Phrase of the Day: Helicopter Parents


We originally ran this story back in February. Today a talk-show producer in New York asked us for more stories of very involved "“ or over-permissive "“ parents. If you fall into either category, they may want you on the show.

I really like the phrase "helicopter parents." While it's been around for a while, it's new to me.

My first job after college involved answering the phone in my alma mater's Office of Student Development.* During orientation, students and parents were given pens with my phone number beside the words "Need Help?" I did not realize this for months.

"We're planning a trip over fall break," a concerned parent told me early in my tenure. "Does my son have a lot of studying to do around then?" After politely explaining my limited psychic powers, she turned it up a notch. "Well, can't you call his professors and find out?"

"Get out a pad and write this down," an angry dad once ordered. "I'm giving you instructions for installing an air conditioner in my daughter's window."

One mother asked for her daughter's mailing address. Armed with a phone book and aiming to please, I filled her in. "What are you doing?" she scolded. "How do you know I'm really her mother?" She had called to test me.

I can't believe the term "helicopter parent" never came up. But now it's everywhere. And not just on campus.

According to a survey of the young and employed, "25% said their parents were involved in their jobs 'to the point that it was either annoying or embarrassing.'" The Times' Lisa Belkin wrote about a mom who contacted the CEO of the PR firm that employs her daughter. She wanted his help planning her a surprise sushi lunch.

This area is rich with anecdotes. If you've been buzzed by helicopter parents "“ or you are a helicopter parent "“ we want your stories.

*This statement is not true. My first actual job after college was power washing, staining and painting decks. I spilled an inordinate amount of paint in my hair and was quite happy to accept a job with internet access.