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Is there such a thing as good "Helicopter Parenting?"

Posted at 1:24 PM on November 8, 2007 by Nanci Olesen

How much is too much when it comes to helping and protecting your kids? People who hover too closely around their children have earned the moniker "helicopter parents." But a recent survey from The National Survey of Student Engagement says that "helicopter parents" may be helping their college student children by giving them the boost and communication they need to be able to succeed in the complex world of campus life.

In Monday's Washington Post, Jay Matthews writes that "despite the negative reputation of 'helicopter parents,' those moms and dads who hover over children in college and swoop into their academic affairs appear to be doing plenty of good."

Matthews suggests that the study is "a blow to the widely accepted notion that little good can come from meddling in college children's lives."

But others are wondering if the survey was really asking the right questions. Blogger Dr. Stacy B. Steyer, writing for Revolution Health, says:

"I would argue that the questions students were asked on the survey (such as whether ‘parents frequently intervene to help solve problems') really don't constitute a hovering or ‘helicopter' parent, or one that could potentially lead to a negative impact. In my mind, a helicopter parent that could cause potential problems is one that would do things such as frequently speak to a professor himself, do their child's homework, or sit with the student to write a paper or answer take-home essay questions. I would like to have seen these specific types of questions on the survey also, rather than the more general ones they had."

You can find out if you're a "helicopter parent" by at least one definition at this site. There's a quiz to see if you're being too interfering during the college admissions process.

And it's not just a problem in the US. In the UK, some universities are finding they have to plan activities for parents of prospective students when they come to visit campus, partly to keep them out of the students' hair. Catriona Davies and Alex Graves report in the Telegraph.

Maybe now that we can look at the websites of our kids' choice schools, email the teachers about projects, watch videos that our kids produce in class, talk to them on their cells a few times a day, we can't resist the urge to be a part of all that we knew in our own youth of those spirited years.

Maybe more than trying to help them make good choices we're just trying to get in on some of the exciting action and newness of that time of life.

How do you decide when to help, and when to step back?