Overinvolved Parents are Headed to College by David Bredehoft


Overinvolved parents are headed to college this fall in record numbers touts a recent Wall Street Journal article, and colleges and universities are responding in a variety of innovative ways.

The University of Vermont hired “parent bouncers,” students trained to spot overindulgent overinvolved parents and divert them at critical times. Other schools have hired whole new staffs trained to respond to increasing numbers of parent emails and telephone calls.

Parental Hovering Doesn’t Stop with Freshmen Students!

Recently I presented our overindulgence research at a national conference. Following my presentation, a professor from a prestigious eastern university came up to me and reported that parental overinvolvement at her institution has reached new heights. When recruiters now come to campus for the purpose of interviewing graduating seniors, parents routinely demand to sit in with their child during the job interview. As a college professor, I also am seeing a dramatic increase in the number of overinvolved parents at the college level. One has to ask the question “Is “overinvolvement” a good or bad thing?”

Is Involvement Good or is Overinvolvement Bad?

Parents should be involved in their college-aged children’s lives, but being overinvolved is clearly not a healthy thing. Remember, we are talking about 18-25 year-old young adults, not children that are four, eight, or ten. I believe that this type of overindulgence is a bad.

I believe this because our research clearly shows that college students whose parents were over loving and gave them too much attention tended to:

  • Think of themselves as failures.
  • Believe others think less of them if they make mistakes.
  • Can’t be happy unless all people admire them.
  • See asking for help as a sign of weakness.
  • Believe their value as a person depends greatly on what others think of them.
  • Give up on their own interests in order to please other people.
  • Need the approval of other people in order to be happy.
  • Cannot get down to work when they should.
  • Quit if they can’t do a job the first time.
  • Rarely achieve important goals.
  • Do not stick with unpleasant things.
  • Feel insecure about their abilities.
  • Believe that they are not capable of dealing with most problems that come up in their life.

The above mentioned attitudes and characteristics are not associated with successful adults, but they are with college-age children whose parents hover and who are overinvolved in their lives.

I am convinced that parents who are over-involved in their children’s lives really want their children to be successful adults. Ironically they actually do the opposite; create children who grow up lacking important life skills.

What Can Parents Do Instead?

Parents can teach children to:

·      differentiate between needs and wants

·      ask for what they need (not want)

·      solve their own problems

·      share personal and communal living space

·      show self-reliance in the face of adversity

·      keep healthy study, eating and sleep habits

There is more help about avoiding overindulgence in How Much is Too Much? Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).

 All photos from MorgueFile free photo.

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;  bredehoft@csp.edu