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Is Helicopter Parenting Destroying American Entrepreneurship?

“When kids are trusted with free time to figure things out on their own, they start working on their very first job: making something happen,” North Dakota State Business Prof. Clay Routledge and I write in a USA Today column:

But what happens when they don’t? What happens when, from birth through post-college ‘adulting’ classes, there’s always a well-meaning parent or professional standing right next to them, coaching, teaching, high-fiving, helping them get a leg up – sometimes literally?

American entrepreneurship has been declining over the same decades overprotection has increased — from the 1970s till now — and Clay and I think that may not be a coincidence: When adults organize all childhood activities, the kids are more like employees than entrepreneurs.

Parents are encouraged to distrust their children’s drive and abilities from the very start. There’s a franchise called Tumbles that offers a class for kids as young as four months old designed to get them crawling and climbing, so their  “understanding of speech improves” and they “start gaining a better awareness of things around them.”

As if this wouldn’t happen automatically? As if child development is something parents (or professionals working with kids) must make happen?

What a strange way to look at kids. But as Clay and I write:

Tumbles is a perfect illustration of the moment we’re in, when adults are expected to oversee and orchestrate almost every aspect of children’s lives, lest the kids do it wrong, get hurt or – God forbid – fall behind.

Treating children  as if they are projects the parents must build deprives kids of the chance to start making the mistakes and discoveries involved in building themselves.

It’s not really surprising that, later in life, they wouldn’t go on to build companies.


One Response to Is Helicopter Parenting Destroying American Entrepreneurship?

  1. Clemencedane July 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm #

    What I see a lot of instead is a kid casually saying something like, “These cookies we baked are so good we should open a cookie store” and the parent is off to the races, starting a cookie business and pretending that the child is doing everything. It will be called “Emily’s Cookie Hut” or something and the kid will maybe stir the batter and decide what colors to put on the box, but it’s basically all the parent. Next thing you know, 8 year old Emily is on the Today Show talking about how she started a cookie business all by herself and grew it to $100,000 in revenue the first year.

    A lot of “kids” Youtube channels are the same way, with the parent scripting and doing everything, but the child is hailed as an “influencer.”