Today’s word is an adjective-noun combination that describes a certain type of parent who takes more than a healthy interest in his or her child’s education and life. The overall subject of generations and the differences between them is the topic of tomorrow’s writing exam, so we’ve been discussing it a lot in lessons. This hyper-parenting phenomenon is associated with the parents of the current generation, sometimes called Generation Y, the ‘Net Generation, or the Millennial Generation.
Many of these parents were latchkey kids. They were left to look after themselves and didn’t see very much of their own parents since they were at work most of the time. Thus today’s parents have swung the parenting pendulum. Basically they want to make sure that their own children are nurtured and given the attention that they lacked as Generation X/latchkey kids.
Of course it’s only natural and healthy for parents to want to nurture their kids. However, making up for their own experiences is not the only reason for this over-parenting. They understand that we live in a very competitive world and they’re willing to do just about anything to give their child the competitive edge, even to the point of doing their child’s homework for them. They seem to be afraid to let their child make his or own mistakes and learn from them. In some of the more extreme examples of hyper-parenting, some parents even go so far as having their otherwise healthy and normal kids injected with growth hormones to increase their height. They’re even willing to pay for plastic surgery.
In the U.S. these hyper-parents are also known as “helicopter parents,” constantly hovering around their kids and overseeing every detail of their lives. In Scandinavia, they are called “curling parents,” seen as frantically sweeping the “ice” in front of their kids. In Japan, there are “education mothers” who have dedicated their entire lives to steering their kids through the education system.
I have mixed feelings about this, since I was one of those latchkey kids, but I didn’t feel particularly neglected or under-parented. I had a key to the house from about the age of ten and I quickly learned to look after myself. Generation X kids are in general quite self-reliant and adaptable self-starters, and as a consequence we tend to work better on our own rather than in groups or teams. This can put us at somewhat of a disadvantage since most employers are looking for so-called team players in the workplace.
My parents divorced when I was a tiny child of four years old. I lived with my mother and occasionally visited with my father. The rest of the time we communicated via old school letters on paper and phone calls. Curiously, he seemed to take no interest whatsoever in how my brother and I were doing in school. It used to drive my mom crazy how he never once asked how school was going for us. While my mother took as active a roll as she could (helping with homework and science projects, without actually doing them for us) my father simply did not care.
It would have been nice if he did, but alas…
As a teacher I have to deal with these hyper-parents all the time. I just wish that they’d allow their kids to screw up a little now and then, and learn from the experience. Kids are pretty resilient. Hell, I screwed up all the time but turned out okay.