How Involved is Too
By Mary Byers
have an article from the Associated Press in front of me
titled, “Hovering parents irk colleges.” The first sentence reads,
“They’re called ‘helicopter parents,’ for their habit of
hovering—hyper-involved—over their children’s lives. Here at Colgate
University, as elsewhere, they have become increasingly bold in
recent years, telephoning administrators to complain about their
children’s housing assignments, roommates and grades.”
The article quotes Helen Johnson, author of Don’t Tell Me What to
Do, Just Send Money, a guide for college parents, who writes,
“This is a group of parents who have been more involved in their
children’s development since any generation in American History.”
After reading that sentence, I stopped and pondered the implications
of parental involvement in a child’s life. Am I too involved? I
Since then, I’ve actively been seeking opportunities to help each of
my children take responsibility for themselves. It’s tough, but I
try not to remind them when their library books or due, or ask if
their homework is done. Instead, I’m trying to teach them to ask
themselves the questions they need to ask. Before bed, I want them
to ask, Have I done everything I need to do to prepare for tomorrow?
In the morning before leaving for school I want them to ask, Are my
morning chores done? Do I have everything I need for school today?
It’s much better that they get into the habit of asking those
questions now, even though it is hard for me to let go enough to let
them do it.
Part of the reason that it’s hard to let go is that I want to matter
to my kids. But after thinking about it, I’ve decided I want to
matter to them because I’m their mother, not because they need me to
remind them to do their homework or grab their lunch on the way out
the door. I’m making a hard decision now: I want to matter in my
kids’ lives, but I don’t want to be a “helicopter parent.” I also
don’t want to be a garbage sweeper, trailing behind them picking up
the messes they make. Instead, I’d like to be a sidecar, like on a
motorcycle, riding alongside my children as a companion and
The decisions we make today determine our children’s future success
in life. Decide what kind of parent you want to be. Then, have the
courage to be it.
Mary Byers is an author, speaker, facilitator,
consultant, provocateur and permission giver. She is also a
Certified Association Executive (CAE). She helps associations remain
relevant in an increasingly competitive environment. You can reach
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