How to Stop Helicopter Parenting

Every new generation is accused of being spoiled, but according to this article on Psychology Today, it is now a statistical fact that our current college students have no resilience, and it is becoming a serious problem.

This is one of those situations where everyone coping with the negative force beyond their own control feeds the same force, thereby making the situation increasingly worse. (There must be a technical term for this phenomenon.) There is a way to solve this problem, but it requires a drastic measure. There is a certain type of social change that has to be coordinated in order to be effective. A good example is Coup d’état. You cannot stage a coup by yourself; it requires coordination, which also means it requires a certain type of authority to coordinate the effort. Let me give you an example of a similar situation that has been resolved.

Japan had this tradition (now fading) of gift giving in December called oseibo where everyone was obligated to give gifts to their superiors at work. Privately, everyone hated this tradition because it was expensive, but they all had to conform. Think about it. Suppose you are willing to say no to this tradition because you see everyone around you suffering. By doing so, you would expose yourself to potentially serious consequences. Your bosses will notice that you didn’t give them any gifts, so you might lose your chance for a promotion or a raise. And, by you not giving any gifts, you would make others look better than you. Nobody, especially in Japan, would take that kind of risk. Why would they? What exactly would you gain by fighting this tradition? You have nothing to gain, and everything to lose. You might as well wait for someone else stupid enough to stand up and say no. Why take the bullet yourself?

Fortunately, this tradition in Japan is now fading. I remember when it turned around. I was still in Japan. There were some prominent Japanese businessmen who were kind and courageous enough to vocally denounce it, and banned the tradition within their companies. It takes that kind of power to reverse the downward spiral. Individual people cannot do it; they would simply get sucked into the vortex very quickly if they tried because the force of one person does not even come close to countering the societal force. It would be a waste of effort.

Now relating this back to our current situation noted in this article about the declining resilience of college students. As the article points out, the cause is pretty obvious: the helicopter parenting. Make no mistake, every single one of us is doing it. Even those who practice “free-range” parenting are doing it if we were to compare them to the way we ourselves were raised. It’s virtually impossible to replicate today what our parents were able to do for us. Firstly, we would get arrested. Secondly, even if you alone allowed your kid to go play outside on her own, she would find no friends. Our generation had plenty of friends outside without our parents hovering over us.

If you stand up and say no, you are going to get beaten. Because it is so rare these days to see a little kid walking around by herself that if she were to actually do it, it would draw attention of pedophiles. It’s like parking your bicycle unlocked in New York; the thieves would feel stupid if they didn’t steal it. Likewise, the pedophiles would feel stupid if they didn’t kidnap the kid. So, by standing up to say no, you would be shouldering a massive amount of risk for the rest of us who are going to forget about your contribution once the downward spiral is reversed.

Again, this is a situation where a higher authority would need to step in and do something drastic. For instance, the government could legally mandate elementary school kids to commute to and from school on their own. This sounds crazy, but if everyone were to do it, it would be much safer. To reverse this downward spiral of helicopter parenting, we need a solution as drastic as this.