I came across an article last night on NPR that talked about helicopter parents in the workplace. (You can read the article here). Helicopter parenting is an issue that comes up frequently during our trainings centered around generations in the workplace–although until last night all the feedback we’d received had been about helicopter parents in the college scene.
If you haven’t heard the term “helicopter parenting,” it refers to parents who are so overly involved in their children’s lives that they have the tendency to 1. hover and constantly check in on their kids, and 2. sweep in and rescue their kids as to prevent them from failing. It seems to be a trend with parents of Millennials. The most common example we hear is about parents calling or emailing professors to ask why their (adult) child failed a test or received a bad grade on a paper and requesting that the grade be changed (to an “A” of course). Now it seems as though these same helicopter parents are buzzing along with their children into the workplace.
Am I shocked? No. Am I appalled? Yes.
Parents of Millennials have a done a lot of things right. They’ve given us ample opportunities to explore, create, and find our strengths. They’ve told us we’re amazing and can do anything we set our minds to and have supported us through everything–from the first day of kindergarten to the first day of our first real job after college. However, some parents of Millennials have never let their kids fail. They’ve wanted us to succeed so much that they’ll do anything to help. Supportive? Yep. Helpful? No. This support sometimes comes at the expense of the development of critical skills like self-sufficiency and the ability the handle failure, and creates a sense of entitlement. I’d even wager a guess that there are many Millennials out there who are completely able to handle their own lives, but their parents are afraid to let go.
So what can we do?
As an older member of the Millennial generation, I feel as though it’s our responsibility to start mentoring our younger counterparts. Many Millennials may have never developed important skills like self-motivation, accountability, and the ability to advocate for oneself. As older Millennials, we’ve been out of college for almost a decade and have had the opportunity to develop these skills. We’ve achieved great things and celebrated our successes. We’ve fallen flat on our faces and learned from our failures.
I would encourage all Millennials to seek out the fresh faces in your workplace and start cultivating relationships with them. Volunteer at college campuses. Mentor a high schooler. Peer-to-peer mentoring relationships can provide Millennials with the opportunity to learn from one another and provides a safe, comfortable space for Millennials to discuss real issues that affect our generation. A strong relationship with a peer who is navigating adulthood successfully can help eliminate the need for helicopter parents. As younger Millennials find their feet and their voice, they won’t need parents to advocate for them.
It’s time for helicopter parents to come in for a landing. But don’t worry, your kid will be fine. We got this.