How ‘Helicopter Parenting’ May Have Ruined A Generation

by Nicholas Goroff

As the present crop of millennials moves slowly towards graduation and ostensibly, into the workplace, there is quite a bit to be said about the coddled and often histrionic culture with which many will likely bring with them. While many of more particular political positions and ideologies are keen to point to ideological conditioning in college as the source (one that cannot be discounted, to be certain,) the old questions of parental responsibility for the actions of their children are making the rounds once more, this time focused on the so called “helicopter parents.”

For those left who are unaware of what a helicopter parent is, it is in short one who approaches childrearing with an overprotective and sheltering attitude which seeks to support an absolute sense of safety and emotional comfort of the child being raised in all conceivable regards, primarily through near obsessive monitoring and management. In short, it is regarded as ‘over parenting.’ Whereas in the past, in my own youth as it happens, children would commonly roam their own neighborhoods of their own accord, meeting up with friends, exploring, getting into trouble and fetching a bump and bruise along the way, the modern climate surrounding child rearing is one of obsessive coddling and routine pearl clutching.

While the exact roots of the phenomenon are unclear, with most suspecting it stemming from a mix of the ‘stranger danger’ paranoia and ‘self-esteem’ culture which dominated the late 80’s and 1990’s, the net effects of such are making themselves clearer every day.

Whether being the perpetually offended, who take self-righteous glee in the screaming and chest thumping which comprises the modern college protest, or the perpetually triggered, who demand any and all materials that may offend their delicate sensibilities be banned outright, the running themes of narcissism, entitlement and emotional volatility can be observed as being pervasive elements in much of this new generation of adults. In this, even using the word ‘adult’ elicits hesitation on the part of your author.

Very little of what is commonly seen of the millennial regressive left can be construed as being in any way mature, thus bringing the question back to the upbringing which created them.

In their 2015 article for The Atlantic entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind,” authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explored the manner in which colleges and professors are being increasingly pressured to cater to proclamations of emotional distress when it comes to the presenting of materials deemed as challenging by students. With issues ranging from the perceptions of “micro aggressions,” all the way up through claims that the works of Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Homer were “triggering” and therefore unacceptable, campus environments have increasingly become exceptionally hostile to the open exchange of ideas. While of course it is rightly easy to blame the often ideologically driven academics who support such infantile hysterics in the name of “social justice,” it is equally important to hold the parents who raised the perpetually offended and afraid, to account.

Consider if you will the plight faced by primary and high school teachers and administrations. Whereas once a failing grade for failing work was cause for parents to approach their children about their performance, such is now commonly cause for them to instead turn to the school and insist the student’s failing was a result of institutional failures to cater to their little snowflake’s personal nuances. With diagnoses of ADD, ADHD, autism and other such disorders in children now more widespread than ever before, as well as the prescribing of drugs to simply mitigate the assumed effects of such, it is increasingly turning schools into environments where students and their parents are held to diminishing levels of accountability for their success or failure.

Should it be any surprise that in an age when an entire generation raised either in single parent households in front of television and computer screens, or alternately with lives so structured and supervised with scheduled “play dates” and endless hand holding throughout adolescence, arrive at the cusp of true adulthood ill prepared to deal with the potentials for failure, discomfort or confusion? Much like the body’s own natural immune system, the toughness and durability of human character is one which is forged by manner of challenge, damage and adaptation to adversity.  In the context of this same metaphor, such cannot develop properly in a world where sanitizer is applied in every instance of a child’s hands getting dirty.

So then too do we find this same stunted growth on the part of many a sheltered individual within the spheres of both college life and media.

Having been raised without ever being told, let alone forced to accept that they may be wrong about anything, never having been challenged to consider perspectives different than their own and throughout it all, having been protected from the spiny thorns and sharp edges that make the world what it is, it should come as little surprise that when confronted with different or dissenting opinions, much of this generation descends into juvenile hysterics and hyperbole. To be certain, it is not that the newest breed of radical progressive activists are indeed the bold revolutionaries they present themselves to be, but rather instead they are the underdeveloped children shouting from the mouths of grown bodies, thanks largely to this very coddling.

Should a speaker they disagree with be allowed a platform, the response becomes a tantrum. Should a work of fiction, literature or entertainment not perfectly align with their demands for ideological conformity, the response becomes an assault on its creators. And of course, should an institution of any kind not offer them the flexibility and deference they demand in respect to their volatile and reactionary emotions, the response becomes a crusade to denounce such as anything from racist or sexist, to hostile and violent. In short, to these children who’ve never known danger, threats are perceived in nearly any instance in which they do not get their way.

Perhaps in this it could be said that in never having to learn to simply deal with and get past instances of bullying, social ostracizing or even failure to meet basic academic standards, many of today’s young people have lost the basic skills required to get on or get ahead in the real world. What this means however, not only for today’s students and tomorrows grads, as well as the world at large is that very soon large numbers of maladjusted adults will be entering the workforce, bringing all of their entitlement and emotional baggage to work with them every day. The consequences of this becoming even more prevalent than it currently is, are not difficult to imagine.

Though well intentioned, if such helicopter parenting as well as the ever increasing culture of personal excuses in which we currently live is to blame for the rise of such behaviors as we see today, perhaps it is time to reevaluate the lengths to and means by which we seek to protect our children. For as a parent myself, understanding the need and instinct to shield my own child from the harsh, ugly and sometime dangerous realities of the world, it is just as frightening if not moreso to think of her growing up incapable of handling the world as it comes at her. Whether such coddled and weak mindsets as those under discussion here however survive the transition into the real world and wreak the havoc they have on campus or not though, it is imperative that society reexamine the mechanisms by which such were created and take steps moving forward to ensure that the youth are raised to be strong as well as safe in the future.