Despite the anecdotal data--the stories about parents setting up job interviews for their grown kids or, worse, accompanying them to the interview; of parents calling their kid's college professor and making a case for a higher grade--we are not as overly involved as we're made out to be.
Writing in Salon a few months back, Alfie Kohn went beyond the tales of outrageous helicoptering to see what the research says. It shows that, yes, we're in touch with our kids at a higher rate than the pre-cell phone, pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook era. But communicating--even at a "hovering" rate--isn’t the same as intervening, which, it turns out, is fairly rare (but makes great blog posts). Kohn points to the National Survey of Student Engagement, which asked some 9,000 college students about parental intervention issues. Only 13 percent of college freshmen and 8 percent of seniors said a parent had frequently intervened to help them solve problems.
As to the workplace, Michigan State University researchers found that 77 percent of the 725 employers they surveyed “hardly ever witnessed a parent while hiring a college senior.” But the Michigan study had this interesting aside:
Several employers could not resist adding comments on their experiences with involved parents. One employer had advice for parents submitting resumes, “Please tell your student that you have submitted a resume to a company. We have called a student from our resume pool only to find they did not know anything about our company and were not interested in a position with us.” Another talked of a lengthy discussion with a mother on why the company could not arrange a special interview for her son who could not make the scheduled on-campus interview. Employers acknowledged that they were more likely to see mothers collecting company information and making arrangements for interviews, company visits, and other contacts with the company. Fathers usually appeared during negotiations, when the hiring decision did not favor their child.
No one said there's a sudden moment when we go from controlling parent to advisory parent, from being in charge to letting go, but the gradual easing of the reins does eventually take place--though not necessarily the many ways of keeping in close and almost constant touch.