Does helicopter parenting end when our kids graduate from high school or enter the work force? Don't bet on it. But don't indulge in it either. Barnard College's Natalie Friedman can bear eyewitness account of the dangers to our children's welfare of over-parenting or having a bulldozer or snowplow parent--or even a lawnmower. So many words for those of us who can't stop intervening in our children's lives--even though they are adults and living independently.
Friedman fields call every day from "interveners." That's how she sees the damage done to a child's growth and ability to advocate for themselves. Although her words of wisdom are aimed at how to help your college kids grow up without your "interventionist" support they also have relevancy to the post-graduate years--those years when our kids are setting out on their own, starting jobs that can support them (or come close) and are trying to figure out where they want to head in this world.
Here are some bits of her advice about helping kids advocate for themselves in college, though the tips below are relevant beyond the school years. (Words in parenthesis are mine, not Friedman"s.) The full article, which ran in the NYTimes, is here
--Help them write “scripts.” If your student is scared to talk to a professor or feels intimidated by a dean (or if they're in a workplace and are anxious about talking to a manager), help write a “script” for the occasion. Chances are you’ve had experience talking to your boss or manager, so tell your student what words to use. ... Ask your student to write down your suggestions in a notebook or type them into a phone, somewhere your student won’t forget to look right before stepping into a professor’s (or manager's) office.
Encourage them to follow up. Sometimes a student will work up the courage to find a professor, only to hear something disappointing: They are failing the course, or the next exam will count as their final grade.(Or a manager may tell them they're not performing well.) ...Some students will take this disappointing news and turn it inward, feeling terrible and using negative self-talk. ....Help to reframe the disappointment as a learning opportunity: Your student should follow up with an email or another visit to the professor with specific questions like, “What can I do to be better prepared for the next exam?”
Remind them to talk to more than one person. A professor, a friend or a teaching assistant might have one answer to a question, but others on campus (or in a business organization) might have advice of a different kind. Encourage your student to get to know other adults on campus who might be able to help navigate a less-than-ideal situation. Getting lots of information and input can help them make better decisions. Remind them that learning to live with disappointment is a facet of self-advocacy. Even students who are great at asking for what they need may not get the response they want. Remind them that this is O.K.: Rejection is a part of life.
Friedman ppoints out that too many parents have a “don’t-take-no-for-an-answer” mind-set, and their children adopt the same attitude. "This approach rarely works for self-advocacy," she writes. "Remember that every conversation is a give-and-take, and coming off as angry or inflexible is only going to create tension with the very people who are in a position to help."
Friedman's bottom line for us and our children: "Learn when to accept “no” as the final answer and when it is appropriate to push back or ask more questions."