Students from pre-Millennial generations often grimaced when they saw announcements like this one on their instructors’ doors: “Failure to prepare on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” For Gen Y, though, the reaction to such a concept tends to go beyond frustration and acceptance. Instead, it’s typically confusion or even anger. Worse, some students call Mom and ask her to explain to the instructor why their excuse is legit. After all, the students reason, Mom and Dad have helped them fight all their battles so far in life, so why should that stop now?
Physiologically, adolescents think and process life differently than mature adults. Until their cerebral connections are all in place, which occurs between the ages of 25 and 30, they have a biological propensity to certain thinking patterns:
- Adolescent Egocentrism: Self-centered focus on their own feelings, along with ambivalence toward the feelings of others
- Imaginary Audience: Assumption that other people notice and focus on them.
- Personal Fable: Conviction that their experiences and internal reactions are completely unique
- Illusion of Invulnerability: Denial regarding the possibility that anything bad can happen to them.
Of course, such distorted rationale can make a teacher’s job quite challenging, especially when he’s dealing with dozens or even hundreds of coeds transitioning into the role of a quasi-adult, with newfound privileges and responsibilities.
Today’s colleges are noticing, however, some disturbing effects that stem from modern parenting. While the genesis of this movement has been hotly debated, it likely stems from a combination of influences. When Baby Boomers embraced the “attachment parenting” model championed by Dr. Sears, some seem to have extended it well past the baby stage. While Sears encourages fostering independence in toddlers, many of AP’s devotees remain hesitant to let their children work out their own problems far into their teens and twenties.
While Sears concedes that “The protector instinct in all parents makes us want to rush and rescue the stuck baby,” he asserts that resisting such instinctive urges can be beneficial: “Sometimes it’s good to encourage from the sidelines and let the young adventurer get herself out of the mess.” Even still, some see “helicopter parenting” as the logical extension of an AP approach. This often-criticized form of excessive parenting is referred to as “Concerted Cultivation” by proponents of the approach. Neither side denies that risk aversion is a core tenant of the approach.
Today’s parents are calling their collegiate children on their cell phones to remind them to go to class, complaining to college professors about their son or daughter’s grades, and even intervening during salary negotiations. As such, most would argue that these parents are stepping far beyond traditional boundaries. Called “the world’s longest umbilical cords,” cell phone popularity (with virtually “free” family minutes and unlimited text messaging) has enabled this phenomenon, with many college students constantly in communication with Mom and Dad.
For any parent, allowing kids to flounder, fail, and figure out how to cope can be painful. But that’s all part of growing up.