Experts agree today that we have a fragile young generation with low levels of resilience, the ramifications of which we see in many spheres but especially in business. Why is this crisis so widespread, and how can we prevent it in our own children?
In my years as a farm psychologist, I’ve spoken with many farm families who are dealing with the process of succession. Many of these parents worry about whether their successor has what it takes to run the business. When I’ve met the successors, I sometimes worry too.
I often find myself in the unenviable position of advising the parents that their successors are far from ready, and some of them will probably never be ready. This happens for several reasons. First, perhaps because they have so many opportunities, today’s youth tend to choose their careers much later than the baby boomers did. They also change their minds more often.
But another issue that I see is that they do not seem to be strong enough. They lack the force of character that enabled their parents to face the challenges that come in business.
Now, one cause that is within our control has emerged in the research. It is helicopter parenting.
The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book, Parents & Teenagers. It was used there by teens who said their parents would hover over them like helicopters. It became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011, and recent studies have linked it with emotional difficulties and a sense of entitlement.
It occurs when parents are too focused on their children and take too much responsibility for their experiences, successes and failures. They do too much and, as a result, prevent their children from developing resilience and proper coping mechanisms.
Here are some examples:
- Trying to choose the teacher and the baseball coach
- Interfering with grades — calling a teacher or even a college professor because you feel your son deserves a better grade
- Doing or over-supervising homework
- Calling the teacher to explain why your child did not do his homework
This style of parenting can even stretch into adulthood. Many employers now complain that they are dealing with employees’ parents. Some will show up for interviews!
Have we as parents gone too far? I think so.
Can you imagine the difficulties someone would face trying to lead a business if they had been coddled like this?
As a parent of young adults, I know how much we all want the best for our children. However, we have to understand that our intentions don’t always give the desired results.
Why are we helicopters?
Fear of dire consequences
- Worries about the future, the ecoomy, the job market, and the world in general can contribute. Some parents can’t stand the thought that the child will not follow the path that his parents have envisioned for him. “A failure at age eight could be a disaster for getting into college,” they might think.
- Some people believe, “If my child doesn’t have the best grades or the latest phone, she will be angry, sad, and upset, and I can’t stand it.” This reflects the unconscious belief that, “As a parent, I have to protect her from all pain and failure.”
- For some people, when they were children themselves, they were neglected, ignored, or even abused. As a reaction, they sometimes overcompensate. They want to be their child’s best friend.
British psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott points out that, as parents, we have to be “good enough.” We should not aim to be perfect, and we should not expect perfection from our children. We must give enough love, warmth, supervision, security, discipline and stability, but they need the liberty to make age-appropriate choices for themselves and live with the consequences.
As in the rest of life, balance is critical; too much is not better than not enough.