? How do they show respect and sportsmanship for the judges and their fans? How do you show respect to others each day?
  7. Courage: How do you think these athletes developed the courage to compete on the highest level? How do you think they stayed courageous even when they failed or fell? When do you show that kind of courage and how can you show even more?

The Olympics can be a great stepping stone to talk about your family’s values and well as what it takes to be the best in any area of interest. This is a great time to talk about some amazing athletes and how your children can integrate what they see on their quest to become Olympians in life.