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Growing Backlash Against Gen X Parents: Helicopter Parents and Overparenting

Helicopter Parents and Overparenting

Cover of Time Magazine Feature on Over-Parenting Helicopter ParentsThe cover of the latest issue of Time Magazine delivers yet another indictment on Generation X. The author Nancy Gibbs makes the case against overparenting, hyper-parenting, helicopter parenting, etc. She says for the sake of the kids it has to stop.

Generation X has overparented their children partially in response to their own childhood neglect. But, to put all the blame squarely on Baby Boomers is unwarranted. It’s a convenient over-simplification of a major trend.

Two things that also deserve closer examination is that Generation X has more college-educated parents percentage-wise than any generation that has gone before us. As such, we have greater resources with which to provide for our children — things and experiences our parents and grandparents could not afford. Having said that, the author of the article, Gibbs, does a great outlining the fact that helicopter parents are not limited by zip code or socioeconomic class. We run the gamut, folks.

I also think Generation X has been particularly sensitive to the realities of a global economy. We sprang from college and struggled to find good jobs. As the years rocketed by, the globe grew flatter and smaller fueling fears that our children would not be fit for global competition. (The article delves into this.) Essentially, we learned firsthand, a college degree would not be enough. It wasn’t for us and it wouldn’t be for our children.

Today, we are plagued by the fear that our children’s lives will be emotionally and financially worse than ours. Unfortunately, many statistics back this up. From oceans dying to markets crashing, we can’t undo the damage that has been done. In the absence of workplace leadership opportunities we thought we needed to effect world change, we abandoned (if we ever possessed) passion for the macrocosm and shifted all attention to the microcosm, that tiny world inhabited by our precious children.

In what ways have you overparented your children? What positive or negative things have resulted in your so-called overparenting?

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Jazz

    Hi Jen,

    Reelz is working on a docudrama about Rebecca Schaffer.
    Can you please send me an e-mail with how I can reach you?
    working on deadline….thanks!

    • Jennifer

      I’ve emailed you. I hope I can help you. I loved Rebecca. She would have turned 50 this year.

  2. kahia

    My parents need to see this.

    • Jennifer

      Are they Xers or Boomers?

  3. Anonymous

    Meh…I am a member of Gen X, but I had my kids pretty late (I have a 2yo and a 9mo), so I might be in a different generation as far as parents go. I do NOT want to be a helicopter. It sounds so tiring and like a huge waste of money and resources. I appreciate how my parents raised me — with many opportunities for free play. They also never reviewed my homework, and I was at the top of the class.

  4. Natasha

    Thanks for pointing to these articles, Jen. Great food for thought.

    Most interesting about all of this is how we Americans feel a particular sort of anxiety about the raising of our children. I’d like to see some articles on how child-rearing anxiety manifests in other countries and how that looks against what we American parents experience.

  5. Dave Sohigian

    I agree we need to be clear on the differences between Gen X (’61-81) and Boomer (’43-60) parenting styles. Boomers tended to be helicopter parents, wanting the very best for their Millennial (’82-03) children. They over-scheduled them and lavished them with praise. Gen X’ers tend to be much more protective and worried about whether their child will survive in the harsh world. Even though I am a fan of Slow Parenting, it is another example of Gen X over-parenting style: slow down and spend more time with your kids. Gen X’ers want work/life balance and expect institutions (work and school) to cater to their (or their child’s) individual needs. I think this will get even more extreme in the next few years as the Gen X’ers will make up a majority of school-aged kids. At the same time the Baby Boomer teachers, administrators and Professors will get even more flustered by our survivalist attitude. Generation author Neil Howe calls Gen X parents “stealth fighter” parents because they hang back waiting until they see something wrong and then they drop the bombs. I have seen this many times at our kids’ schools, and it is an unfortunate side-effect of how us Gen X’ers were raised. We are still concerned that the laissez-faire attitude we endured as kids might happen to our children and we over-compensate.


  6. Yogi♪♪♪

    We are helicopter parents. Not going to deny it. Our child has special needs but in a sense all children have special needs.
    I don’t see the sense of throwing kids in to fend for themselves. Things are a lot harder now it seems than when I was a kid. The community doesn’t seem to look out for our children so the parents have to do it.

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