The story of an Italian family who so smothered the social growth of their 12-year old boy that they are now being charged with child abuse was featured in Time Magazine this week. The boy had the motor skills of a toddler and had been so overprotected that that he could not mentally or physically keep up with children his own age. The article also cited a recent psychological study finding that 37% of Italian men from the ages of 30 to 34 still live with their mothers. Which makes me think that perhaps the hovering helicopter parents that we encounter in U.S. higher education are not all that bad.
In my student affairs work with first-generation college students and their families, I am frequently reminded of the Chinese Proverb,
Give a person a fish, and you feed them a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.
Parents will call or email with questions regarding a program, service or special campus event. They are not seeking information for themselves; they are questions for their student. Although the intent is well meaning, I will generally invite parents to have their student contact me. My reasoning is that it is critically important for students to build their own networks of resources, on campus and in life. The “teach a person to fish” proverb is essential in all matters related to a college education. There is a lot to think about for an 18-year old in the transition to college. Parents and families need to set the teaching example, not just do the job for students.