the school of ‘helicopter parenting’

How to begin to educate a child? First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.

— D. H. Lawrence (in Times Educational Supplement, circa 1918 in an essay titled ‘Education of the People’)

I used to think that the hovering, overbearing parents that are the bane (to put it mildly, I would actually say pests) of  only some children and that this kind of degenerate concept is perhaps only applicable to the Occident and not to us in India. How naïve I was! Just because my parents weren’t helicopters, how dare can I think that all other children are / were blessed the same way!

So, it was quite a shock when I realized that there are these kinds of parents who constantly breath down their children’s neck, also amidst us in India  – and ohmygod, among my relatives, acquaintances et al too, but I still thought they were only in a minority. And for a while, when I was busy in my ‘professional work,’ I did not bother about these modes of amusements, as there were many more.

But these days, delightfully for me (and rather sadly for the involved hapless children), I bump into such parents who subscribe to this ‘helicopter parenting’ school of thought in Bangalore, with alarming regularity and frequency. But, I tell myself that these are the  days of glorified & unbridled globalization after all, and so naturally, the illustrious city of Bangalore is a representative microcosm of the rest of the world…

These whirlybird yuppie parents religiously follow their children, endlessly tutor them, ‘show’ them around the world including the antarctic & the amazon, pattaaya to patagonia, protect them from all kinds of imagined evils and influences from the rest of the world, lay a red carpet for them in whatever direction the children condescend to move, sweep the floor in which the children would regally walk on, ferry them from one coaching / training class to the other,  embarrassingly coddle them,  blame the other children for the perceived poor performance of their children – getting their children whatever gadget the parents think they will need, giving them whatever exposure that the parents think their children need,  the works! (and of course, all through this frenzy of asphyxiation, the children are almost never asked for their preferences – and, the children eventually clam up; so expect to see more serial killers in future!)

When I was in the thick of my earlier avatars, I have had these kinds of sad parents visiting me — for some last minute, desperate ‘science fair’ project ideas for their children, driving down 20 odd kilometers one way, just for some some random (and amused) suggestions from me! However, the child will usually not condescend to go with his/her parents on these sojourns or may be the parents wanted to spring a ‘pleasant’ surprise on their lazy children –  ” Close your eyes and hold out your hands, Pinky dear! We have brought your science fair project! We are sure your project will be the best exhibit in your school and you will win a trip to NASA yadda yadda…”

It would of course be out of place to mention here that, at least one of such children from the illustrious helicopter parentage has made it to the famous IITs, in spite of my best efforts! (this brings me back to my bête noire – the IIT system!)

I have always asked myself as to what are the motivating factors for such pathetic parents.  I would think they bend over backwards to please their children, make them do all kinds of things that these parents feel that they should have done in their childhood – perhaps with a view to reaping the benefits later – may be some parents consider this hovering as an insurance premium.  May be they feel that they want to give ‘their best’  (hic) to their children. May be they merely feel that their children are some cute products that need to be developed. May be the parents feel that they have to invest in their children so that later their brats will fetch a good price in the dowry market. Whatever.

Image captured from: CBC doc "Hyper Parents, Coddled Kids"

hover crafters

One can see these ‘attaboy’ shouting parent types near any cricket / chess / tennis / keyboard / bharatanatyam / ballet / theatre / kathakali training centers. If the child commits a mistake, they tear him to pieces. If he does anything even slightly better, then he is showered with all kinds of affections and affectations! There is NO moderation at all! So, the child which is produced (and developed) by these helicopter parents, always does any given thing with a view to merely pleasing the others, or worse still – expects to get standing ovations (and instant recognition) just because he does something significant in his opinion. It could be even his mere graceful presence or the fact that he regularly warms his seat! O tempora! O mores!!

The result is this arrogant sense of entitlement that is present in these children, to anything & everything, without contributing even an iota to anything!

Image captured from: CBC doc "Hyper Parents, Coddled Kids"

cleaning the sidewalk for their sonnyboy!

I squirm when parents refer to their child as a ‘prince’ or a ‘princess’ – the child that is thoroughly  spoilt this way is NEVER going to learn the important concepts of self-reliance, or perseverance or for that matter — the dignity of labour, the sine qua non for a good performance in any realm. All that this spoilt child would have later in life is, this arrogant sense of entitlement!

'top down' exam / test guidance

IB? IGCSE? ICSE? CBSE?? Or only the state board?? The parents want the children to take the best examination / certification (in their generally warped opinion), and the more ‘international’ and ‘farther away from the homeland’ the board is, the better it is for them (not for the children) – they constantly supervise & monitor the activities of their children so that the latter do really well in academics… These parents are more interested in making acadummies out of their otherwise normal children! Are they interested only in creating ‘miniature themselves’ out of their children? Or in creating ‘miniature non-themselves’ out of them?? It is really hard to fathom, but either way, it is really sad.

I have personally seen the wrecks that many of these young men and women eventually turn in to. They are either supercilious & arrogant or meek & opinionless! In either case, I would like to compost them, if they are easily compostable, that is!

Many of these parents do a very thorough job of creating splendidly colourless personalities out of their own children, who could have otherwise exercised  rational choices out of limitless possibilities and endless potential at their disposal…

You would think that the parents would stop their asinine behaviour once their wards finish with their bachelor’s or a master’s degree.

No sir. Bad habits die hard. Sometimes, these ‘helicopter’ parents even  visit and plead with the recruiters, on behalf of their sonnyboys – post the acadummic qualifications of their wards!

In fact, a decade back or so when I was actively recruiting (for companies that I worked for), some parents have indeed pleaded with me with glassy eyes, folded hands and quivering voices, beseeching me to ‘give my son, a chance!’ &^%$#@

'Now that you have that degree, you should apply to this MNC..'

I would request all these helicopter parents to give their children a fighting chance of leading a normal life. It is not too late. Your children are just in their elementary stage. Let them relax and learn at their own pace. Let them be. They would do well. They are smart, considerate and fine individuals in spite of you hovering parents’ best efforts. They will not disappoint their parents the  way you disappointed your parents. Relax.

In short: Helicopter parents! Go get a life.

I strongly recommend the cheeky, thought provoking documentary on the subject – Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids – of  CBC/ Canada; a commendable film by the duo – Sharon Bartlett and Maria LeRose.

— END —

What? Are you asking me why I stopped adding discontent to this post with only some 1400 words in it?  Don’t you realize that my co-pilot has given me a last boarding call for our helicopter?? We have got to go hover over the head of our daughter, as we think she needs our constant presence, advice and support – after all she is working on her secret science project on her own… After she is done with that we will have to take our princess to Freakin’ Robbers iScream parlour to celebrate it. I am in a hovering hurry, sorry.

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Comments

  • Brinda  On May 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Ramjee – as always its en-lightening reading your blog. I happen to be one of those rudderless parents constantly in envy of the hovering ones – prime envy being their ability to devote the time and endless energy to the “cause”. Nice to see a different view on the hovering clan – makes me feel a lighter shade of green 🙂 hope it stays.

  • My3  On February 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Oh we have them up here and here means the frozen tundra of America. These kinds of parents do not even realize how severely they are hampering the growth of their kids. They grow up to be brats and throw a tantrum if things do not go their way or turn into weird people when they get here. I am not condoning our own helicopter parents either. That’s why we can see the young 20 year olds wanting everything their parents have. No waiting, and the funny/sad thing is that the parent tells me that they pay off their child’s credit card because the POOR thing cannot pay it and they would not have the child saddled with a poor record. WHAT THE HECK?!?!?!?!?!

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