Home > Uncategorized > Helicopter Parents Stymied by Administrators in Darien, CT

Helicopter Parents Stymied by Administrators in Darien, CT

November 29, 2018

Today’s Boston Globe features an AP article by Michael Melia describing a problem faced by Darien CT: over-protective parents joining their children for lunch!

In Darien, a town of Colonial-style homes behind stone fences where the median household income exceeds $200,000, so many parents had begun attending lunch that principals felt they were affecting the day-to-day running of the elementary schools, according to Tara Ochman, chairman of the Darien Board of Education.

The decision by the Board had a mixed reception:

One Darien mother, Beth Lane, said at an education board meeting last month that she welcomed the change.

“It was good because kids have to be able to learn how to work with each other and socialize with each other, and putting a parent in changes the dynamic dramatically,” she said.

But others who spoke up at the meeting said the midday visits allowed them to see how their children were faring and to help them resolve friction with other children. For the youngest children, they could offer helping opening milk cartons and finding items in the lunchrooms.

Terry Steadman, a parent, told the board she was shocked and driven to tears by the news.

“To just ban parents from the lunchroom, which is effectively what you’re doing with this email, I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s in the spirit of a collaborative environment,” she said.

As the article notes, this is a “problem” that could only be encountered in a school district where stay-at-home mothers are prevalent, stay-at-home mothers with the time and energy to visit their children at lunch. In a couple of throwaway paragraphs Mr. Melia dismisses this as a situation where parents are disengaged and a spokesperson for a county district in FL sees it as something that “MAYBE” some parents can’t do.

The practice is unheard of in many urban and poor areas where parents may not have the same engagement with schools.

“In some schools it’s not really an issue at all because based on the population, parents aren’t able to come and have lunch. It’s something maybe parents aren’t able to do,” said Tanya Arja, a spokeswoman for schools in Hillsborough County, Florida.

I have news for Mr. Melia and Ms. Arja: there are a whole host of parents who are “disengaged” because they need to be ready to work when their workplace demands it and they cannot predict whether they’d be available for parent conferences let alone lunch.

The Darien parents may think their visits are helpful, but ultimately, a special education therapist at a school in nearby (and equally affluent) Weston CT  has it right:

“From a professional perspective, when we’re the ones left dealing with your child when you leave, it wasn’t good,” said Ms.Franzese, who worked for eight years as a special education therapist in Weston until earlier this year. “We would call them helicopter moms.”

In short, kindergartners are better off opening milk cartons and putting on their leggings than having mom there to help them. It might teach them the “grit” that school reformers see as the essential element poorer kids need to get ahead.

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