“Parenthood” (on TV) and Helicopter Parenthood (in Real Life)

Hi Readers! Here’s a cool observation and a request for more, by way of Dawn Siff, a New York City producer, blogger and vlogger who tweets @momlandia. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I love the show “Parenthood,” which is produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. It’s a sappy hour-long drama that very loosely follows the premise of a movie by the same name, which came out in 1989 and starred Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen. I never miss an episode. I think it’s wonderful and even pretty realistic in its dialogue and depiction of family dynamics.

I have noticed, though, when watching the show, that helicopter parenting is rampant. Spoiler alert if you are not caught up on some more recent episodes.

One of the main characters, Kristina Braverman, has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She needs a lumpectomy right away. The soonest her surgeon can get her in is the same day that her son, Max, is giving a speech because he is running for president of … wait for it …  his middle school. There is lots of hand-wringing over the date. She initially schedules her surgery for a much later date, over the objection of her husband and her surgeon, so she won’t miss Max’s big day. It is important to mention here that Max has Asperger’s. Why is that important to mention? It is actually not. It has nothing to do with anything; he needs his mom to be healthy just as much as a kid who doesn’t have Asperger’s. But it does provide a comic moment when he tells his mom he doesn’t care that she can’t come because, “You can’t vote anyway.”

Eventually Kristina’s husband prevails upon her to take the earliest date for the surgery. And big sister flies to the rescue, coming in from Cornell to attend Max’s speech and give him a big thumb’s up from the back aisle. Whew!

Haddie, the big sister, wants to help her parents, but they keep refusing her help and and treating her like a child even though she has displayed some very adult behavior: booking her own flight and flying  across the country to help out, after being told to just “focus on your schoolwork.” She has even called the admissions office and figured out that she can withdraw for the semester, get a type of family medical leave from school AND get her parents a full refund for the financial costs of the first semester “including the dorm costs.” (Imagine a kid caring that her parents get a full refund!)

But they won’t hear anything of it and keep telling her to go back to school. They even lie to her at the end of the episode and tell her that her mother is cancer-free when she’s really facing rounds of chemo because her cancer has spread.

I’m sure the writers are just setting this up for dramatic purposes and that this young woman will eventually convince her parents they need her help and to treat her like an adult, but the motions are just exhausting. To me this is just a reflection and further normalization of helicopter parenting in our society. Now that I’m noticing it, I’m guessing there are examples in many other shows and I’m wondering if your readers have noticed as well. If so, let’s hear about them! — D.S.

Helicopter Parenthood?

73 Responses to “Parenthood” (on TV) and Helicopter Parenthood (in Real Life)

  1. @LisaLightnerLL November 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    I think that Claire on Modern Family is a helicopter mom. Gotta love Frankie on The Middle though, def free range!

  2. Pam November 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    I think that in order to be a realistic tv show, they have to show helicopter parenting…but they are obviously showing it in a way that shows how ridiculous it is. I think most people watching the show realize Kristina needs to get better rather than be at Max’s speech…and that Haddie is acting very mature and her parents should trust her.

    I think the show is actually getting your message across in a better way than you would. If they just showed the mom not caring about her children and scheduling surgery whenever or if they didn’t show Haddie acting mature, but rather just being an irresponsible college student…that would be just feeding people’s ideas of what they fear really would happen.

    They are putting the show on in a way that exposes our own helicopter faults and helps us see that kids can do things on their own and make the right choices.

  3. Violet November 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Haven’t seen the show. But, I am interested in your take (and readers’ take) on the increased push for parental involvement in school work. My mom told me when I was in 7th grade that I would need to get a scholarship to college so I better study. End of story. The amount of hovering and personal involvement required in my school district is insane. I have to review agendas and check homework and even attend parent night so I can learn how to do a bibliography and research so I can help my kid! Now, I know Lenore thinks our kids won’t break from too much homework, but I am finding that my kid has so much that there is no time for free range play, reading for fun, drawing, staring into space, or doing chores. So many parents do the dishes and laundry for their teenage children because the kids have to do homework. I am sick of the required helicoptering!

  4. Andy November 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    I have not seen the show, so I can not comment on that.

    But, if I would have any choice, I would prefer my daughter focusing on the school too. I would not want to hear about her taking semester long break from school because of me neither.

  5. Suze November 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    I’m like Andy…. I haven’t seen the show but I agree that I would prefer my daughter focus on school. I must be the stupidest human in the world because I’m failing to see where in that whole run-down of the show that there was anything I could decipher as helicopter parenting. What is being considered helicopter parenting here?

  6. Liz November 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    I was rolling my eyes throughout this whole episode. Makes me not want to watch anymore. Especially lying to your grown (yes, GROWN, over 18, in college) child and saying you don’t have cancer when you do?! Hmmm, imagine how pissed the grown child is going to be when she finds out later that mom is on death’s door? I would be forthcoming with any child over age 8 if mom had cancer.

  7. Asha Dornfest {Parent Hacks} November 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    I’d like to offer a different interpretation than “helicopter parenting” — in my experience, when something as terrible and shocking as aggressive breast cancer hits, some peoples’ first response is to deny the seriousness of the implications and insist to everyone that “we can handle it,” and “go about your regular business.” I can’t imagine any parent, helicopter- or no, who would want to acknowledge something (at least not initially) that would require their daughter to withdraw from school and move home from across the country.

    In my experience, accepting a huge blow like that takes time.

    As for Max, Kristina’s response isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Kids with Asperger’s, even those Max’s age, can respond unpredictably to a change in expectations, and you just can’t apply the same timeline or standards. I wrote about this here — when your parenting *looks* like helicopter parenting, but is actually operating on a totally different set of factors: http://blogs.babble.com/babble-voices/the-accidental-expert/2012/04/23/different-balance/

  8. Rachel November 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    I watched the first episode of Parenthood and refused to watch any more because of how many parenting things I took issue with. I’m not the least bit surprised to hear the pattern continued.

  9. Georgia November 4, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Violet, AMEN! I am SO with you on this! I have a 2nd grader in school for 7 freakin’ hours. He comes home and has to do some ridiculous homework that really isn’t worth the trouble. I don’t like having to yell at him to get his homework done – I know I wouldn’t like to bring work home with me when I’m done at the end of the work day. Let them play, explore, read for fun (as you said) and, yes, do some chores. They actually ASK me to do some chores!

  10. Harmony November 4, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    As an avid watcher of the show parenthood, I also fail to see these two examples given as helicopter parenting.

    As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I, too, would agonize over missing a speech my daughter is giving in front of the whole school. What an accomplishment for a child on the spectrum! I’d want to be there just see her be able to talk in front of such a large audience.

    And I also don’t see how wanting their child to go back to college and focus on her schooling in an anyway helicoptering. Not sure if lying to her is the right thing to do but sending her back to school (thousands of miles away btw) is not helicopter parenting. IMO.

  11. Kimberly November 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    I’m a 2nd grade teacher. We are required to send homework home. My team decided that on Mondays we would send a list of 10 spelling words, 1 math worksheet, 2 reading comp worksheets. That is the homework for the whole week. The kids have till the next Monday to complete the work.

    At parent conferences almost every parent complained it wasn’t enough homework. I explained that our philosophy is that the kids are better off playing outside, reading for pleasure, and doing things with their family – rather than doing worksheets.

  12. Dawn November 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I also have never seen the show, although I love the movie. I can’t see how this would be helicoptering either. Maybe in the context of the show it would be different? My 6yo has ADHD and I have to say that if he was running for student council when he gets older, I would want to be there for his speeches too, if for nothing else than the proud momma moment. Those that have kids that don’t have invisible disabilities could never understand how big of an accomplishment this is, going from wondering if our child will have a future at all to seeing our child getting involved in student government. It’s HUGE.

    As for the college student, she’s going to need that education whether or not mom survives. After my 1st husband died, I couldn’t concentrate on college any longer. “Protecting” her by lying could be their way of trying to free her mind for studies instead of worrying about mom. They’re looking out for her future and mom and dad are saying “We can handle this without our 18 year old.” Wish my mom would’ve said that to me. She was the type that told me “If you think you could handle the world on your own, go out and try. You’ll be back in 6 months.” She said this when I was 22 and working a full time job, paying HER bills. They’re pushing baby bird out of the nest instead of becoming codependent on her. I don’t see how that’s helicoptering.

    Asha – loved your blog post. I feel exactly like you do. I want to be more free-range, but because of my son’s ADHD, I can’t. He’s just too impulsive. Just the other day, he ran into oncoming traffic in a grocery store parking lot because he saw his friend. He nearly got hit by an SUV. You wouldn’t expect that from a 6yo normally, but people can’t “see” that even though he’s 6, emotionally and socially he’s 3 or 4. All they see is a 6yo (who *looks* like he’s 7 or 8) acting inappropriately and they wonder why I haven’t taught him better. You’re darned if you do, you’re darned if you don’t.

  13. Violet November 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Kimberly, Georgia, and Lenore, there is a Facebook page called STOP HOMEWORK. Check it out. At first glance, you might think we are hoverers who think our kids will break with a little hard work. But, if you scroll through, you will see that children are being given assignments that are not developmentally appropriate and the hours doing homework is harmful in the long run. The Stop Homework parents want our kids to do their homework independently which they can do if age appropriate and have time to run and play after school and still have time to help with dinner and dishes! Maybe we could even go to the grocery store, or catch a mid-week hockey game!

  14. JJ November 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    On the other hand the new sit com “the Mindy Project” (so far it’s so-so but I will keep giving it a chance because of Mindy Kaling’s potential) is seeming to spoof helicopter parenting with one of its characters. A mid- or late-20s character lives with her parents and is waiting for her mom to sew sleeves on a new dress that she is going to wear to a hot night club. Later they can’t pay the bill and are waiting for her parents to wire the money. What made it so funny to me was that this was just a minor character/plot point, to be picked up on by those of us who get it.

  15. jeff November 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    I watch the show, as well, and I don’t really see these examples as helicoptering, either. She struggled with not being there for her special needs son, but ultimately decided to go ahead with the surgery and her grown daughter, having been raised responsibly stepped up to the plate to fill in just in case Max lost control – which he has done NUMEROUS times on the show. This is not a typical kid. As for Hattie, of course the parents want her to focus on her schoolwork and don’t see the need for her to take a whole semester off. They feel they have it covered and want her to be able to concentrate on getting on with her own life in education. No, they shouldn’t have lied, but lying was a bad choice that had nothing to do with hovering.

  16. socalledauthor November 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I’m not sure I would call the given examples helicoptering, but they do seem a bit heavy-handed (and are not likely decisions I would make.) While it’s nice to be their for a child’s speech, I’m sorry, but I think taking care of my own health is one of the best ways to be their for a child– not today, but for as many tomorrows as I can. (I believe this even goes for mental health and therefore am in the extreme minority it seems for needing to have my own hobbies and interests beyond devoting my time to my young son.)

    I think these type of shows tend to walk the edge between reflecting reality and poking fun at it. Sometimes the ridicule is too subtle to be effective. While there are many who get that TV shows (and most things designed for entertainment) are exaggerated, not everyone does, which is what concerns me. People watch TV and see these examples of “good parenting” (involved, the kids appreciate it, clever, well-spoken, etc) and want to emulate it, without realizing or acknowledging that it’s scripted, exaggerated (good or bad), and played for a certain affect. Instead, they see what they would like to be.

    As for the homework thing, schools are, imho, damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they send “too much” homework, the school is being unfair. If they send “too little” then they’re not academically rigorous enough. Though, I readily admit that there are bad teachers scattered throughout our schools… and there are bad policies put into place in order to placate certain demanding groups of parents.

    And there are some kids who bring home “too much” homework because they are also bringing home the classwork they chose not to do during class (I see this ALL the time in my alternative [and non-union] high school classes– we don’t even assign ‘homework’ so I have to explain to certain parents why Johnny has ‘homework.’ And then it’s often my fault for not “making” him do it during class.)

  17. Bose in St. Peter MN November 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    With 5 kids, it wasn’t an option for my parents to be at every performance or event we were in, and I was happy about that.

    I was in music groups in 7th/8th grade that performed at community events. I usually worked out the travel arrangements, so if Mom came to see the performance, she didn’t have to take the extra hour for pre-show prep, or else it was OK if she didn’t. (I liked it if she didn’t, at least some of the time, because I was being my own person, not somebody else’s son.)

    I wish less guilt and more freedom for parents everywhere — when you have to miss your kid’s event, even a big one, you and your kid can still be OK. It will not be a black mark on your decades-long “performance” as a parent unless you make it so.

    (Having Asperger’s in my own family, I chuckled, too, about hand-wringing over Mom’s attendance. The teen in our midst is quirky, brilliant, explosively creative, makes everyone proud. But it’s not in his Asperger’s nature to feel bad if a bit of human interaction is missed, much less hold onto that kind of disappointment the next day.)

  18. tina November 4, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    “(Having Asperger’s in my own family, I chuckled, too, about hand-wringing over Mom’s attendance. The teen in our midst is quirky, brilliant, explosively creative, makes everyone proud. But it’s not in his Asperger’s nature to feel bad if a bit of human interaction is missed, much less hold onto that kind of disappointment the next day.)”

    I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show, but the reason she felt she needed to be there wasn’t to show support to him, but to be there in case something went wrong, as it often does with Max. He has more than just a quirky personality. He still deals with all out tantrums and since this was a new, potentially stressful situation for him, she felt like a family member should be present to help out in case he flipped out. (Which I view as responsible parenting – not helicopter parenting.)

  19. ifsogirl November 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    As a divorced mom that works afternoons (3pm to 10pm) I hate that I have to miss important stuff for my kids. We also have a 50/50 custody split so my already limited time with my kids is limited even further. I am hoping to be able to take the night off of work for their Christmas concert, this will be the first one for my youngest who is in Kindergarten. So I do understand wanting to be there for big events, though if it was for surgery I might be more willing to put myself first.

    As for homework, my oldest is in the third grade and other than a few worksheets she gets that is classwork she hasn’t finished, the only thing she get’s is her spelling list every week. My kids school believes kids don’t need homework in the primary grades. They also have tetherballs on the playground and are building a natural playspace with a bog. I love our school.

  20. Suze November 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    As I stated neither of the examples to me where helicopter parenting. I would decipher the fact that the women found it more important to be at her child’s speech rather than get her cancer treatment just a sign of bad priorities. Weigh the options…. Hearing a speech by your child or your LIFE? No helicoptering here folks….

  21. Andy November 4, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Thinking about it again, I would not judge that woman too much even if she would started to act more helicopter. She has serious cancer, that is a lot of stress. People under big stress ofter act more emotional and loose some inhibitions they normally have. I thing we should be more tolerant towards people in hard situation and not to expect them to act all perfect all the time.

  22. Reader November 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    At my high school (which in Australia is for kids aged 11-18) parents never came to those things. I would have been way more nervous doing my election speech with my mum there!

  23. Anna November 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    I’m a special education teacher and in defense of teachers and schools across the country, I am going to point to federal standards of “No Child Left Behind” and Common Core as one of the main culprits in some of the homework that you see children do. Schools and teachers are under a lot of pressure to perform and there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything in that’s required by the curriculum. In addition, what’s required of students at each grade level has increased. I recently heard about a local school district that refused admission to a 5 year old to Kindergarten because she did not know all her letters. Her parents were told to send her to a better pre-K program and try again next year. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t learn to read until 1st grade which was the norm at that time. So those of you discussing developmentally appropriate homework may want to think about that because the government may think your kid should be performing at that level, not the school district itself. And personally, I think we are pushing our kids to hard and to fast and not letting them be kids. So the backlash should come from the parents onto government standards rather than the school district.

  24. Holly November 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    Funny, I saw it and thought about how the school let the parents (or random siblings) just show up for things like speeches without requiring background checks first.

  25. Ali November 4, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Hmmm. I’m not a big TV watcher and have never heard of this program. But the piece that’s making me wonder is a big premise of this site is that TV is NOT real life. That a lot of what we see in regards to hovering is culled from watching too much TV and starting to believe that everyday life is like an episode of CSI or Law and Order and therefore we need a security detail. I can’t connect the dots between helicoptering being depicted on a TV show and how that translates to “real life” when CSI doesn’t translate to “real life”. A TV show is just entertainment.

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

  26. Philippa November 4, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    I agree that I don’t think these are examples of helicopter parenting. I know from personal experience that when you are told you have cancer, you’re initial instinct is somewhere between denial and survival and you try to carry on just as before. So I don’t think the reactions portrayed by Kristina are unrealistic at all, maybe not helpful, but quite realistic. It’s not helicoptering either to want your daughter to do well at uni, again maybe not realistic under the circumstances but quite understandable. You have to understand that life’s curve ball experiences like having a child on the spectrum or being diagnosed with cancer change the rules a bit.

  27. Trs November 4, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    If anything they are the opposite of helicopter parents to Hattie. She is often expected to be the strong independent one because of her special needs little brother.

    They let her go across the country to the college of her dreams and want her to go backnd not put her life on hold. Lying was stupid because they are not going to be able to hide this.

  28. Asha Dornfest {Parent Hacks} November 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    This is the greatest conversation thread! (Leave it to Lenore.) Thank you for clicking over and reading, Dawn. I don’t mean to hijack the conversation — I just felt it was helpful to share the perspective of what it’s like to parent a kid with “invisible” issues. I’m so happy to say those issues have resolved themselves (for now, and with lots of effort and intervention on our part AND his) so I find myself parenting in a MUCH more hands-off way now. It feels so incredible to be able to give my kid the kind of independence and responsibility I think are so important.

  29. Donald November 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    I loved the movie. I haven’t seen the show but I love the description.

    Haddie is doing very mature things. However, mom and dad still lie to here and tell her mother is cancer free.
    Kids pick up on the underlying message.
    Us parents know best because you are only a kid. That’s why you must stay in school regardless. You’re not mature enough to make decisions. Your life will be ruined if you make a wrong one.

    In short, they refuse to recognize her as an adult

    Liz also brought up a good point. She’ll be really pissed off when she finds out the truth

  30. Katie November 5, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Funny, just last night I watched an episode from the last season of The Closer in which the parents spent quite a bit of time shrieking at each other that the missing 8 year old boy never should have been allowed to ride a bike for 2 blocks. It didn’t end well for him, but at the risk of spoiling it, let’s just say that strangers weren’t the issue.

    One super “free range” show is (was?) iCarly–there’s an absentee dad in the military, and the girl is monitored by a goofy older brother who provides plenty of freedom but can step in when there’s real trouble.

  31. Hillary November 5, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    I don’t see how this is helicopter parenting at all. She’s not writing the speech for her son or refusing to allow her college-age child to make travel arrangements on her own. She is trying to protect them from being impacted by her disease, which is naive but not over-protective. Of course they will have to come to terms with their mother’s mortality and there is no way she can protect them from that, but in both instances (attending a huge important day for one child and preventing another from dropping out of college mid-semester) seem like good parenting, not helicoptering.

    I may be a little too close to the issue, though. During my first month at college (2600 miles from home), my father crash-landed his ultralight airplane. He was severely injured, actually coded in the hospital, was wheelchair-bound for six months and on crutches for another year, etc. My mom didn’t tell me anything had happened for three weeks after the accident because she wanted to protect me from the distraction and anxiety during my first month at school. We spoke on the phone weekly so she had plenty of opportunity. I was really pissed off when I found out but now that I am a parent I get why she did it.

  32. Krolik November 5, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    I used to watch the show Medium, about a psychic that helps police catch criminals. The heroine has three girls, and the family dynamics between the girls, the psychic mom, and the husband who tries to make sense of it all provide for many touching moments. But what really started to grate on me after a while is how overprotective the mom is of her girls, flying off the handle any time the oldest (a teenager) wants to date a boy, go to a concert, etc. I guess as someone who regularly deals with dangerous psychopaths in real life and in psychic visions to boot, she has more reasons than most to be paranoid… :)

  33. FiSyd November 5, 2012 at 2:20 am #

    When my family moved form England to Australia, my maternal grandmother didn’t tell my Mum that she had terminal cancer. She didn’t do it to protect my mother, she did it to allow her the freedom that that ignorance afforded her. Nanna knew that if Mum found out about the cancer then we would remain in England to take care of her.

    We never saw my Nanna again and my Mum has always wished she’d had the information so that she could have made that decision for herself.

    So anyway, not helicoptering IMO, but not the right decision either.

  34. Hellen November 5, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    I like the animated show Bob’s Burgers. The three kids, Tina, Gene, and Louise, ages 13 and under, hang out together off home turf without parents hovering and run into other free range kids. It’s wonderfully old-fashioned in that way and their freedom certainly helps build character, just as I would imagine freedom would build the character of real-life children.

    Another show I watch now that aired from 2000-2006 is Malcolm in the Middle. The three youngest boys are definitely on their own most of the time and they have a tough as nails mom who, although over-the-top, is a refreshing change from all the coddling PC moms in my world now.

  35. Warren in Kansas November 5, 2012 at 3:19 am #

    My wife and I cringed when they lied to Haddie about Christina’s needing further treatment. Haddie is an adult and recognizes that the family is going to need another set of hands and is selflessly trying to take on that role. It’s completely Haddie’s decision and by lying they take that out of her hands. Not to mention that it’s not like Haddie isn’t going to figure it out five minutes after she gets back to New York.

  36. RobynHeud November 5, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    @ifsofar, please tell me where your kids go to school! I would feel much better about sending my own (when the time comes) if I could find a school like that.

  37. Jenna November 5, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    Since when is going to your child’s school event helicopter parenting? It’s import to teach kids to do things on their own. Like my then 9-year-old son riding his bike a half mile to swim class and back.

    I teach my kids to budget. I let them go to the bathroom alone. (I can’t believe I have to point this out, but a lot of parents don’t let their kids go to the bathroom alone. I saw of mother of a boy around 10 who was about to wet his pants in the check out line, have to wait to go into the women’s restroom with his mother.) But if any of my kids, and I have 5, have an event and I can reasonably be there I will.

    Cheering your kid on while they do the things you’ve been training them to do isn’t helicopter parenting in my book. I would be torn about missing a big event, but of course I’d miss it if my life hung in the balance. But I would definitely feel better if someone who loved my child was there to cheer them on in my place.

  38. librarian November 5, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    Just a feedback from a former Asperger kid – I always hated when my family attended my public speeches etc. They’d be nervous, and that’s distracting.

    Plus, if I don’t do well, I’d need some personal space to get over it. Finding a quiet corner would be much more helpful, than having to deal with someone else’s emotions.

  39. Eliza November 5, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    @Jenna, I agree with everything you said. My daughter does her own washing, going to the toilet by herself from the age of 4 and walking the toy section of the shops by herself from the age of 5 while I did the boring clothes, food shopping,must budget for everything, I even made her save up and buy her ownown graduation from primary school outfit and her graduation dance ticket but I try to arrange to be at school for those important moments, such as winning t he Principals award for the term, or cheering her on at the schools sports day. I believe being free range does not mean being completely out of my daughters life.

  40. Rob November 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Did anybody watch the episode of Modern Family recently (easily my favorite sitcom on TV right now) in which Lily got in trouble with another kid at her first day of school and Cam and Mitch ended up having to deal with a pair of lesbian parents? It was hilarious, of course, but what got me was during the meeting with the parents and kids at Cam & Mitch’s home, while the adults are being snarky with each other, the two kids wander off into another room. They are gone for literally 30 seconds before it’s noticed and the adults FREAK OUT. After roughly 10 seconds of searching the house they find the kids have barricaded themselves into a room and won’t come out, and the adults proceed to have aneurysms over the kids possibly getting hurt while “trapped” in the room. Granted, these are young kids, but seriously…inside the house? It’s not like they took off outside to play on the highway. I thought the adults reactions were blown WAY out of proportion to the likelihood of an actual injury happening.

  41. Donna November 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer my final year of law school. Although it could have been arranged, no way my father would have liked for me to take the semester off. And the fact is that MY help wasn’t particularly needed. His wife had many family members who pitched in to help and hospice was wonderful. Likewise, unless the show has changed in the year I’ve been away from network TV, the Bravermans are all over each other like puppies anyway so there will be plenty of help regardless of whether Haddie leaves school. Haddie may want to be there but she is not needed there and her parents were right to try to talk her into going back to school. Lying to her and forcing her decision was ridiculous though.

    As for Max, I don’t think Lenore is saying that we should not attend our child’s school activities. I expect she’s attended her fair share for her sons.

  42. thefookie November 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Interestingly, the same show also has some very non-helicopter parenting going on at times. Remember when Amber decided to pursue a relationship with the politician she was interning for? And her aunt, Kristina, went overboard with trying to protect her, and showed up at the hotel room and burst in?? Well Amber’s mom, Sarah, was pretty annoyed that Kristina had helicoptered over her adult daugther’s decision. Same daughter that moved out on her own and isn’t going to university. Imagine, a parent letting “that” happen!

  43. Amanda Matthews November 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    School will certainly be there a semester from now, a year from now, 5 years from now. If I have cancer, there’s a good chance I may not. So I would want to spend time with my children while I can. I figure, at your parents’ funeral, no matter how they died, are you going to think “I wish I had spent less time with them and focused on school” or are you going to think “I wish I had spent more time with them while they were alive”?

    I wouldn’t expect them to help out though, and I would hope they continue to study – on their own at the very least, and hopefully doing online classes or the like.

    @Hellen I love that too about Bob’s Burgers, and the fact that the kids also help out with the restaurant (and they truly help, they aren’t just being kept busy by pretending to help, as many parents that own a business do nowadays), that they have their own lives yet they are all part of the family unit and do their part.

  44. Stephanie November 5, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    I love this show as well, but Kristina and Adam’s parenting style drives me absolutely bonkers. I’m not sure I’d refer to it as “helicoptering,” though. It’s more that they are so intent on doing thing their own way that they don’t even stop to consider how their kids feel about anything, or whether a decision is *actually* what’s best for the kids (as opposed to what they WANT to be best for the kids). Of course, parents get the final say, but the blatent disregard (especially on Kristina’s part) for what the kids think about anything is ridiculous. I’m almost 30 years old, and about to be a mother myself, but I find myself identifying more with Haddie and Max than with Kristina and Adam. Every time I watch that show, I find myself thinking “My parents aren’t perfect, but I am SO glad they weren’t like Kristina and Adam!”

    On an unrelated note, I have to say that Max Burkholder (the actor who plays Max Braverman) does an absolutely incredible job on this show, and I’m always incredibly impressed with his performance. Easily one of my favorite characters on the show. :-)

  45. pentamom November 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    I don’t really understand why people are arguing that lying to the daughter in order to manipulate her into doing what was deemed beet for herself was “not helicoptering.” Is there some highly specific definition of helicopter that I missed, that excludes this particular way of not allowing your adult child to make an adult decision because you know better than she does about her own life? How could something be “overprotective, but not helicopter?”

  46. pentamom November 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Yes, the point is not that there’s anything wrong with attending school activities. It’s that it’s ridiculous to set up a difficult conflict between life-saving surgery and a middle school election speech. In normal circumstances, it’s reasonable to say that a special needs kid needs his mom there, but it’s nuts to suggest that very legitimate need should win out over timely cancer surgery when the choice is forced.

  47. Amanda Matthews November 5, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Why couldn’t the husband/dad just go to the school instead of Mom? She can put off a life-saving surgery but he can’t take a couple of hours off work?

    Or did Dad not pass the background check or something 😛

  48. pentamom November 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    Maybe the presumption is that when Mom has the surgery, Dad will need to be at the hospital.

  49. Andy November 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    @pentamom That decision is not only about the daughter, it is about the mom and the rest of the family too. If she would feel bad about her daughter to take that semester off, her feeling should be respected. She is the one who is sick, ultimately all is about her.

    If the family feel like they can do without the daughters help, it is polite to assume that they can do without it. Assuming that it is all about daughter and overprotectiveness is sort of insulting. People are usually more complex then that.

    At least, if I would be in that position I would find it insulting. Some people do not like help forced upon them.

  50. Amanda Matthews November 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Unless Dad is the surgeon I still don’t get it.

  51. ellobie November 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    I have to disagree & am a regular viewer (and saw this episode). That particular episode was not too helicopter-y, for the reasons many before have mentioned.

    I do get the general complaint, though. The two families with young kids do tend to hover excessively. The episode where one mom spent the entire day sitting in her car outside her newly-adopted son’s elementary school because he was nervous? And only AFTER she and her husband switched off for nearly a week to stay home with him because he was “sick?” Give me a break. And now that mom has quit her job as an attorney (without discussing it with her husband) and there are no apparent financial or other repercussions to be seen? Ugh.

    On the other hand, there are lots of examples where these families have been GREAT free-range parents, especially Lauren Graham’s character with her older kids.

  52. mmm November 5, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    I can’t stop watching this show because it is so ridiculous. Every minor decision made by every character is met with dramatic hand-wringing from the other fifteen of them.

    Kristina in particular seems to have no function other than to worry about completely inconsequential situations. The episode where she tried to stop her son from running for student government at all, because (gasp) he might lose or be made fun of, was a particular treasure.

    Also, the family spent so much time visiting each other at work in the first couple of seasons that they had to all quit or lose their jobs and create a whole new business staffed only by family members.

  53. pentamom November 6, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    Andy, I’m not talking about the mom telling the child she ought to stay in school because she’s not needed. That’s perfectly reasonable. I’m talking about resorting to a lie because the daughter is considered the equivalent of a one year old who has no right to a say over how she spends the next few months, and insufficient ability to understand the words “what I need from you now is to stay in school.”

  54. Donna November 6, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    I can honestly say that I don’t have the slightest regret at finishing law school instead of quitting when my father was diagnosed with cancer. I visited him immediately after he was diagnosed. I spent his last Christmas with him. I was there for the last week of his life and sat by his side when he took his last breath. I attended his funeral. All while attending school in California while he lived in Florida … and graduating with high honors. I loved him. He loved me. Our lives together boiled down to a whole lot more than the amount of time I spent with him during his last 3 months.

    And breast cancer is far from an automatic death sentence. My mother was diagnosed with stage 3 more than 8 years ago. She is 100% healthy and cancer free. And her treatment lasted over a year. And you are not even considered “cured’ for 5 years. No way I would want my child to quit school to spend time with me for that long. We can spend time with each other on school holidays.

    That said, Haddie is an adult. You can express your wishes that she stay in school. You can encourage her to stay in school. You shouldn’t lie to her about the cancer being gone to ensure that that happens. Ultimately, you have to respect her decision whatever it is.

  55. Andy November 6, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    @pentamom I do not think that lying was good decision, really. But neither I think that it means that mother treated the daughter as a child. Lying is wrong decision in almost all circumstances, but it is hardly something reserved to small child – adult relationship. Adults lie to other adults, kids lie to both kids and adults and so on. It does not mean that she necessarily sees or treats the daughter as a child.

  56. Amanda Matthews November 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    In this situation it is treating her like a child, because instead of giving her the information needed to make the decision herself (and either respect her mother’s wishes or not, which should be her choice), the decision was made for her via the lie. Adults don’t make decisions for other adults; that is something that adults do for young children.

  57. Donna November 6, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Adults do sometimes lie to other adults in order to get the other people to make the decision that they want. They leave out facts that could make the person choose a different option and talk up the positives of what they want. The extent used with Haddie is not common but we often do it to a lesser degree. And illness seems to bring it out. When my father was diagnosed, chemo was virtually worthless. At best it would extend his life a month or two but he was going to die and within a short period of time either way. His wife conspired with the doctors not to tell him how pointless it was because she knew he would refuse treatment if he knew.

    And while I may make some decisions for my child that adults can make themselves, I don’t lie to my child to manipulate her decisions when she can make them. So I agree with Andy. They treated Haddie completely inappropriately but not like a child. They actually treated her like an adult – and adult they manipulated, but an adult nonetheless. For a child, they would have simply said “You will go to school. End of discussion” and driven her to school (airport in this case, I guess). They accepted that Haddie was an adult who they couldn’t order around anymore.

  58. Suzanne November 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Thanks for the heads up, I’ve been wanting to catch that show and now I’ll never both. That kind of display on tv makes me sick. I totally agree with whomever said Frankie on the Middle is completely free-range. I love that show

  59. EricS November 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I watch the show. It’s entertaining, funny, and yes…often times ridiculous in terms of the stereotypical helicopter parenting. The one thing I do like, that they do include in the show, is how the grandparents give a free range (old school) addition to their kids modern hovering/over parenting approach. So there is some realistic balance.

    And just a clarification for anyone who follows the show, or starting to, Kristina’s cancer didn’t spread. They got the tumor out. But the doctor suggested, because that type of cancer can come back, to put her through chemo to make sure it doesn’t.

  60. Misaki November 6, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    ” The episode where one mom spent the entire day sitting in her car outside her newly-adopted son’s elementary school because he was nervous? And only AFTER she and her husband switched off for nearly a week to stay home with him because he was “sick?” ”

    First of all, it was 2 days he stayed home “sick”. Second, this was a newly adopted child. Big difference from a child raised from birth. He’s 8 years old, in a new family and new environment after probably being abused/neglected/abandoned. So yeah, he’s a bit insecure. But his mom did what had to be done. She didn’t follow him in school or anything. She sat outside the school in her car for one day so he would know she always plans on being there for him. He needed that at that time. It was also either in that episode or maybe the next that the same mom missed her birth daughter’s ballet recital because she felt she needed to be at work. So I’m not exactly seeing the helicoptering. I’m not saying the characters don’t make mistakes – what kind of a show would it be if they didn’t – but I also don’t view this as a helicopterish show either. I see it as just average. I’m also not seeing “The Middle” as the ideal free range show, either. They have multiple episodes showing Frankie bailing the kids out and running errands at all hours for them. Their oldest son is lazy and whines about everything and can’t seem to do anything on his own. And the youngest is in therapy for lack of social skills and lack of ability to care for or do anything for himself either. At 10 they won’t let him stay home alone for an hour and still have to take him trick or treating – granted he has issues, but I’m just not seeing the huge free range stuff some people are talking about. They seem more like exhausted parents just trying to get by from day to day in the easiest way possible. (Although I still love the show.) :)

  61. pentamom November 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    I’m not sure why acting in a way that you could also act toward an adult automatically removes it from the realm of treating her like a child. I think it’s the other way around: when you manipulate another adult into doing what you deem best for that person, that’s treating them like a child, regardless of who it is or what the issue is. When you’re a parent, and the child is grown, then it’s treating the adult like a child.

  62. pentamom November 6, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    They accepted that they couldn’t order her around anymore, but they didn’t accept that she was entitled to make her own decisions based on available information, that she was capable of making the right one, or that she was allowed to make one they didn’t like. (What would have happened if she’d chosen to stay home? Did they think she would forcibly nurse her mother? Why did they believe that honestly saying. “Your mother is still very ill but your quitting school would be of no use to anyone” wouldn’t be good enough? Because she’s just a baby at heart?”

    You’re right, it’s not the lying that’s treating her as a child. But they lied BECAUSE they were treating her like a child — like one who was incapable of or not to be trusted to make decisions in her own best interest.

  63. Sam November 6, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    “Why did they believe that honestly saying. “Your mother is still very ill but your quitting school would be of no use to anyone” wouldn’t be good enough? ”

    Probably because they tried that once and she left school anyways. They just wanted what was best for her future and her life. They didn’t want her feeling guilty in that she should be helping out. No, they never should have lied. But then again…..it’s make believe, LOL! :) You have to throw in twists, turns, and bad decisions to make an interesting plot. :)

  64. Donna November 6, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    I haven’t watched this show in almost a year, but unless they’ve changed, Adam and Kristina are total control freaks. They must be in command of everything in their lives at every single moment. If their characters are the same, they didn’t lie to Haddie because she is too much of a baby to make a decision. They lied to Haddie because they didn’t trust her to make the decision that they wanted her to make. They don’t question her ability to make decisions, just her willingness to make the decision that they want. Just like my father’s wife didn’t lie to my father because she didn’t trust him to make the best decision for him; she didn’t trust him to make the decision that she wanted for HER. Their behavior says more about who they are as people than who they are as parents.

    While I do think that many helicopter parents are control freaks too, I don’t really think they are the same thing. I’m not sure that you can be a control freak without having some manifestations of helicopter parenting as the need to control is part of your makeup. I do think that you can be a helicopter parent without being a control freak.

  65. pentamom November 7, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    I see your point, I just don’t see why not trusting her to make the best decision for herself doesn’t fit the description of “helicopter.” But I guess it’s just semantics.

  66. Donna November 7, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    I guess I don’t consider it “helicopter parenting” because that term is restricted to parent/child relationships. In this particular case, Haddie is their daughter. But a plot of Adam and Kristina lying to the rest of the family so that they didn’t do X,Y,Z that Adam and Kristina didn’t want is 100% plausible and fitting with the characters. Would we still term it “helicopter parenting” if it had been his sister they lied to? Or his parents? Because both scenarios have happened in the past on the show. They think they know better than everyone, not just their children, and act accordingly.

  67. Andy November 7, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    @pentamom If you offer me help, I refuse and then you come back home to help me anyway, then you are treating me as a child. I would even consider it more disrespectful then lying.

    You keep saying that the decision should be entirely on the daughter. But the mother is adult too and she thinks that she can handle the situation. In that case, the daughter should act free-range and give her mother independence the mother need.

    The will and independence of both mother and daughter are in opposition and mother protected her own in a bit non ethical way. She should not lie, but she has full right to refuse offered help if she thinks she does not need it.

    Being free-range parent does not mean that I have to accept all decisions the kid makes about my life. Even if the kid means well.

  68. pentamom November 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Okay, it’s her house. She can tell the kid she’s not welcome then. That would be treating like an adult: if you make a decision to leave school to be with me, it won’t accomplish what you want because you’d have to be on your own, then.

    I’m not saying the daughter would be *right* to make any decision she wanted, without regard to her mother’s feelings, I’m saying that as an adult, she has the right to make the decision about continuing school, even if it’s a bad or wrong one for herself or for her mom. That’s what being an adult IS.

    To deny her this right is to equate her with a child, whose decisions are appropriately (by some means) made by others.

    It’s reasonable to say that she would also be treating her mother like a child by failing to respect her wishes, but I don’t see what that hes to do with it.

  69. Andy November 8, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    @pentamom “She can tell the kid she’s not welcome then. It won’t accomplish what you want because you’d have to be on your own”

    Well, she can. But, if I would have a choice between this and lying to my adult daughter, I would choose to lie.

    On the other hand, if this would be the only thing to stop my daughter trying to help me when my I do not want that, I would not want her around when I’m sick and helpless. If I have to go that far, it is only a question of time until she tries to force feed me food I do not like.

    That lie is really a small thing in comparison with having me to choose between accepting your help and sending you away forever. If really hope my kids will not grow up to be like that.

  70. Amanda Matthews November 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    I think siting outside the school all day is not helicoptering, but a little crazy. Yes the kid needs to know mom will always be there for him… but I think he needs to learn the reality of it. Mom will NOT always be sitting outside the school (at least I hope not). He will always be able to call her, and mom will get there in x minutes (however long it takes her to get there from work/home). If he did end up needing her that day, it would just end up making things more difficult in the long run. He’d be getting mixed messages the next time he needed mom and had to wait for her, and not giving mixed messages is critical for a newly adopted child.

    @Andy
    You’re assuming that the only reason the daughter wants to take a break from school is to help. My assumption is that she UNDERSTANDS they don’t want/need her help, but she still wants to be able to SPEND TIME with her potentially dying mother. In your example there is a third choice: allowing the daughter to come visit but not help. If she attempts to help, you ask her to leave for the day. Whoever is there actually helping can assist you in making her leave. Yes giving her that option would mean giving her the truth and her potentially choosing that option and leaving school, which you don’t want. But allowing your offspring to make choices for themselves where you don’t always like their choice is part of treating them like… well not even like an adult, as there are choices like that during childhood and teenhood as well. I would say treating them like a human rather than a pet.

  71. Maegan November 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    I find The Neighbors hilarious. But last night’s episode exhausted me. It starts out with the parents talking about how to talk about sex with their daughter. My husband and I both looked at each and said, “the six-year-old, right? Not the 17-year-old!” It was the 17-year-old. If my daughters get to 17 without talking about sex and are not pregnant, I’d consider it a miracle. That may or may not be a free range issue, but then the episode goes on to the classic party, the sexy popular guy, and a trip to makeout green (it’s a golf course instead of a car-park lookout). The girl decides she isn’t ready and tells the boy and handles everything beautifully (of course, the overplayed routine is still annoying). And then her parents swoop in by driving their minivan onto the golf course to save her. The boy runs off and the forced father-daughter talk occurs. If I can’t trust my teenage daughter to say “no” when she wants to say “no” and “yes” when she wants to say “yes”, then how can I trust her with a car, college applications, and a job? We talk about younger kids a lot on this blog, but letting teenagers be independent sounds equally as difficult. I’m determined to keep a cool head when it comes to things like date rape, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.

  72. Maegan November 8, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    “(I can’t believe I have to point this out, but a lot of parents don’t let their kids go to the bathroom alone. I saw of mother of a boy around 10 who was about to wet his pants in the check out line, have to wait to go into the women’s restroom with his mother.)”

    My mom won’t allow my 10-year-old sister to go to the bathroom alone. In fact, I think she consistently asked me to take someone with me into my pre-teen years. While hanging out with my sister at the mall, etc, I gently encouraged her to go alone. She was pretty scared the first few times, but she quickly understood that there is nothing there to be afraid of. Now she’ll actually play outside alone (before this, she wouldn’t go out alone at the age of 9). I’m such a proud older sister. I have no idea if my mom knows, haha!

  73. Maegan November 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    Throughout all the back and forth, I don’t understand why it matters whether your child stays at college or comes home to help you. Frankly, she’s probably helping herself more by coping with the horrible situation and terrifying news. Frankly, more smart kids from middle-class families should feel empowered to not go to college at all if they feel it’s best. Many people, including myself, find good careers without a college degree, while many college graduates never use their degree at all. Placing that much importance on college is not a part of my plan for my children. In my mind, pushing college feels like helicopter parenting.