Call Your Mother

We'd packed the family minivan to capacity, with clothes, a mini-fridge, and extra-long sheets. After a 12-hour, 600-mile haul up I-81, we were in remote Ithaca (Gorges!), with several-thousand other families. Almost as soon as I'd unpacked my stuff, my dad was ready to hit the road for home. He thumbed through my copy of the course catalog. He paced around my cell-like room. And he encouraged my mom to hurry up. She wasn't interested in leaving. Not yet, at least. Couldn't we reminisce about one more vacation, birthday party, or family feud? Did I need anything else from Target? Had my financial aid come through? My dad, a professor, doled out fatherly and academic advice. My misty-eyed mom told me to call home. Then they were off. E-mail and cell phones made it easy for us to keep in touch. We exchanged short messages and quick phone calls. My former bedroom would make a nice study, my dad said. My mom reported that my younger siblings were more voluble than they used to be. In a few short weeks, I realized that life at home continued, much as it had, without me there. For a fleeting moment, I was sad. But there were books to read, classes to take, and six-packs to down! Then and there, on a fall afternoon, I recognized my new independence. And I realized that there would be — and should be — anecdotes involving six-packs that my parents would never hear.*

On today's show, we're talking about letting go. How involved should parents be in their kids' college lives? If they sign tuition checks, should you write — and sign — letters to them? Did you call your parents from school? Every Sunday? Every day? Should your mom know your class schedule? Or your professors' email addresses?

* Not because I don't remember them, of course!



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I am a grad student at UC Berkeley. One of my profs actually used facebook to check out new admissions apart from all the application material they sent! He also offers advice based on facebook status! Call him helicopter prof?

Sent by Andrew James | 2:16 PM | 9-13-2007

I am a recovering Helicopter parent!Wehn I dropped my daughter off at college last year I told her NOT to call me daily-try to keep it to once a week. It worked out pretty well.

Sent by Lydia | 2:26 PM | 9-13-2007

I can't believe these parents have that much energy to micromanage their kids! I have a sophomore in college and a senior in high school. I let them make their own choices on where to go to college and what to study. My older son calls me to tell me what's going on in his life (and not just for money). If you raise your kids to know they will have to be self-sufficient then they will be.

Sent by Toni Brown | 2:30 PM | 9-13-2007

Helicopter parents might do well to consider the future of their child beyond college. As a person who has been in a position to hire recent college graduates, I have seen the result of helicopter parents. These supposedly adult children lack two skills which are not only essential to business, but to life as well. They cannot solve problems and they do not know how to learn from failure. It becomes clear in an interview when an applicant lacks these skills and the applicant goes no further than the initial interview.

Sent by Mike Flynn | 2:33 PM | 9-13-2007

As a parent of 3 young children, one thought that reminds me how important it is to allow my children to grow more independent is a situation that has occurs more and more frequently at my husband's job. Sometimes when they interview candidates either just out of college or a couple years out, and they present an offer, the young candidate will say "I need to check with my parents before accepting". Even if my kids do view me as a confidant, I don't want them to make the mistake of saying something that sounds like they feel incapable of making their own decisions once they are supposed to be on their own.

Sent by Kathy Henke | 2:36 PM | 9-13-2007

My daughter was prepared to negotiate the university system with no help from me, but every function in the university was dysfunctional--from housing to parking to the dining commons to the bursar's office to the bookstore--you get the picture--to technology issues--sometimes students need advocates to help them negotiate the bureaucratic maze in the beginning. If universities/colleges want to minimize helicopter parents, they need to have systems that work in place.

Sent by Bridgett Boulton | 2:36 PM | 9-13-2007

My 'kids' are in their 20s & 30s so I'm past this college-bound stage but my husband and I decided early in our parenting-lives that the overarching question re: our handling of significant issues/decisions we might be confronted with concerning our children was this, "what is the desired outcome in 6 months-5 years or longer?" Because we desired independent, accomplished, self-supporting adults we coud step back from a 5, 8, 12 year old or a 19 year old wanting a quick/easy solution to the problem du jour and help them develop competencies to solve their own problems. Sometimes we stood on the sidelines knowing they would be hurt -- feelings, financially (lunch money or allowance), socially (not having the 'right' gear), or even physically (as in the example of letting a toddler tumble a short distance to learn that at the end of the slide there is a drop-off that must be figured out). My best advice is start early trying to figure out what is the long-term outcome you desire. Once you have that in your head--the 'map' of parenting is easier to navigate.

Sent by Karen Herwig | 2:48 PM | 9-13-2007

Online colleges have provided an expansion of resources for college bound kids. My oldest son is not socially oriented at all and may do better than my middle child that lives to talk to his friends. Perhaps he wouldn't get so caught up in the partying and socializing that goes on. SO I am approaching college on a case by case basis with all my kids (4 boys). I want them to go but it can be non-traditional or traditional or if it turns out, not at all.

Sent by Alex Smith | 2:48 PM | 9-13-2007

I agree that parents should help their children become independent, but how do you deal with a child who has a mental illness such as bipolar, like my daughter? How do you find the balance between being too protective or too lenient?

Sent by marymwalker | 2:54 PM | 9-13-2007

I am responding to parents who call their children mentally disordered as a means of insisting on a right to intrude on their lives and privacy. More people are becoming aware that people's energy affects one another. If a parent is anxious, this spreads agitated energy to the child. This nervous energy interferes with a child's ability to sustain calm attention. There are human rights groups that support the rights of people who feel and think in diverse ways -- people other people want to call mentally disordered. These people's mental health increases when they have friends and family that view these people positively and spread warm, calm energy to them. If families are instead spreading fear of mental disorder, this is causing or exacerbating disorder. Parents had 18 years to affect their children. If they are not happy with the result, the child is now surrounded by other people. The child is in society, still being seen and attended to by other students, advisers, teachers and later, employers. These people also know how to care for the child (who is now an adult). If a parent can't release the child to the world and trust in all these other people, the parent is too afraid to embrace and love the world as it is. The parent can stop attributing all the nervous energy to the child, and start learning to calm themselves through techniques such as meditation, exercise, yoga, breathing techniques, relaxation with a loving partner, acupuncture, etc.

Sent by Irene | 3:02 PM | 9-13-2007

On my way home from work I listened to "Talk of the Nation" section re "hovering" parents. I was shocked and dismayed at the shallow thinking and suggestions being made. "Shooting looks" is an extrmely immature and certainly poor way to communicate ones thinking or feelings and to have a guest "authority" figure advocate that this is an acceptable and appropriate manner of behavior is totally unacceptable and inappropriate. I do not know any professional vocation that would put up with that type of behavior. It is a sure way to get fired.

Secondly, it is important for parents to decide when our children are adults and no longer dependent on us for free money. Eighteen seems most appropriate. To continue to pay for room, board and tuition with no questions asked is perpetuating the dependency arrangement into which children are born. Can you imagine an employer doing this i.e., paying money with no questions asked re productivity? Free money feeds the privleged identity that so many college students suffer from and does not prepare them for the real world. Free money is a way economic priveledged parents hold on to their "good parent" image and is in no way tied to what is best for the young adult who needs to understand the economic realities of being an adult. Talk of the Nation needs different experts who not totally captured by the white middle class culture.

Sent by Dr. David J. Frenchak, President, Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education | 3:28 PM | 9-13-2007

I have a comment about the grades/tuition issue that was discussed quite a bit on the show today. I am currently student in college and my parents make me pay for any classes in which I recieve a grade lower than a B. They instigated this system after I had a few not so stellar semesters. The first semester under this system I would have had to pay them back for three classes, so when they demanded I print my grades for them, I took a moment in photoshop and made them much better than they actually were. Their imposition of a certain grade requirement was mean to motivate me, I guess, but it almost had the opposite effect. I have since come clean about the bad grades. Now I pay my tuition up front and they pay me back for any classes I do well in (except for classes I'm re-taking). This system actually makes me feel like I have more control over my education and I'm really looking forward to having a few hundred extra dollars in my bank account at the end of the semester (hopefully).

It took a while for my parents to find the balance between micromanaging and just being supportive when I started college. It actually took me saying to them "I need to do this on my own. Don't nag me about it, don't help me with it, I will tell you about any progress when I want you to know about it." Now, even though I'm living at home, I deal with almost everything independantly. My parents are there if I need them, but they know better than to butt in if I don't ask them to.

Sent by Cassie | 3:43 PM | 9-13-2007

I was a helicopter parent when my kids were in high school because if I wasn't, my boys never would have gotten into college--and the alternative meant a lifetime of dependency on me. When I took one of them to move-in orientation and sat in on a meeting for parents, I was perplexed. The person on the podium expressed how well aware she was that it was anguishing to depart from our precious child. I looked at the man sitting next to me and we both shook our heads. I said to him, "I don't know about you but I'm ready to celebrate." He answered that he had a bottle of champagne at home ready to be popped. Those teenage years, after all, are grueling and plenty of us are very willing to say our goodbyes for awhile.

Sent by Judith | 3:54 PM | 9-13-2007

It is difficult to acknowledge that what some consider to be 'minimal' involvement in their near-adult children's lives is even within an acceptable range of behavior. My mother hugged me goodby and said, 'see you at Christmas, write for other reasons than just money' They realized that I was going to college, not them. They had already been there and done that. They were pleased to come to my graduation. I think they passed through town a couple of other times while I was in school. My brothers received the same consideration.

My kids began to make their own decisions about life plans in middle school. Their parents helped enough that they got through college in reasonably good financial condition, but I think they are still making payments. I have no idea what their GPAs were, but they are valued employees and have the respect of their professional peers. My brother's kids are incapable of making good decisions because they never made any decisions of consequence. They are insecure about nearly everything. They will probably always be dependents. My kids pity their more fortunate cousins.

We remain a close family despite some geographic separation.

Sent by John | 1:18 AM | 9-14-2007

As the child of hovering parents, I must speak up for practicing moderation and working towards easy conversations with your children. My parents handled separation very badly, and their controlling reactions have colored our relationship since college.

Although my parents never placed performance metrics on my college funds, if they had I would have resented it. I think that is a terrible idea. If by college your children have not learned to study and achieve, it is something they will have to teach themselves, or face the consequences. If you are tempted to place conditions on the aid you provide, then just refuse aid unless it is specifically requested. My parents used the financial aid they provided me to subtly control my life choices, and it wasn't until I was able to fully support myself that I could make choices that were right for me.

Life is hard, parents; and to succeed, children must learn how to deal with it. They will make choices, sometimes very bad choices, and you can help be being there to offer options; but let them learn and make their ways in the world, and they will come back to you as whole adults ready for a new kind of relationship.

Sent by Rachel H | 1:40 PM | 9-14-2007

I'm responding late, but heard a good portion of the program. Being a staff member at a public school for over 10 years, I have found that hovering parents do more harm to their children then good. Yes, it is good to be involved with their child, but not run their child's life. By the time a child enters kindergarten it would be good if they could tie their shoes, put on a jacket and go to the bathroom by themself! And STOP doing their homework for them. Teachers can tell when a parent does the homework as it is nothing at all like the child produces in class (and at times in different handwriting then the child's)!

By the time the child is in middle school they should be able to participate in decisions concerning their education, friends, afterschool activities. That doesn't mean what they say always goes, but negotiate. They should be able to get up in the morning and pick out their own clothes - with help if asked.

By the time the child has entered high school they should have more input into their education, electives, activities and friends. They should be able to handle their own time schedule and take responsibility for their own homework and projects.

Any educator could tell 'horror' stories of hovering parents who do their children's homework, argue with the teacher over grades, behavior and dress as their child is always right - year after year. It is also these same parents who cannot understand when the child becomes an adult why they either don't come home for visits or call infrequently OR they won't ever leave home as the child cannot handle the real world and they do not have the confidence in themselves to leave the nest.

Sent by W. Davis | 10:44 PM | 9-15-2007

I am a parent and if I am paying for college they will need to show me their grades. This teachs accountability and to do good in college. That is the way it is in real life. I feel it is iresponsible on the parents part not to ask for the grades.

Sent by Tim | 5:01 PM | 9-16-2007

I am a freshmen student,my parents call me once a day to make sure everything is go0d or not.I am the one who always call them ,in the morning and at night.
I think parents have to care about their children grades in university and they have to ask about their children grades but only when nessecary..

Sent by Asil Saqer | 4:38 AM | 9-25-2007

I am a student in college. I agree that parents should know their children grade in collage because they pay for the collage fees. The parents must not follow every step that their children do because; the children must depend on their self. Every parent must have a balance between too protective and be worried about their children and want to know their mark and what they do in every minute in the collage.

Sent by waseem | 4:39 AM | 9-25-2007

Well, I am a student in university. Of course I agree that parents should know their children's grades in college. Parents should know because they support their child financially. What I mean is that parents pay for their children education. I think parents should give their children some freedom. I mean to be between a 'Helicopter Parent' And a 'less strict parents'.

Sent by Ahmed | 4:42 AM | 9-25-2007

I am a student at AUS. First of all, i can say that I agree with sometings and the other things I disagree with it. The parents must know about their kids studying and how they do and their marks also,but the thing I disagree with is that they must not ask alot about the marks or how are the study, they must wait until their kids tell them. There is something I hate that my parents call me 2 or 3 times daily and thats make me nervous I hate this.

Sent by Kit Kat | 4:42 AM | 9-25-2007

I like the idea that the parents log on the facebook to check their children friends,my sapce ,etc..
I agree that it is a kind of protection for the children.

Sent by D.H.A | 4:42 AM | 9-25-2007

Iam a freshman student , and I think that parents shouldn't know every thing about their son or daughter in the university , when we are in the high school the parents should know every thing because they care about our futuere , but in the university I don't think so . I mean they should know at least what we are doing in the university good or bad and maybe the grades even if they are not paying for the university . But I think the most thing they should care about is our bahavior and acting . On the other hand , I think we as a students in the universities and we are away from our family , we should be more responsibility and put in our mind that there is some people are waiting for our success .

thanks for this interesting subject .

Sent by Hadef Ahmed AlShamsi | 4:43 AM | 9-25-2007

hey all!! I know my responding it's too late. I'm a student in the AUS .. ok ! my dad call me twice per day and he always ask me the same quistion and that's soo noisy .. It's ok if he call me one time per day .. i know he care about me but every thing have it's own limit .
Some time he call me to wake me up and i don't like that.
it's ok to take care of your son but you have to give him his\her own space

Sent by Mars | 4:43 AM | 9-25-2007

Every parent has his/her own way in treating his/her son/daughter. Some parents have to be more involved in their childrens' life. Others have to be less involved in their children's lives. This accords to the child's personality whether he/she needs some guidness and help or he/she can be independent.

Sent by Raghad Rashad | 4:43 AM | 9-25-2007

I strongly agree with the statement that it's fair to parents to know their Childs grades. However,
They must know how far they should go and when to step back with not being too involved. Give them some privacy to develop in a proper way. In addition to that, it is important for a student to do his/her own work (essays, presentations) to learn and become independent.
In summary that is how each parent should act with their children and not be a helicopter parent .

Sent by Areej Hamshari | 4:45 AM | 9-25-2007

In my opinion ,(( helicopter parents )) seem to be interfaring more than usaual, and how the attitude conflict towards their adlocence. I prefer parents to look and revise throughly but not interfer in every single thing for instance when amy was interfering and knowing more about her room mates , it just an astonishing thing or about sharing the face book account . about millisa , i suggest that her attitudes towards her daughter . I prefer parents should share and discuss the matter of the grades . in addition to the over all climate that occures in the university but not in an interfering way for example , a parent checks the account and usaually spy on him . he should pretfully call him once a day .

Sent by JaseM MohaMed AL-Alyak | 4:46 AM | 9-25-2007

I think that parents always look for things that benefit their children in different ways. I agree that parents should tack care with their children, help them take decisions and have a little control to their works when they are below 18 years old. After this age, parents must help their children to become more independent and responsible and not to treat them like kids.
College is a fantastic period of people's life so , we should give our sons their freedom especially at this age because if we refuse something they do or want they will behave badly.
On the other way, the freedom has limits that parents should control them carefully because parents still parents and their opinions often right.

Sent by Ibrahim | 4:47 AM | 9-25-2007

I think that there is advantages and disadvantages of being hilocapter parentes.first of all,the advantages of being Hilocapter parents are that when the parents look at thier children grade ,the grade will let them Know about thier children performance in the Gollage. the disadvantages of being hilocapter parents are that when the parents choose the doorm for their children and when they call them in ever minutes.

Sent by Amna Ibrahim | 4:48 AM | 9-25-2007

parents should give their childrens even a little freedom,freedom to go w/thier friends,or going in the mall,it is good to their relationship

Sent by rhei villarosa | 8:15 AM | 11-30-2007