Parents Out of Control

Brad M. Griffin | Aug 23, 2010

In response to last weeks post on helicopter parenting, our friend Derek Melleby from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding sent us a link to this interview with Margaret Nelson, author of Parenting Out of Control.

I havent read the book, but the interview itself is worth checking out. To fuel the dialogue around overparenting, check out this quote from Nelson:

[P]arents learn and practice child rearing styles within social groups, as ideas circulate in the media and among cliques of young mothers gathering on the playground. The practices that get established—the degree to which parents begin to use a language of choice, for example—may have less to do with what can be afforded than with what other people within a circle of friends and relatives find appropriate. Both parenting out of control and parenting with limits are thus reinforced by observation, discussion, and competition within the groupings of a highly stratified society.


In other words, theres something to what Nelson calls professional middle class American culture that breeds helicoptering. Many parents dont see other options, especially when they compare to others. This plays out in the comments section of the interview, where folks confess to being out of control with their own college-age kids.

In a month when many of us are supporting families whose kids are heading off to college, how can we best help parents (and kids) balance support with autonomy during this important life change?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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