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NICHOLAS MERCER: Let the kids be

Helicopter parenting. - Stock
Helicopter parenting. - Stock - 123RF Stock Photo
CORNER BROOK, N.L. —

Imagine running a business that routinely employs teenagers and young adults.

Simple right?

Now, imagine being that same business owner having the parents of your employers checking on their schedule or booking time off for them.

What about this situation is wrong to you? If the kids are old enough to have a job, they're old enough to handle what comes with it. Surely, they don't need their parents.

It used to be these over-involved parents were confined to sporting arena. They're the parents that didn't get to the show, so you better believe their kid is going to.

Lately, they've been creeping their way into other aspects of life.

This has to stop.

Last week, a prominent member of the Corner Brook business community took to social media to denounce parents who call to check on the resumes or interviews for their children.

"I am not hiring you. Whether it is you that wants to or your child that wants you to, do NOT call / email / visit potential employers on your child's behalf. You are doing them no favors," the post read.

It continued to say the behaviour can only cast the child as without motivation or confidence. Not great qualities to inadvertently portray to a potential employer.

It got me thinking about overbearing parents and the affect they can have on their kids.

Julie Gosselin is a therapist and the director of Memorial University's Family Resilience in the school's psychology department.

She said the helicopter form of parenting is becoming more and more of a thing.

They're booking doctor's appointments, they're asking to sit in on interviews with a potential employer and they're making sure their children are moving in the direction they see for them.

These children aren't in control of their lives, instead they're just along for the ride.

"It is the behaviour of over investment," said Gosselin.

I think at some point all parents will interject themselves into an aspect of their children's life. I had just started my first real job at a gas station on the Trans-Canada Highway when it happened to me.

I had been there a couple of months when I stopped getting shifts. I'd call every week to get my schedule and would always be told to call back the following week.

After a month of this, it was clear I wasn't welcomed there anymore.

My dad took exception to the treatment and called to let my bosses know that I wouldn't be back and that it was unacceptable.

I recall feeling a little embarrassed that it had happened, but I wasn't prepared to have that conversation with my then-bosses, so I understood why the call was made.

As such is life, evolution happens. People change their lives and perceptions to fit the situations they find themselves now.

As it stands, these helicopter parents have started to show signs of altering their practices with an aim on making things even worse for their kids.

These are the snowplow parents. The name sounds as welcoming as the load of snow left in your driveway after the plow goes through. Their aim is to identify any obstacles that could have a detriment on the future success of their children and remove it from their path, you know, like a snowplow does to any freshly fallen snow.

These parents will be damned if anything will get in the way of the path they see their children going. If that means relentlessly harassing a professor at the university level over a less than suitable grade, then so be it.

Whatever it takes, I guess.

For a prime example of this you need only turn to the recent news out of the United States about wealthy parents — including the actress who played Uncle Jesse's main squeeze on Full House — allegedly bribing officials at prestigious universities so their children could get in.

It isn't exactly the most admirable way to show your kids that they're invested in their future.

Yet, here they are becoming the obstacles they want to remove from the path of their children.

Chances are these overbearing parents are trying to compensate for a childhood where they didn't get the attention

According to Gosselin, they're invested to the point that anything less than the ultimate success for their children means that they've not done their job.

Gosselin said this feeling of overcompensation comes from a childhood where they never received the love and attention they probably deserved from their parents. Ouch.

As parents worked long hours, they were probably spending plenty of time on their own.

One thing was sure though, their kids were never going to be neglected as they may have been as children.

"It seems to be now that .... parents really invest hard in the parenting relationship," said Gosselin.

What they may not realize is that they aren't helping their kids by crowding them or fighting their battles for them. Their children aren't learning to be independent or autonomous.

They aren't learning to cope with failure and disappointment.

Some of the parents whose kids who get cut from sports teams never ask how their kid can get better or why they got cut. Instead, they pump their child up by saying they deserve to be there and they're good enough.

I'm sure the same thing happens in the arts and academically.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my parents have more than likely done this for me once or twice that I can remember.

I never said I was perfect.

Gosselin points to reports that says we're seeing children with mental health issues at various stages of their lives because they struggle with disappointment.

If they've never had to deal with failure before, how can they be expected to navigate the feeling when it eventually finds them — and it will?

Life sucks and life is hard. Children need to realize that and overbearing parents need to learn to back off.

"There is a benefit to struggle," said Gosselin. "Sometimes, kids need to get hurt. It builds character."

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at Nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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