Helicopter Parents Are Now Landing at School Cafeterias

Constant hovering by too many seemingly well-intentioned moms and dads has led to their outright ban in some cases

Some well-intentioned parents today apparently never learned that too much of a good thing can actually be harmful to their kids — and mixed messages from some sectors of society are not helping the matter.

Over the past several years, too many parents have been invading school lunchrooms across the nation because they crave “quality time” with their kids — and now some of these parents are barred from the school cafeteria, according to an article in The Atlantic.

One school district in Darien, Connecticut, found its cafeterias so overrun with helicopter parents at midday that it recently announced an outright ban on parent-student lunches during the school day.

“Parents are damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said author Nancy McDermott, who is working on a new book, “The Problem with Parenting: A Narcissistic Mode of Childrearing.”

“For instance, the school district where I live actually makes a big effort to have parents in for special lunches and runs a couple of family nights at the school each week to encourage parents to bring their kids in for enrichment activities they can do together,” added McDermott.

And parental involvement in schools is rising, according to a September report from Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization focused on kids and families.

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“In 2016, the percentages of students whose parents reported attending a general meeting at their child’s school, a parent-teacher conference, or a school or class event reached their highest recorded levels,” the report stated.

And while most people would agree that’s a good thing, generally speaking — lunchtime at school is a different matter altogether.

“I don’t think it’s necessary or desirable for parents to go to their kids lunches every day. Kids really need time to spend time with other kids. Lunchtime allows for that in a limited way,” she told LifeZette.

“Never in a thousand years did I consider going to my kids’ lunchroom during their school days just to hang out with them,” said one New York mom of four, whose youngest child is in college now. “That was their time — their time to be with friends, their peers, their classmates. It’s part of their learning time. I don’t even think our schools allowed it, unless it was some very special occasion or time of year,” she added.

That same mom added about parent-kid lunchtimes, “This actually sounds like selfishness to me on the part of some parents today — a sort of, ‘I want to do this with my kids and therefore I should be allowed to do it.’ I’m glad that schools are restricting it. Kids need to be kids. Let them have lunch with their peers. There are so many other opportunities for parents to be with their children, even if they’re working parents — which most of us are.”

She added that she understands the impulse of some parents to hover at lunch if they suspect their children are being bullied, for example, or if their children have special needs; but even in those situations, teachers and administrators are often on the case.

In McDermott’s view, though, there are some complications here: Experts and school administrations often urge and even beg parents to be involved in their children’s education in whatever way they can.

“We’re supposed to ask open-ended questions about our children’s day, sign off on homework, do reading logs, come to school events, and so much more. So, in some ways, schools have brought this situation on themselves,” she insisted.

“Kids need time to spend time with other kids. Lunchtime allows for that in a limited way.”

But a new study confirms that too much parenting can have negative results.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who followed more than 400 kids over the span of eight years found those children with controlling parents had trouble managing their emotions and behavior — suggesting even young children need independence.

That goes for schools themselves.

“A bigger problem from the perspective of allowing kids that space to grow up is that their time is too structured in general,” noted McDermott.

“Schools are much more controlling of kids today. Even something as basic as clapping or whooping in an assembly is being replaced by ‘jazz hands.’”

Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.

And for another development in our increasingly PC world, check out this video:

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor.

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