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Campus Overload
Posted at 04:27 PM ET, 08/22/2011

University of Virginia’s Sullivan: ‘You might be a helicopter parent if...’

On Saturday afternoon, University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan welcomed the parents of incoming first-year students — and begged them not to hover over their children.

Here’s a snippet of her remarks:

“Stand back and let your child learn by doing. Every child makes mistakes — and so does every parent, as all of us know all too well.  These mistakes are part of your children’s education and part of their growth as adults. By finding their own solutions, they will learn to adapt and to overcome. 
(University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan)

If you don’t give your children room to learn on their own, if you hover too much, you risk earning that most despised label: helicopter parent. 

How will you know if you’re becoming a helicopter parent? With apologies to the comedian Jeff Foxworthy, here are a few clues:

 * You might be a helicopter parent if you say to your child, ‘Don’t bother getting an alarm clock; I’ll call you every morning to wake you up’”

* You might be a helicopter parent if you have the office phone numbers for all of your child’s professors, the Dean of Students, and me on speed-dial.

* You might be a helicopter parent if you’re shopping for a new vacation home within 500 yards of the Rotunda. 

 If you don’t step back and let your children make their own way in the world, you might evolve from being a ‘helicopter parent’ into the equally notorious ‘lawnmower parent’ – the mother or father who tries to smooth a child’s path through life by stepping in and mowing down every obstacle that the child confronts.

 You get the point. Let your child grow. Allow room for mistakes, because those mistakes become life lessons. And those life lessons become the foundation of experience and awareness in the adult who will soon emerge before your very eyes.”

What advice do you have for parents of incoming freshmen (and their hovering parents)? Share it in the comments section or on Twitter using the hashtag #College101.

By  |  04:27 PM ET, 08/22/2011

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