Join 3,562 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Take Your Parent To Work Day
February 9, 2012 8:02 AM   Subscribe

"Four percent of respondents reported that a parent actually showed up for the candidate's job interview"
posted by freshwater (131 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The behavior of so-called helicopter parents may be frustrating to some but it didn't emerge from nothing. These parents are either encouraged or rewarded for this behavior, and that is why it continues. Employers: the next time a parent shows up for a job interview, tell them that the interview is over, their child does not have the job, and their behavior is inappropriate and counter-productive. From the article: If some observers are troubled by this trend, others are urging businesses to accept it. Well, there you go. Stop accepting it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:09 AM on February 9, 2012 [57 favorites]


I can see the rationale for getting the parents involved and giving in to their helicopter urges for schools - if nothing else, the parents are generally paying the bills. But for an employer? Good lord, I'd definitely count it as a strike against someone if they thought that it was appropriate for their parents to be involved in the process. It doesn't speak well for a candidate's ability to operate independently - you know, like an adult.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:11 AM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good lord would I ever have been embarrassed if my parents had called my university professors to complain about my marks, or my employer to complain about my pay.

Get off my lawn, and take your mom with you.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:12 AM on February 9, 2012 [28 favorites]


Yeah, I'm surprised at how tolerant hiring managers seem to be of this phenomenon. This is still a rough economy and from my experience, employers are rejecting people if there's a slight scuff on their dress shoes. How is this behavior possibly getting people hired?
posted by naju at 8:12 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Besides, Howe says, there's little point in resisting engaged parents. School teachers initially tried to push back against helicopter parents a decade ago, Howe notes, but ultimately learned it was counterproductive.

There's a difference here: the school has to teach the kid, but the workplace doesn't have to hire him or her.
posted by Edgewise at 8:12 AM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not hiring people is pretty much what companies do these days.
posted by The Whelk at 8:14 AM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Parents/family turning up to job interviews has been accepted by (at least some) employers in New Zealand since the 1990s or so.

It comes out of a Maori concept of whanau (family) support, Maori being a very collectivist culture. Because employers couldn't discriminate against non-Maori applicants, some (mostly government or educational) give all applicants the opportunity to bring family support along: see some guidelines at the University of Waikato; a recruitment agency; the NZ army.

Hope that's not a de-rail; obviously the concept behind it is very different from what's described in the article. I'd be interested in hearing about examples from other collectivist cultures.
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:15 AM on February 9, 2012 [40 favorites]


Well, you'll certainly be sure to get compliant, don't-rock-the-boat types if you hire kids who are putting up with their parents' meddling in this way.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I feel bad for a lot of these kids because I have a Crazy Grandma. And Crazy Grandma loves sticking her nose where it doesn't belong because she thinks she can help. I'm pretty sure that if my mother didn't raise me to never, ever tell Crazy Grandma the truth about anything, she'd be calling up every place I told her I was applying just to put in her two cents of incomprehensibly broken English. I

know for a fact that after I broke down and gave her a copy of my resume just so that she would stop calling me about it several times a day, every day, she mailed that shit to respectable institutions all over town.
posted by griphus at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


The behavior of so-called helicopter parents may be frustrating to some but it didn't emerge from nothing.These parents are either encouraged or rewarded for this behavior, and that is why it continues.

That doesn't explain where it emerged from. I wonder if it could be because of smaller family sizes. With more (perceived) eggs in each basket, you want to be more sure your child does well. Plus you have more time to do everything for them than if you have 3-4 kids as was more often true in the previous generation.
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Since moving my application process online, I've been spared the yearly parade of parents pulling their sullen eyed progeny up to the circulation desk to submit an application/resume.

The downside being, I don't know who the person who filled out the online application is. In one instance last semester, I was negotiating with a candidate over a certain schedule. "If you want to work 8 hours a week, you need to do Monday 1-5 and Friday 1-5. That's the only shifts I have left." to which the 'candidate' replied "Mary has class on Monday, but I can work her shift for her."

Turns out I had been dealing solely with the Mom. Precious Mary would only be informed that she had a job once she was hired.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


Not hiring people is pretty much what companies do these days.

I wonder if efficiency consultants who instruct companies in the best ways to not hire people are in demand.
posted by griphus at 8:18 AM on February 9, 2012


I was recruiting for my last company at my alma mater when the following happened:

I was recovering from a night out drinking with the HR guy that came with me, and this older woman walks up to our booth. The company builds avionics and we had a sample display on our table so people could the equipment. She starts asking me if we're a video game company, if this box on the table is a video game, and generally didn't seem to know who we were or what this odd thing on the table was.

She finally thrusts a resume at me and tells me her son ("He's right over there!") is looking for a job. He likes video games and wants to program games. The son never actually walked over to our booth, he was talking to Activision or somebody like that. She smiled and happily walked off after telling us how awesome her son is.

I immediately crumpled up the resume and tossed it in the bin.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:18 AM on February 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


And how many of these young job applicants have some sort of mental issue that might need the sort of explanation a parent could provide? "Helicopter" is a derisive term when applied to situations like this.
posted by three blind mice at 8:18 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And how many of these young job applicants have some sort of mental issue that might need the sort of explanation a parent could provide?

COMPLETE LIST AS FOLLOWS:

Jonas Salisbury of Winston-Salem, NC
Maria Gonzales of Ozone Park, NY
Stephen Schwartz of Anchorage, AK
posted by griphus at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2012 [25 favorites]


I never tell my parents about an interview prior to receiving the offer. The amount of good-natured hounding I would get about it both before and after the interview would drive me nuts, and ruin my nerves. Why would you want your parents involved in the job-hunting process? It's awful enough without the added guilt and second-guessing.
posted by Phire at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Plus you have more time to do everything for them than if you have 3-4 kids as was more often true in the previous generation.

Plus if you are certifiably insane, then yeah.

There is no explanation, no justification, no rationalization. If this is a thing, I feel really, really old. This is not my world.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


And how many of these young job applicants have some sort of mental issue that might need the sort of explanation a parent could provide?

I'm not seeing, from the article, that there's any indication that they're talking about such a situation. It chiefly describes people who are quite competent, but their parents are attempting to speak on their behalf anyway. In fact, the article mentions that one such interview candidate, upon hearing his mother contacted the hiring manager, was embarrassed and chastened.

So while you're right that such a situation may be within the realm of possibility, I would also argue that such a situation is vanishingly small enough to as to safely assume that that's not what we're talking about here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 AM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seriously the most embarrassing moment of my quasi-adult life was the time my mom had to call out of work for me (actually my first day at a new job) because I had such violent stomach flu that I couldn't stop erupting in all possible ways long enough to do it myself. I can't imagine what I would've done if she'd called up to bitch about my pay or my hours (both ghastly). Something Charles Whitman-esque, I suspect.
posted by elizardbits at 8:24 AM on February 9, 2012


You're not hired, and neither is your dad. Mom, maybe a second interview. Don't bring Granma.
posted by Segundus at 8:24 AM on February 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sounds like 4% of applicants were immediately disqualified.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I dunno......I'll need to see a NYT article before I get alarmed by this
posted by thelonius at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2012 [24 favorites]


There's a difference here: the school has to teach the kid, but the workplace doesn't have to hire him or her.

This was my exact sentiment when I heard this the other night. If I were a hiring manager and someone's mother came to the interview I would have a hard time not laughing in their face and telling them to GTFO.

I'm quite certain that I would have to disown any family that was over-protective to the point that they were trying to manage my employment, benefits, etc. in my adult life. The whole concept of accepting this type of behavior in the workplace is ridiculous.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Plus you have more time to do everything for them than if you have 3-4 kids as was more often true in the previous generation.

Plus if you are certifiably insane, then yeah.


Well yes, I think you are probably kind of crazy if you show up at a job interview with (or for) your child. But my point was that there's only a limited number of parents in a given family available to be that crazy. If the number of children exceeds that, then the craziness per child (from the POV of the outside world) will be lower.
posted by DU at 8:26 AM on February 9, 2012


I'd just like to put in here that I think if you read my son's comment attentively, you'll see that it thoroughly deserves to be favourited for its many good qualities.

-Mrs Segundus
posted by Segundus at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2012 [84 favorites]


I'll never forget when I found out my mom called my boss at some shitty local fast food restaurant to tell him I needed x, y and z days off for family vacation (I was 16). I was so embarrassed. Screaming ensued. She kept her nose out of my business ever since then.
posted by gagglezoomer at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2012


And how many of these young job applicants have some sort of mental issue that might need the sort of explanation a parent could provide?

None of them.

"Helicopter" is a derisive term when applied to situations like this.

No it isn't because those situations don't exist. Plus, if your doting mommy has to explain your precious mental issues, what proof do I have that you can actually do the job?

I just finished dealing with a helicopter parent and her clueless freshmen son. I'm pretty proud of the solution I arranged for his problem and was disappointed but not surprised to get an email from the mom afterwards with the salutation of assholes everywhere - "Hey, superstar!"

I hate that shit. Just thank me for my effort and stop blowing smoke up my ass.

The worst case helicopter parent situation I dealt with, ever, was the mom who called to berate me because her son didn't get into our MS program. Then he called and was a real dick too. Neither of them could even process the information that he was 1) unqualified and 2) we had denied 100+ applications more qualified than his. That was apparently our fault because he "hadn't been told" he had to be qualified? Or something? Those assholes lived in a different dimension.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:29 AM on February 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


I actually feel sorry for these kids. I've known (and in one case, dated way too long) the types who are coddled and sheltered from personal responsibility, circumstance, and the outside world in general, from birth. The results aren't pretty, and the holes in their basic functioning ability are shocking.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:31 AM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Having two children of working age, I'm more than happy to act as a reference should that be applicable but I am not going to call anyone and advocate on their behalf or falsely pretend to be them for any purpose.

And trust me, there's nothing more I'd like than to not have them as dependents anymore but fraud is not the solution to that issue.
posted by tommasz at 8:33 AM on February 9, 2012


Oh god, whenever these 'Millenials Are The WORRRRST' things pop up, I think back to the time in middle school when I entered a scholarship contest and my mom, meaning well, opened up the essay packet and reprinted it out on brightly colored paper before mailing it. I ended up with the scholarship (I was the only entrant), but I was so humiliated that she did that without mentioning it to me at all. I'm a millenial (1985), this was....1995, maybe? We had a chat about it and she didn't meddle any longer.

I doubt these kids are encouraging or 'putting up with' parental interference. I mean, I only found out about it by accident.
posted by troika at 8:34 AM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Bear in mind that hiring managers are going to be of the same age as the helicoptering parent, part of the same social group, and in more than a few instances are thinking, "Wow, what a great idea!"

Or, in other words, why should people put a stop to it? It offends our Gen-X/Boomer bootstrappy esthetic, to be sure, but times are changing. Family groups are closer knit and stay together for longer and are more involved with what each other is doing. It's different than what's been the usual, sure, but I think close familial support may actually be a benefit in some employers' eyes, and not seen as meddlesome. There may be a real cultural shift going on, and employers better figure it out, or they're going to lose good candidates by dismissing them out oh hand.

Come to think of it, in many of the blue collar trades, your mom or pop knowing someone in the business, and putting in a word for you, is how you got your foot in the door as a plumber or electrician or mechanic. If your dad is going to bat for you, you're a good bet, because he gives a shit and is putting his own rep on the line.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:35 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


A real job? I thought I raised you better then that

-Mother Whelk
posted by The Whelk at 8:35 AM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is slightly misleading. Four percent of HR people have had a parent show up to an interview ONCE, but that doesn't mean 4 percent of recent grads have their parents show up to an interview (or anything like that).

If one in a thousand times a parent really shows up to an interview, that means the percent of interviews that a parent shows up would be something like 0.004 percent. Alternatively, one could look at it by saying that 96% of interviewers, in all their thousands of interviews, have never seen a parent.

I think this is basically one of those false trend stories.
posted by lewedswiver at 8:35 AM on February 9, 2012 [45 favorites]


I can't decide who would be laughing harder between myself and my mother if this sort of situation was ever proposed by anyone within earshot.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2012


The only time my mom ever got involved in a job process for me was for my first non-babysitting job, when I was 14, and she basically just wanted to meet the guys I'd be working for (it was an antique store) and make sure my hours would be okay.

I'd like to think I'd have died of mortification if she's ever shown up at any other job interview, but if I'd been parented that way my whole life, I might not have known any better.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2012


On a semi-related vein, I had scheduled an interview with a young woman for an entry level tech support position in my company several years ago. She arrived with her husband, which I found somewhat odd (normally they would wait in the car). We usually start them out with a set of forms to fill out, so my assistant parked her in the conference room to work on them. When I came in a few minutes later to start the interview, her husband was sitting behind her. Caught off guard, I informed him that I needed to start the interview and he should relocate to the waiting room. He cheerfully advised me that he thought it would be better if he observed, but if I preferred he wouldn't speak. For some reason, I didn't just kick them both out of the room, but rather told him that unless he intended to accompany his wife to work every day to provide back up, he was going to need to leave now. She never even seemed to think anything was out of the ordinary. I did end up telling her that in the USA people were going to find that extremely odd and that in the future she should ask her husband to wait outside. She was agreeable, but her expression suggested that she thought I was the strange one.
posted by Lame_username at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2012


Man oh man do I loooouuurve FERPA.

"I'm sorry, but university policy and federal privacy laws forbid me from talking to anyone about the academic performance of any student without explicit written permission from that student, signed by my department head. If you have any questions about this policy, here is my department head's contact information."
posted by erniepan at 8:40 AM on February 9, 2012 [18 favorites]


Come to think of it, in many of the blue collar trades, your mom or pop knowing someone in the business, and putting in a word for you, is how you got your foot in the door as a plumber or electrician or mechanic.

I think we all know that there is a severe difference between "putting in a word for you" and "shows up to the interview with you."
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:41 AM on February 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


Or, in other words, why should people put a stop to it? It offends our Gen-X/Boomer bootstrappy esthetic, to be sure, but times are changing. Family groups are closer knit and stay together for longer and are more involved with what each other is doing. It's different than what's been the usual, sure, but I think close familial support may actually be a benefit in some employers' eyes, and not seen as meddlesome. There may be a real cultural shift going on, and employers better figure it out, or they're going to lose good candidates by dismissing them out oh hand.

I do not think I can adequately express my contempt for this idea. Adulthood means being able to function independently, take on responsibility, and be trusted to lead. It's one thing to put in a good word for junior to get his foot in the door. It's an entirety different thing to be doing his homework for him when his homework is the PowerPoint slides on the third quarter sales. Childhood is a phase that society requires you to pass out of in order to function.
posted by Diablevert at 8:41 AM on February 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


I dunno......I'll need to see a NYT article before I get alarmed by this

I'm the opposite. If I see it in a NYT article I know I don't have to ever worry about because it is either completely fabricated or already over. NY Times trend pieces are counter indicators for trends.
posted by srboisvert at 8:43 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd definitely count it as a strike against someone if they thought that it was appropriate for their parents to be involved in the process.

I'd count it as more than a strike against them. The interview would be over and they would not be getting the job.
posted by asnider at 8:45 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't decide who would be laughing harder between myself and my mother if this sort of situation was ever proposed by anyone within earshot.

Yeah, I think my mom would have been the same. However, my aunt (my dad's sister) came to visit us one summer and she dragged me down to McD's to fill out an application. I actually probably would have liked working there OK at the time, but her overbearingness made me rebel against the whole thing. I think I faked handing the app in so there'd be no chance of her scheme working.
posted by DU at 8:46 AM on February 9, 2012


Why would you want your parents involved in the job-hunting process?

They've been very helpful. My father does a lot of hiring, so he can read my CV and cover letter for content. He also has looked for jobs for me to apply for. My mother reads for style, and also finds jobs for me to apply for. They can advise me on interview techniques, or make me cookies when things work out badly, or whatever.

They don't attend my interviews or phone up my prospective employers, no, but they are otherwise involved and helpful.
posted by jeather at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Back in 'the day', weren't most people getting jobs based on the goodwill and intervention of their parents, if they're not literally working in the family business? Blue-collar kids would go to work in their dad's factory or jobsite. White-collar kids would work in the mail room or secretary pool. Rich kids would go to their dad's alma mater. Even if it wasn't your dad's job, your dad would call up Mr. Jones from the Elk's lodge and say "hey, my boy needs a job, do you need a stocker your hardware store?"

Not to say that I don't personally find 'helicopter parents' to be weird - I left home at 18 and my parent's haven't given me much since then. It just seems really short-sighted, historically.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Don't blame the kid. Blame the boomer parents.

Reason #2837281 why Boomers are fucking up our society.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would love to see what other outliers appear in 4% of job interviews. If 4% of job applicants were late, or if 4% of applicant interviewed with their flies undone, would say it is trend? Probably not.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


Fully 25% of applicants I interviewed last year showed up in sneakers. It's a trend!

(Note, that is literally 1 out of 4)
posted by muddgirl at 8:54 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


From NPR story: "An employee was hired as an IT intern, and the parent called and proceeded to tell me how talented her son was, and how he deserved much more [compensation], and that he could make much more money outside of this position," Huffnagle says.

I'd be interested to know how many of these cases are for internships. If employers are going to present themselves as teaching organizations, then they should interact with parents. Interns aren't employees, they're students.
posted by Kattullus at 8:57 AM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The numbers suggest that this isn't a widespread trend, right, but the fact that this is even happening at all by more than one family is staggeringly insane and worth discussing. There are people in this thread who've said that parents have filled out their children's job applications and presumably signed them without consent. Forget overbearing, that's illegal!
posted by naju at 8:58 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just trying to understand what the hell the parent is even supposed to be there for?

Seriously, what do people think they are going to do? Referee the interview?

And am I too understand that these are jobs with real interviews and HR personnel, not Dad dragging his teenager off to Lowes to get a summer job carting lumber around?

My daughter would look at me like I was nuts if I suggested that she might want me to escort her to her job interview.
posted by dglynn at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2012


But it's not really 'staggeringly insane' that a few parents out of millions would accompany a child on a job interview, any more than it's insane that some people are 100% estranged from their parents.

Seriously, what do people think they are going to do?

In my experience? Generally just making sure that the child actually shows up to the interview.
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on February 9, 2012


I mean, here is literally what the article claims:
Four percent of respondents reported that a parent actually showed up for the candidate's job interview.
My impression is that if a parent drove their kid to the interview and waited in the lobby, and the hiring manager found out, that could count as 'showed up.'

Now, if my parents drove me to a job interview, they'd probably wait in the car, but we lived in a temperate climate.
posted by muddgirl at 9:08 AM on February 9, 2012


I've had to stop letting dad come along to jobs these days too. Shame, because he was one of the best get-away drivers in the business before the arthritis got too bad.
posted by Abiezer at 9:11 AM on February 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


Reasonably often, I have moms dropping into my office unannounced to give me their son's resume. Never a dad, and never for a daughter. (Also, never in response to an actual open position.) It is sweet and well-intentioned, but I suspect that their time would be more productively spent coaxing their son off of the couch and out of the house on his own.
posted by Forktine at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, a family friend has two sons who are a little weird, and she does this thing all the time. I can't blame her - the sons are pleasant enough, and don't have a cognitive disability per se, but they do have a variety of learning disabilities, so she helped them graduate from high school, basically wrote all of their university papers, and continued on to try to help them find jobs - they both got a degree in her profession. She's a Boomer, but her kids are about 30 now. They eventually gave up on Canada, and both work overseas teaching English.

I suppose her compulsion was equal parts desire to see them succeed, her natural control-freak nature, and a real wish to just get them launched and out of the damn house.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2012


As a university professor I love it when I get to say to a helicopter parent: "I don't talk to parents and it does not matter who is paying the bills". And actually, it is illegal for me to reveal any information to a parent about little Trevor's performance in my class unless little Trevor has given me permission to do so.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:23 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what do people think they are going to do?
I would have benefited from my father's experience when negotiating salary and benefits, for sure, filling out tax forms, remembering the addresses of my last 5 residences, etc. Mind you, yes, I think the concept of bringing a parent along is ridiculous, but I can imagine an iota of utility.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of this is pretty crazy, too. But what about this? My father and I work in the same field. We talk shop all the time, etc. Over the years, he's helped me get a few job interviews, and I know that might make it seem like I'm some spoiled princess, but hey, our field runs on networking, and I've helped lots and lots of people get job interviews as well.

I'm pretty lucky that my father happens to be part of my professional network, but most people don't have that. Our economy has gotten insanely competitive over the last 20 years or so, and the middle class is disappearing. I can't really fault parents for wanting to help their kids get ahead.

Of course, if a parent of a candidate ever called me to argue their kid's case, that candidate would get dinged for it in a huge way in my mind. And I'm usually on hiring committees for positions where there are more jobs than truly qualified applicants. So seriously, this is actually a horrible idea.
posted by lunasol at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2012


I think there's a pretty substantial difference between a parent helping you out with their network and them showing up with you to the interview. I doubt anyone would have any problems with the networking, unless it's somehow outright nepotism.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:29 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have we helped our kids find work in our local network - internships and part-time summer gigs - sure - although only by making connections NEVER by going to an interview or the like. Been involved in job searches on the adult level? No way! I cannot imagine wanting to nor that my kids would welcome my involvement either. Big difference between offering guidance and networking and being over-involved in young adults' lives.
posted by leslies at 9:31 AM on February 9, 2012


Man oh man do I loooouuurve FERPA.

"I'm sorry, but university policy and federal privacy laws forbid me from talking to anyone about the academic performance of any student without explicit written permission from that student, signed by my department head. If you have any questions about this policy, here is my department head's contact information."


I was counting on that to save me, too. Then the administrator a rung above me informed all of us that any parent whose child had a FERPA password and shared it with his/her parent could have access to the student's records and discuss their performance. Thus, if the student okayed it, the parent of my advisee had legal grounds to talk to me about anything I would talk to the student about. I could refuse, but my institution had thereby structured this to make me look like a dick for doing so by passing the buck down. I brought this up with an Assistant Dean, who rather tersely replied, "We're a tuition-driven institution. Good luck." (Read: "We need that woman's money, and you need to get her to a point that she will keep giving it to us.")

A meeting was held, and I learned of the specialness of a snowflake under my care. It was an hour and a half of my time outside my regular schedule that I could have spent doing, I dunno, anything in the world other than that. Mom dropped a reference to the tuition she is paying about once every ten minutes. The snowflake in question is bright enough, just made some dumb choices the first semester, and sat there with a fixed gaze at the mother the whole time that seemed to say, "One day I will kill you, and then I will be free..." The student doesn't need advising, the student needs an escape plan. I told mom nothing I had not already told the student five times in the whole meeting, but mom wanted to be at the center of it. My one achievement in the whole absurd process was switching gears and being blunt and impolite enough to convince mom that she would undermine her child's education if she did this with every fucking professor for the next four years. Mom seemed ready to back off on that plan, but did say, "I am prepared to become less involved once my child is in graduate school."
posted by el_lupino at 9:33 AM on February 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


the article mentions that one such interview candidate, upon hearing his mother contacted the hiring manager, was embarrassed and chastened.

I have encountered this sort of thing on multiple occasions when I used to hire interns, and so I am very wary of any interpretations of the over-involved parent phenomenon that puts the bulk of the blame on those darn immature millennials.
posted by naoko at 9:38 AM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


My father and I work in the same field. We talk shop all the time, etc.

I don't think anyone is really arguing (well, at least not here) that there's anything wrong with that. When I've been doing something that's in a field related to something my parents have experience in, I'll bounce ideas off of them -- why not, since they have the experience and are willing to talk about it? It seems almost wasteful not to.

But there's a line, and I'd argue it's a fairly clear one, between things that you're allowed to do collaboratively and things you're expected to do independently. Going to a job interview is definitely on the "independent" side of that line; actually I'd say it's on the far extreme. Coming up with some new idea, the true creative/generative part, is frankly difficult to do in isolation, and unless the topic is truly sensitive I think it's more understandable that people are going to mull it over with family -- be it a partner or immediate family, depending on situation. But even then, I'd consider it weird and inappropriate for someone to involve their family at more than a sounding-board level, e.g. in actually writing anything.

It's analogous to the line between editing and plagiarism. It's one thing for a kid in highschool to have their parents (or anyone else) do some light proofreading, or sanity-check an idea before they spend a few hours on it, but another thing entirely for the parent to write the paper. Most people understand that. But occasionally, some don't, and that's where things get awkward.

Granted, all of this is socially determined. It's entirely possible to envision (and the comment upthread about the Maori seems to be an example of) a society where there weren't as clearly-delineated individual/collaborative expectations. Someone coming to the U.S. from somewhere else would deserve to be cut a significant amount of slack in that regard.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:43 AM on February 9, 2012


The only participation in my job getting process my parents ever had was my Dad swearing me into the Navy. It seems any officer, active or retired can do that.

He could be considered a helicopter parent in the most literal sense: He's been in a helicopter.
posted by djrock3k at 9:44 AM on February 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


He could be considered a helicopter parent in the most literal sense...
posted by griphus at 9:47 AM on February 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


posted by Segundus at 8:24 AM on February 9 [4 favorites +] [!]

-Mrs Segundus
posted by Segundus at 8:28 AM on February 9 [29 favorites +] [!]


Man, it's gotta be embarrassing when your mom gets more favorites than you do.
posted by madajb at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's not just the millennials. My parents were like this, and I was born in 1964. Before the helicopter term appeared we just called people like this control freaks.

This kind of behavior is also the tip of a very ugly iceberg. Parents who are taking this degree of involvement in the job and education are probably meddling even harder in the social and love life, and are likely to perceive any disagreement as defiant ingratitude.

After my parents flushed my girlfriend's birth control pills, stole my car and withdrew my life's savings from my savings account and had a lawyer call me to tell me that those things had been given me contingent on finishing college, I told the lawyer that since parents shouldn't need lawyers to talk to their children I was obviously an orphan and didn't speak to them for 17 years.

I later learned that they had collected information and were snooping around my friends trying to build a case to have me involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. I inadvertently shut that down when I announced my emancipation to their lawyer.

I would never associate with anyone in any way whose parents are this controlling. You have no way to know what their limit might be if defied.
posted by localroger at 9:49 AM on February 9, 2012 [18 favorites]


Thankfully I've never had a parent butt into my job search, but issues do arise with my parents and my in-laws due to the fact that I work in a very specialized field. For a long time they didn't understand that looking in the want ads and knocking on doors is actually counterproductive to finding my kind of work. My in-laws especially were concerned when, after my last lay-off, I spent all of my time posting on forums, editing a showreel together, and working on my website, instead of doing the aforementioned door-knocking.

It was frustrating having them think I wasn't doing enough to provide for their daughter. I think they get it now, though, and I don't really fault them for it. If you're older and have never known a creative professional, I imagine a lot of the actual work one does can look like goofing off.
posted by balistic at 9:52 AM on February 9, 2012


But there's a line, and I'd argue it's a fairly clear one, between things that you're allowed to do collaboratively and things you're expected to do independently. Going to a job interview is definitely on the "independent" side of that line; actually I'd say it's on the far extreme.

And we have no real evidence, or even real anecdotes, that such a 'line' is habitually crossed by any demographic.

4% of employers said on a survey that a parent 'showed up' to a job interview. What does 'showed up' actually mean in this context? Were there mitigating factors? Who cares, as long as we get a chance to mock all millenials and/or all boomers? Or both at the same time!
posted by muddgirl at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my hiring manager days, if an applicant's parent had tried to involve him/her self, I would have simply informed them that they have ruined their child's chances of getting the job, and immediately trash the resume. Fortunately, this never happened, as I suspect psycho-drama would occur.
posted by Blackanvil at 9:58 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went off to college at 17, having never visited the campus and having been raised on military bases, which are not the real world. My parents really had no involvement in me picking a college or any of that. Even when I was on academic probation my sophomore year they never said a word. Years later I asked my mom why and the answer was that I was an adult - not their job anymore. But they were worried about my grades...

My son is off to college next fall. I'm starting to understand just how fracking it hard it must have been for my parents to watch me make bad decisions. And my son isn't making any bad decisions, but there is a definite instinct for me to make sure he doesn't. I'm doing my best to resist.

Epilogue - I did eventually validate my parents trust I guess. I was deans list my senior year.
posted by COD at 9:58 AM on February 9, 2012


"...most literal sense", take two.
posted by griphus at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2012


We need to stop thinking of them as helicopter parents and start thinking of them as useless fucker beacons. If someone can't manage an application form or a job interview on their own they have no place working for me.
posted by biffa at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure how new of a trend this is. Around 1994 I had just gotten a managerial job and was hiring two editorial assistants. I myself was 23, and many of the applicants were my age or even a bit older (all Gen-X, for what that's worth). I got at least one call from a parent regarding her son's application -- he was about 27. Being new to the hiring process, I was a little surprised but polite to her on the phone -- and she really talked up how awesome her boy was. I finally said, "Yes, he seems like a fine young man" and ended it. I didn't call him in for an interview, though. Even after he and his mom -- a few days later -- sent a pizza to my office at lunchtime.
posted by lisa g at 10:08 AM on February 9, 2012


The only time a parent has ever gotten involved in a job of mine was when I was 16 and working at a fast food place. My grandfather died after I’d been working there about six months, and I called to tell the manager that I had to take a week off immediately to fly to Florida.

The manager put up a HUGE fight with me about it, and my mother, who was listening to the conversation, took the phone away from me, got on the phone and told the manager that she was taking all of her children to Florida for their grandfather’s funeral, and that her daughter (me) was very responsible by calling this in, rather than the other co-workers who routinely came in late all the time or didn’t show up at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:19 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sad story.

I attended a workshop sponsored by our then director of counseling services.

He informed the attendees that that year he had a first year student in his office. They were talking about something he didn't disclose, of course, when he asked, "And how do you feel about that?"

The girl, in his office, picked up her phone, called someone and said, "Mom, how do I feel about that?"

As the parent of two children under the age of 5, I will consider myself an absolute failure if by my kids by the age of 19 or 20 can't figure out how they feel about something. And if when they are 25, I can't say, "Dad and I are off to Europe for awhile. Stay here if you need to while looking for a job, but don't burn the place down. See ya!"

I also recently had a student come in with his mother to complain about a grade (after the mother called about said grade). I directed all my comments to the student and cited FERPA to all hell. FERPA is my best friend in dealing with parents.
posted by zizzle at 10:35 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who left home for college a few months after I turned 17, this is just so weird to me. Aren't colleges designed to help you, spoiled teenager, become an adult who can do laundry/scavenge for your own food and beer, etc, and -- after a few years, ensure that you are An Example of Something A Hiring Manager WON'T Throw Out Of Their Office? I mean, that's the point, right?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:36 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know someone who proudly states that she used to spy on her daughter's classmates during recess in primary school, take notes on which children were "winners" and which were, ah, not, and later advise her daughter on who to socialize with based upon that.
posted by Flunkie at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love to see what other outliers appear in 4% of job interviews.

4% of job interviews are conducted in silly hats.

4% of job applicants are intelligent bears.

2% of jobs applicants list Dinosaur Rancher under Past Experience.

This is fun.
posted by byanyothername at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I mean, that's the point, right?

Somehow I think there's a lot of overlap between kids with helicopter parents and kids who didn't go to a sleepaway college.
posted by griphus at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2012


As the parent of two children under the age of 5, I will consider myself an absolute failure if [] my kids by the age of 19 or 20 can't...

Zizzle,
You sound like you're on the right track. But by the time your kids are 19 or 20 you'll probably be a LOT less absolutist about what you judge parental failures:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:49 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


2% of jobs applicants list Dinosaur Rancher under Past Experience.

Well, I'm doing *my* part to get that number up. (hits "save")
posted by Ella Fynoe at 10:49 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to know how many of these cases are for internships. If employers are going to present themselves as teaching organizations, then they should interact with parents. Interns aren't employees, they're students.

Unless we're talking about 16-year-old interns, these people are still adults.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:55 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or, in other words, why should people put a stop to it?

In a professional workplace, two qualities that are very important are the abilities to take responsibility, and to take initiative. If someone's parent hands in their resume or shows up for an interview, that doesn't bode well. It's all well and good to have a close family, but there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. I don't think that having a close family makes this necessary.

To all those who are rushing to the defense of millenials, I think your efforts are unnecessary. Nobody seems to be saying that this is a sign that the new generation is all fucked up. Personally, I have a good impression of the millenials, but I have seen this helicopter parenting phenomenon and I reserve the say that it often goes too far. One criticism does not condemn and entire generation (or their parents' generation).
posted by Edgewise at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd be interested to know how many of these cases are for internships.

As for internships, do you think I called my parents when the creepy ex-DEA agent asked me if I was boinking all my (male) roommates (see: comment in another ongoing thread)? Um. No. Because if I'm considered sufficiently mature to undergo a top secret security clearance investigation, I'm thinking my parents really don't need to be involved in that process other than to congratulate me when said internship comes through.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2012


Oh, Portlandia. (SL-Hulu)
posted by steamynachos at 11:06 AM on February 9, 2012


Don't blame the kid. Blame the boomer parents.

Reason #2837281 why Boomers are fucking up our society.


So-called boomer's kids are in their thirties and forties now, Sunny Jim. Helicopter parents are not 'boomers'.

In fact, if you do the math. . .
 
posted by Herodios at 11:07 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm 24, and my parents are boomers...
posted by steamynachos at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


In many fields, interns are very paid.

I can think of an HR person or five who would push to hire a candidate with a hovering parent because a lot of HR folk make all their decisions on based on pleasing people who might sue and the heck with running the business.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2012


Somehow I think there's a lot of overlap between kids with helicopter parents and kids who didn't go to a sleepaway college.

In Canada, we call students who go to a college in their hometown and who live off-campus with their family "commuter students".

And most commuter students I have ever met not only did not have helicopter parents, but paid their own tuition and sometimes also contributed to the family income because their families did not have enough to get by. Many also worked between 20-30 hours a week to support themselves and to pay their tuition.

There will be more and more commuter students in the future, because going away to university is a luxury a lot of us cannot afford.
posted by jb at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


lewedswiver: "I think this is basically one of those false trend stories."

Exactly. And I'm sure half of those 4% of HR professionals who (ONCE in their careers) had a parent show up to an interview, it was the VP of Operations coming downstairs to tell them to hire his 16 year old to work in the mail room over the summer.
posted by danny the boy at 11:13 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we call them that here as well. I was both being facetious and a commuter student.
posted by griphus at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2012


Don't blame the kid. Blame the boomer parents.

Reason #2837281 why Boomers are fucking up our society.

So-called boomer's kids are in their thirties and forties now, Sunny Jim. Helicopter parents are not 'boomers'.


It depends on your definition of "boomer". Some people limit boomers to those people born immediately after the war (c1945-47 - small bumps in Britain and the US, but less so in Canada). But demographers and epidemiologists tend to define boomers as those people who were born on the upswing of a demographic boom that took place between c1945 and 1965 (which peaked in Canada in 1960).

Those born 1945-55 do have children who are in their late 20s and 30s. But the demographic peak (highest number of births) was actually in the late 50s and early 60s - and people born c1955 to c1965 obviously have younger children. My aunt was born in 1960, and had her first child at the age of 30. Her children are now 22, 20, 18 and 16 (she liked to space them evenly). There are a lot more people in North America who were born c1955-1965 than were born c1945-55.
posted by jb at 11:18 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Somehow I think there's a lot of overlap between kids with helicopter parents and kids who didn't go to a sleepaway college.

You mean, you think the helicopter parents are often local to the university? No, not in my experience.

Aren't colleges designed to help you, spoiled teenager, become an adult who can do laundry/scavenge for your own food and beer, etc,

No, see, that's the old model. The new model is that colleges are sweet, thistle-down-lined pods into which to place your precious nestlings, who will then be cosseted for four years and granted a degree based on their sparklingly obvious brilliant natures, and then gently rolled on into the Really Good Job they so clearly deserve.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


It depends on your definition of "boomer".

I don't. It is a useless term designed to put people in a cage so lazy thinkers can spray paint them with stereotypes.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn, 35 minutes too late for the Portlandia reference.

Helicopter parents are a real problem, but these guys are definitely outliers. The majority merely hover, they don't buzz.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:44 AM on February 9, 2012


This must be a February thing. CBC's DocZone featured Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids on the same topic two years ago, almost to the day.

I think it was in this doc that someone posited that part of this phenomenon is related to university educated women leaving their demanding, high-powered jobs to be stay-at-home moms, thereby "professionalizing" motherhood.
posted by looli at 12:00 PM on February 9, 2012


Having a parent accompany a kid to a job interview is extreme, but so much of what gets called "helicopter parenting" these days is attributable simply to cell phones.

When I was in college, a student calling his mom and dad every single day would have been really weird. Now, high school students grow up chatting on the cell phone all the time with mom and dad and there's no obvious reason that should change just because they're in college. The call feels and costs the same as it always did.

Going off to college simply doesn't cause the same kind of separation it did when I was a college student. A lot of students naturally maintain a relationship with their parents that seems weird to people of my generation, but I think it's more a change in technology than a change in parents becoming more intrusive, hanging over kids, refusing to let them grow up (although the technology certainly makes that kind of thing easier to parents who are inclined to act that way.)
posted by straight at 12:04 PM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, it's gotta be embarrassing when your mom gets more favorites than you do.

My mother got a FPP within a few months of membership. I kinda hope I didn't chase her off mefi when I realized who she was.
posted by Phalene at 12:12 PM on February 9, 2012


Now, high school students grow up chatting on the cell phone all the time with mom and dad and there's no obvious reason that should change just because they're in college.

If I had owned a cell phone in high school, I'm not sure I would have given my parents the number.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Timing is a huge difference. I am 6 years older than my little sister. She goes to my parents for about every decision she needs to make in her life, not feeling comfortable until she gets confirmation from my parents. Yet my parents were also able to raise three very independent individuals - so there's something about that 6 years gap that's interesting.

I also work as an academic advisor, and it's relatively common to have parents come to appointments either when the kid is in trouble or when the kid is just starting at our university. It is usually the parent asking all the questions and doing all the talking. And every advisor in my office has been bawled out by at least one parent, but never by a kid (with or without parent). The absolute rudeness and assumption of specialness by these parents is astounding.
posted by bibbit at 12:28 PM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh god, whenever these 'Millenials Are The WORRRRST' things pop up, I think back to the time in middle school when I entered a scholarship contest and my mom, meaning well, opened up the essay packet and reprinted it out on brightly colored paper before mailing it. I ended up with the scholarship (I was the only entrant), but I was so humiliated that she did that without mentioning it to me at all. I'm a millenial (1985), this was....1995, maybe? We had a chat about it and she didn't meddle any longer.

I, too, am a millenial (1984), and while my mom would never think to show up at one of my job interviews, or send a resume, or call an employer, when I was a kid, if I was dragging my feet about getting something done (usually the thing in question was some annoying administrative task), she would threaten to to do it for me. It was a pretty effective tactic.

Also, I'd draw a distinction between helicopter parenting in high school and college and in the workplace. I mean, in high school, its poor parenting, but the kid is still a minor. In college, its even poorer parenting, but the kid could well be going to school on mommy and daddy's dime. In the workplace....YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE AN ADULT. THIS MEANS YOU DO YOUR OWN SHIT. That is all.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to confess that, when the financial aid department at my (very expensive, very subsidized) college fucked up my financial aid package and refused to help me cover the difference before I was kicked out of class 1 week before finals (not that he was being cruel - he just didn't seem to understand that my parents couldn't just write a $2500 check or 'put it on their credit card'), I absolutely called my mother and had HER deal with it (I eventually got a subsidized loan to cover the difference). And I was 21.

In financial matters, colleges expect to deal with parents. It does seem a little bit confusing that schools refuse to deal with students when it comes to getting paid, then turn around and complain that their students aren't independent enough (I was basically the most independent a student could be without being emancipated). Having gone through the process, I now recognize that, in academia, one hand never knows what the other is doing. But it's pretty unfair to expect parents (who are outside the whole process entirely) to understand that.

YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE AN ADULT. THIS MEANS YOU DO YOUR OWN SHIT

Putting it this way - shit, I've got a couple coworkers that really need a helicopter parent. At least then their work would get done by someone.
posted by muddgirl at 1:02 PM on February 9, 2012


I'm not buying the idea that adulthood requires total self-sufficiency and independence from one's family. If it's true, it means there are large parts of the world where nobody is an adult unless they're orphaned or disowned. Hell, some places, willingness to rely on your family is seen as a sign of maturity. The whole "I don't need any help from any of you" routine is a bratty teenage phase that smart, responsible people eventually grow out of.

It's funny, too: when a 1%er on TV says "I made my fortune without any help from the government," we snicker at them — and rightly so. There's no shame in driving on interstate highways or hiring publicly-educated workers on your way to the top. But replace "government" with "parents" and suddenly we're all rugged Randian individualists looking down on those poor weak fucks who sometimes call home for advice? Fuck that.

Honestly, I'd rather have a coworker who asks anyone for advice in a sticky situation than one who goes off all half-cocked and pulls some ill-considered scheme out of his own ruggedly individualistic ass.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:19 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I followed my mother's job hunting advice, I'd definitely be unemployed and the laughing stock of HR networks everywhere ("Put 'drumming' on your resume! You're a really good drummer! ...You don't even have a 'hobbies' section?!")
posted by naju at 1:19 PM on February 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I wonder if efficiency consultants who instruct companies in the best ways to not hire people are in demand.

Happens all the time. In any business where growth in capacity happens by hiring (phone centers, sales, software dev, assembly, law, medicine, etc.), every consultant trying to increase efficiency is trying to avoid additional hires no matter what they are peddling.
posted by michaelh at 1:36 PM on February 9, 2012


Put it another way: parental help is like IT. You only notice it when something goes wrong.

A kid who's getting good help and advice from his parents will look totally independent. Hell, if his parents are really on their game, they'll specifically be telling him, "Son, don't give us any credit here. Let us hide in the background. Pretend you did it all on your own."

These parents who are allegedly showing up at their kids' job interviews? The problem there isn't that those parents are overinvolved. It's just that they're dumb — or at least clueless about business etiquette.

A business-savvy "helicopter mom" wouldn't dream of showing up at her kid's job interview. She'd still get involved, of course. She'd coach the hell out of him ahead of time, spell-check his resumé, slip him a few hundred bucks to buy a suit, and then stand back and let him take all the credit. And when he got the job, everone would be all "See, there's a kid who knows how to stand on his own two feet," totally overlooking his (normal, healthy, productive) reliance on his family to help get him there.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2012 [30 favorites]


@Slap*Happy: Bear in mind that hiring managers are going to be of the same age as the helicoptering parent, part of the same social group...

True.

... and in more than a few instances are thinking, "Wow, what a great idea!"

False.

employers better figure it out, or they're going to lose good candidates by dismissing them out oh hand.

No, we're really not. If a candidate can't manage, for a hour or less, to sit down with me one-on-one and demonstrate in their own words and actions that they're competent and a fit, then they are not going to do well here, because pretty much all of the jobs require you to be able to manage your shit on your own. And it's not just our expectation. We'd be laughed right out the door of any of our clients should they be subject someones mom showing up on site to make sure Junior does his job, noone picks on him, or whatever else they're thinking.

And, no, having your parent pull a string or call in a favor to help you get a job is *not* the same thing as showing up at an interview to stage manage things.
posted by kjs3 at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


In fact, I wonder if part of the problem is that the job-hunting experience is changing faster between generations than it used to.

If you get a job in a steel mill when you're 17, have a son when you're 19, and then your son gets a job in the same mill when he turns 17, odds are pretty good that you'll be in a position to give real, useful assistance. (Which might well include just bringing your son down to the union hall your own damn self and getting him a union card as a personal favor. That was a totally normal thing to do in Detroit and Pittsburgh, back when blue collar work in Detroit or Pittsburgh was a viable option for a middle-class family.)

If you get a job in a steel mill when you're 17, have a son when you're 30, and then your son applies for a low-level administrative gig at an international development nonprofit after kicking around in grad school and the peace corps until he's almost 30 himself.... well, whatever help you think you can give him is probably wrong. But dammit, your dad helped you get a union card, and so now you're gonna help your kid the same way.

That's not a moral-decline-type issue. That's an "our economy has been in total disarray and turmoil for 30 years" issue.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


@nebulawindphone: A business-savvy "helicopter mom" wouldn't dream of showing up at her kid's job interview. She'd still get involved, of course. She'd coach the hell out of him ahead of time, spell-check his resumé, slip him a few hundred bucks to buy a suit, and then stand back and let him take all the credit. And when he got the job, everone would be all "See, there's a kid who knows how to stand on his own two feet," totally overlooking his (normal, healthy, productive) reliance on his family to help get him there.

This *exactly*. And I know this woman, a dear friend and formidable, successful sales rep. I commented to her that my new sales rep from that very large software company was ridiculously sharp, groomed and confident even though he couldn't be more than a year or two out of college. Her reply: "Yes. Isn't my son great? I made sure he got your account, because you can teach him a lot.".
posted by kjs3 at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


A business-savvy "helicopter mom" wouldn't dream of showing up at her kid's job interview. She'd still get involved, of course. She'd coach the hell out of him ahead of time, spell-check his resumé, slip him a few hundred bucks to buy a suit, and then stand back and let him take all the credit. And when he got the job, everone would be all "See, there's a kid who knows how to stand on his own two feet," totally overlooking his (normal, healthy, productive) reliance on his family to help get him there.

That's not the kind of behavior people here are complaining about. They're unhappy with the part where she checks his resumé, coaches him, and then calls the hiring director to tell him all about her special boy or to throw a tantrum when special boy doesn't get the job.

I think it's pretty clear that behind-the-scenes stuff isn't the problem. Direct meddling and exaggerated senses of entitlement with people other than their child are the problem and I'm unclear why some people can't see the distinction.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:55 PM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not that 'some people' can't see the distinction - it's that it's all one continuum of behavior, and The Line is in different places depending on a variety of factors (age, where you grew up, mental health, your child's mental health, how competent one is at people-skills etc. etc. etc.).

...AND I'm not convinced that such a Line has really been crossed in any trend-worthy fashion.
posted by muddgirl at 2:06 PM on February 9, 2012


Oh, I don't know. You pay me to get this work done, right? Still gets done if I delegate some of it to my mom. That's just effective management. Leadership, even.
posted by ctmf at 2:07 PM on February 9, 2012


When I was about fifteen, my father took me to "talk to" somebody he knew, and the guy asked me some "would you be interested in x?" type questions, and I answered his questions totally honestly and informally (which is to say, a lot of "no" and "I don't know"), because what he was talking about didn't interest me at all, and it wasn't until like two years later that I figured out that it had been a job interview. I never saw an application or anything, and Dad never told me it had been an interview, before or after it happened.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:42 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's not the kind of behavior people here are complaining about. They're unhappy with the part where she checks his resumé, coaches him, and then calls the hiring director to tell him all about her special boy or to throw a tantrum when special boy doesn't get the job.

I think it's pretty clear that behind-the-scenes stuff isn't the problem. Direct meddling and exaggerated senses of entitlement with people other than their child are the problem and I'm unclear why some people can't see the distinction.


No, I see the distinction, though I agree with muddgirl that there's gray area in the middle. But yeah, if my mom showed up at my job interview, that would be completely beyond the pale, I'd think she was a total fucking moron and I'd be really pissed off. So I agree with you that the parents who do that are a problem.

What I'm arguing against is the broader story that's being spun around this: "Kids These Days are too weak and too dependent on their families and too entitled, and this is a sign of serious moral and cultural decline." I'm just not buying it.

I feel like there are two separate issues here.

(1) Parents are getting more involved in their adult children's lives again — but that's really a good thing in a lot of cases. And anyway, it represents a swing of the pendulum back towards global normal after a half-century of this weird unsustainable radical individualism. Totally not worth getting ourselves into a moral panic over.

(2) Some parents are dysfunctional idiots. Some parents have always been dysfunctional idiots. Now that parents are getting more involved in their adult children's lives, this idiocy is manifesting itself as helicopter behavior and tantrums and whatever. Back when parents were more hands-off, that idiocy manifested itself in other ways — some of which were just as harmful to the kid.

Seems to me like the kids are mostly fine, their parents are mostly fine — and the small subset of people who are totally out of touch with reality are always gonna keep finding new and creative ways to make the rest of us shake our heads in bafflement and dismay.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:45 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


These parents who are allegedly showing up at their kids' job interviews? The problem there isn't that those parents are overinvolved. It's just that they're dumb — or at least clueless about business etiquette.

Yes, there is a serious classism element to a lot of these "crazy helicopter parent" stories. It's okay to laugh at their gauche behavior because it's on their kids' behalf, so...entitled self-esteem generation or something. If these parents displayed this kind of cluelessness at their own job interviews, NPR and the Atlantic and whoever else would probably at least avoid openly mocking them.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:36 PM on February 9, 2012


The thing you have to understand about these parents -- and what makes their behavior different from the honest nepotism of arranging for a meeting with someone you know in the industry -- is that it isn't about helping, it's about control. I think it's worse today because the ubiquity of cell phones makes it more practical, but it's not a new phenomenon by any means.

And the offspring, like me, is usually the last to know. After all, you grow up in that velvet lined steel cage and all you know about the outside is the people you trust most have told you dragons will eat you if go outside. I doubt my parents even realized just how badly they were behaving; they thought seeking to have me committed to a mental hospital was a perfectly reasonable response to my insistence on shacking up with a woman who didn't meet their expectations. (Which were, bluntly, that nobody was allowed to be more important than them in my life. Since I was 19 and she was 25 with an undergrad degree and decent job, their verdict was that she was a "cradle robber." I am not kidding.)

I'm not sure if my own parents would have been ignorant or selfish enough to try to bully HR people on my behalf or send my resume out without my permission, because I cut ties with them before I was in a position to do that kind of thing, but I can easily imagine them doing those things "for my own good." They've mellowed enough that I can see them occasionally now but my wife still refuses to have anything to do with them, and in all honesty her hatred was well-earned.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that this kind of behavior doesn't exist or is even approximately helpful where it does. It's all about keeping the child helpless and dependent so that they can maintain control, and it's just as abusive and harmful as any other kind of abusive relationship.
posted by localroger at 4:28 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing you have to understand about these parents -- and what makes their behavior different from the honest nepotism of arranging for a meeting with someone you know in the industry -- is that it isn't about helping, it's about control.

But from the class perspective, which I think is where these media outlets are at least subconsciously coming from, the difference is that these parents aren't the right sort of people, and don't know the right sort of people, so they resort to embarrassing unsolicited phone calls. I've never seen a parent who gets their child a job through family connections, or even one who buys their child a house outright (this is common in some college towns) described as "helicoptering".
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


We had awomsn show up to my job last week with her newly minted financial advisor son.....introducing him around. Like my boss wants a financial advisor who needs his mom. I thought it was insane.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:13 PM on February 9, 2012


(1) Parents are getting more involved in their adult children's lives again — but that's really a good thing in a lot of cases. And anyway, it represents a swing of the pendulum back towards global normal after a half-century of this weird unsustainable radical individualism. Totally not worth getting ourselves into a moral panic over.

A really important element of this is the decline in public subsidies for education (and the parallel rise in costs at private schools). Those boomer parents got to go to highly subsidized public universities, or to private schools that didn't cost all that much more. Their kids are having to face a world of defunded public schools that are making up the shortfalls with tuition raises; that "radical individualism" came via public largesse, and removing those subsidies makes it necessary for closer and deeper family ties to get the same outcomes.
posted by Forktine at 5:16 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man. So actually, just a day or so ago—on the rare occasion that I actually answered my office phone for an unknown cellphone number—some older-sounding woman called me up at work and asked who our office intern coordinator was. I said that it was [name of my officemate], and she said, "Oh, I see here on your website, it says to get in touch with [name of officemate]. OK. I'll email her. Thanks."

A little puzzled by the whole thing, I gave my officemate the heads up that this woman might be emailing her, and said I was a little curious about who this person would turn out to be, since the tone of the phone call just seemed odd somehow, and the woman sounded a little old to be interested in an internship. My guess was that perhaps it was a clueless older job-seeker who was looking for an internship just in case (my field has seen a lot of layoffs in recent years, so we get a lot of poorly formatted résumés from older folks, some of them sent our way by my mom, who works in a career center), and that we'd just have to tell her we only accept interns for college credit.

Nope. Just a couple minutes later, my officemate got an email from the woman, touting her college-aged daughter for an internship. Disgusted, my officemate just shook her head, sighed, and dutifully wrote the woman back, informing her that yes, such-and-such was the internship application deadline, and that if [daughter's name] wanted to get in touch herself, she'd be happy to consider her. (My officemate is way too nice to her fellow man sometimes.)

I asked if this happened a lot, and she said yeah, there are definitely a handful every year. Ugh.
posted by limeonaire at 6:18 PM on February 9, 2012


But from the class perspective, which I think is where these media outlets are at least subconsciously coming from, the difference is that these parents aren't the right sort of people, and don't know the right sort of people, so they resort to embarrassing unsolicited phone calls.

Seems like a pretty fine shading to me. The articles I've seen usually describe the "helicopter parent" thing as a solidly upper-middle class phenomenon. The scenes are set at expensive private collages, white collar internships and entry level jobs, and usually star the type of fretful overprotective person who in an earlier era was stereotyped as the type who writes you name in your underwear. I guess there's a distinction to be drawn between that strata and the solidly upper class, "we'll have daddy call Archer from the club and set you up with something for the summer at his firm, dear" types. But it's not much of a one, and there's a lot of overlap.
posted by Diablevert at 6:23 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine has a daughter who's a freshman in college. A couple of months ago she (the daughter) was applying for a short-term retail position. My friend decided to also apply so she could coach her daughter on the interview questions they were asking... and Mom got the job!
posted by phliar at 6:26 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to think of all of the ways in which my parents have helped out with my school/career.

My mom was always happy to look over homework (though never doing it herself. She had some friends who did that and had nothing but scorn for the practice. She had also been a teacher herself. Spanish. So I took French instead. Not because she urged me to (quite the opposite) but I just felt more comfortable learning a language she didn't know and couldn't look over my shoulder on.

Junior year they took me out to California to look at film schools. In one of the only instances of them actually being able to mine connections for this sort of thing, they even arranged a meeting with myself, my dad, and an industry insider on the financial side of things. Being 17 and considering that we didn't know the guy, I don't think it was over the line for my dad to be there when we were just asking general knowledge questions about what to expect (I wasn't asking for a job or anything.)

They bought me a mini filing cabinet so I could keep all of my college application stuff organized. They got pissed when their alma mater didn't do anything other than the most nominal things to try to recruit me. (I was getting much better offers from top-tier schools.)

When I decided to apply first to NYU instead, they looked over my application essay (about a Dar Williams song) and my submitted screenplay (a five-page thing clearly about a family dinner at our house.) They thought the essay was unorthodox and the screenplay uncomfortably revealing, but supported both aside from their reservations. I got in, and we spent Spring Break in NY seeing the campus.

Any writing I did, they asked my siblings to take a look at, so that the criticism would be less biased, and due to my aforementioned habit of telling things that others might want to keep private, they didn't want to influence me.

When applying to law school, they put me in touch with a family friend who could make a good reference. When I got my first acceptance (to a school they didn't even think I should have applied to and which I didn't end up choosing) they sent me a card showing they'd read up on the school's reputation and that they were wrong, it was a very good school. They included a hundred dollar bill with the instruction that I take my then-girlfriend out for a nice dinner to celebrate, since they couldn't celebrate with us.

They met a successful D.C. lawyer on a cruise, and became friends with him over that time, and set up a meeting between he and I afterwards, the point of which was purely for advice in the job market.

They send me every email forward they can about interview tips and ways to get ahead in a touch job market. They support me in hard times. They pray for me (I'm an atheist, but I appreciate the thought.)

I believe all of this falls pretty squarely on the "teach a man to fish" side of the line, but then again, I'm still currently jobless, so who knows.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not a class phenomenon, although it manifests in a particular way with parents showing up at job interviews and calling teachers at a certain class level. But it definitely shows up in similar ways in both the richer and the poorer.
posted by localroger at 6:58 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aren't colleges designed to help you, spoiled teenager, become an adult who can do laundry/scavenge for your own food and beer, etc,

Who learns to do their laundry at college? I started doing the laundry when I was 12 or 13. It's a very easy chore, and you can read while you're in the laundryroom.
posted by jb at 7:27 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


While I understand that this phenomenon is only unusual to us (Americans) because of the nature of our culture, but I gotta say: the idea of my parents ever doing this makes my skin crawl. Never have I been so happy that I grew up with a distant father who worked long hours.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:31 PM on February 9, 2012


griphus: Somehow I think there's a lot of overlap between kids with helicopter parents and kids who didn't go to a sleepaway college.

So interesting that your profile says Brooklyn, because to me, CUNY is the ultimate commuter university and I would bet that it has several orders of magnitude fewer students with helicopter parents, than students who are supporting/assisting their parents (or students who ARE parents themselves). Good old NYU seems to have infinitely more helicoptered students.

Helicoptering seems like something you have to have a certain amount of free time to do, so you're probably more likely to have money. It seems rare to me for people with money to send their kids to commuter schools.
posted by cairdeas at 11:19 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


For god's sake, this is a complete non-issue - as mentioned above this is something that just 4% of hiring managers experienced over the entire course of their career. That's a vanishingly tiny percentage of all interviews. I'm sure helicopter parents are annoying but the ire directed against them seems misplaced here.
posted by peacheater at 4:37 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It isn't a non-issue for the people I know who have long careers in college admissions. The time spent on coddling these parents has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Admissions departments are now developing strategies to deal with the increased involvement of parents (some have gone so far as to create student orientations which parents are specifically forbidden to attend).

This is something they simply didn't see ten years ago, but is increasingly common today. They've watched the helicoptering phenomenon move from undergad to graduate programs, and now hiring directors are seeing it in the workplace as well. The absolute numbers may remain small, but the anecdata definitely supports the idea that this is a growing trend.
posted by malocchio at 9:04 AM on February 10, 2012


It happens. Once I had to fire a totally inept early-20s year old guy. He didn't make it through the two week trial period, we sat him down, let him know it wasn't working, shook hands on the Friday and he was finished.
On Monday his mother rocked up to HR, explaining that we were not allowed to fire her son during the two week trial period (we were), that her son was good at what he did and it was obviously a mistake (it wasn't) and that we should give him his job back. His mother. He came along with her and sat through all of this.

Sure there are plenty of adult children who get advice from their parents. But that is different from your parents turning up to your job interview, or heading in to HR when you are fired.
posted by Megami at 11:07 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older How the zebra came by his stripes....  |  “The words of the 1611 King Ja... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments