On Helicopter Parenting

(Helicopter) Parents Just Don’t Understand:
Sometimes parents just don’t know when to let go, but it’s rare when a judge needs to intervene.

That was the case for Aubrey Ireland, a 21-year-old music theater major at College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She convinced a judge to grant her a restraining order against her parents, David and Julie Ireland.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ireland told the court that despite making the dean’s list, her parents would routinely drive 600 miles from Kansas to Ohio to make unannounced visits to her at school. Then they accused her of illegal drug use, promiscuity and mental illness.

Her parents allegedly became so overbearing that they installed keylogging software on her computer and cell phone to keep track of her every move. She told the court, “I was a dog with a collar on.”

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the school hired security guards to keep them out of their daughter’s performances in school productions. When she cut off all contact with them, her parents responded by stopping payment on tuition checks.

Both the school and the court have sided with Aubrey. The University of Cincinnati gave her a full scholarship for her senior year, and the judge issued a civil stalking order against her parents, ordering them to stay at least 500 feet away from her and have no contact with her until September 2013.

In my field, I see it all. I’ve talked about these types of parental situations before. The good, the bad, and the ugly — if you will.

The Good.

These are the parents who are not necessarily abrasive or awkward. They attend campus visits and do admissions interviews with their son or daughter, and they maintain a reasonable distance from the admissions staff.

These are the parents who encourage their student to apply to several schools. These are the parents who let their student call or email the admissions office when they have question.

These are the parents that we like.

The Bad.

These parents are a pain, plain and simple. You can recognize them on a campus visit by their constant questions about safety, meals, dorms, financial aid, average GPA and board scores, or any other subject that is answered quite clearly in the brochure that they are waiving around as they speak. Loudly.

These are the parents who write emails to you on behalf of their son or daughter. Daily. In many cases, they flaunt their child’s positive qualities in and out of the classroom by OVER-USING THE CAPS LOCK.

These are the parents who have their child’s high school counselor call the admissions office to check-up on little Suzy or Johnny’s application status. Regularly.

The Ugly.

These are the parents who take the cake. The ones that inspire blog posts such as this. These are the parents that are the topic of many-a-conversation over drinks following a lousy college fair or at NACAC’s annual conference (here we come Toronto!).

These are the parents who will sit across from your desk with their son or daughter on a college visit and — despite it being a visit for the benefit of their student — never let their child say a word. Mom and dad do all of the talking. They ask all of the questions.

Meanwhile, little Suzy or Johnny sits there with their arms folded.

Then, when it comes time for the application process, the gloves really come off.

These are the parents who happen to be graduates of Blankity Blank University (shout-out to AP), which is where you work, and they think that calling and emailing will somehow help get Junior an offer of admission to BBU. Additionally, they are not shy about mentioning their alumni status, and how much money they donate to Blankity Blank each year.

These are the parents who write letters of recommendation for their kid. These are the parents who will admit — without the slightest hint of embarrassment — that they filed their kid’s application for admission.

Lastly, these are the parents who — when little Johnny or Suzy is declined admission — call the President of the Alumni Association. They call the University President. They call their Congressman. They call their Senator. They call the local fire department. They. Call. Everyone.

And of course, it all comes back to you.

Please don’t misunderstand; the vast majority of parents fall under the first category (The Good). However, it is not these parents that those of us in the noble field of college admissions find memorable. Unfortunately, it is the horrible experiences of the latter two categories that tend to stick with us.