Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

I was speaking with an HR Director last week. He was at a cocktail party, and a 23 year old young man whose father is a close friend of his walked up. The HR Director told the young man how excited he was that he was applying to work for his company. The young man looked puzzled. As it turns out, the 23 year old had not applied for the job…his father had applied on his behalf. I had to say I burst out in laughter. Later, I thought "You know…this may not be so funny."

Our young adults are smart. They’re worldly. They are persistent. Yet for some reason, we are sending them the message that we don’t trust them to make smart decisions on their own, and this is a shame. As I heard this story, I had to look back at my own helicopter parenting…the number of times I pick up the phone each day to hear that one of my kids needs something (something they can certainly figure out on their own.) I am here to say that while I consider myself stronger than most, I have frequently fallen into the trap of reacting rather than supporting my kids to be independent.

So, while this list below may make you chuckle, many of these things are actually going on in the world. My request is that if you are a parent and if any of these apply to you that you stop it. And…I will join you in taking this list on!

You May Be a Helicopter Parent If…

  • You are writing your child’s resume and passing it off as your child’s
  • You are completing your child’s homework assignments
  • You are staying up until 2:00 in the morning to write or tweak your child’s college essays
  • You are calling college admissions’ departments to chew out the poor admissions folks when your child does not get into the college of his or her choice
  • You are calling your colleagues to ask them if they will hire your son who won’t get off the couch
  • You are more concerned about shopping for your outfit for your child’s job interview than advising your child on his or her outfit
  • You invent your own "Bring Your Dad to Work" day so that you can pop into the job scene at any time
  • You are attending job fairs on behalf of your child
  • Your child gets into an argument with a friend, and you call the friend to let ‘em have it
  • Your adult child gets a bad performance review, and you schedule a meeting with the boss to have a word or two
  • Your child is over the age of 23, and you are still shopping for their groceries, toiletries and household items
  • Your child calls ten times a day, and you answer the phone each and every time
  • You are spending at least one hour daily searching college websites so that you can choose a college for your child
  • You are still planning and throwing birthday parties for your age 15+ child, and you are inviting clowns, ponies and Barney
  • Your child only calls one time a day, and you are getting your feelings hurt
  • You have become a broker for roommate disputes with your child
  • You demand to have a tour of the company before your child agrees to take a job
  • Your dream job is to become the Dean of Parents for your child’s school
  • You walk in the room, and everyone hears the sound of a roaring, whirring bird

If any of these sound like you, you may be hovering a bit too close over your child and it’s time to back off and let them fly. While you can certainly be a sounding board or provide solicited advice (the key word here is solicited), when it comes to making a big life decision, in the end, it’s truly up to your adult child. They will grow and learn from each good and bad decision they make.