How Can College Faculty Curtail Helicopter Parents?

Why Do Parents Try to Solve the Problems of Their College Student Children?

In my article entitled A Parent Guide for Helping College Students, I explain the phenomenon that causes some well-intending parents to be labeled Helicopter Parents.  Many (most?) college faculty members and administrators think this is a problem.  And understanding a problem is the first step to a solution.

Here is where I need your feedback.  What can an instructor do to help students help themselves when problems arise?  It is easy to suggest that a kindhearted, carrying, approachable instructor will be confronted directly by his or her students, but that is not always the case.  The dynamics in some families are such that students want their parents to solve their problems.  Plus, many students fear retribution if they approach their instructors.  Many others lack the interpersonal skills it takes to do so in a mature manner.

So, are college faculty members doomed to remain the target of these sometimes aggressive and confrontational parents?  Or, is there something that faculty can do?  Perhaps there are proactive measures they can take.  This is something faculty and administrators need to think about.

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Posted June 13, 2010

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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