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Helicopter Parents,Time for a Landing!

Sometimes parents have a hard time stepping back and letting their child become an adult. When it comes to your child’s job, you must do just that.

I received a call last week that went like this:

Caller: “Hi, are you the person I would speak to about internships?”
Me: “Yes.”

Caller: “Great, my son is senior at xxx high school and he is looking for an internship at your company.” 
Me: “I am going to share with you two things that I hope you will find helpful.  First, unfortunately I do not have any internships available. Second, your son should be making these calls.” 

She was offended. Oh well.

As a mom, I certainly understand the impulse to intervene and ask your child’s employer questions that he or she may not know to ask or feel comfortable asking. However, if your child is old enough to apply for a job, go on an interview and get hired, he or she can and should handle all issues related to the job. 

I am not saying you should not help, but I am saying you should not take over. For example, when each of my daughters began their first job after college each came to me with the “tower of terror” insurance paperwork and said, “Here, can you fill it out for me?”   

In this case I was not only mom but the "HR Lady" as well; how could I say no? I did. Believe me; it would have been much easier for me to fill everything out.  Instead, I went over the papers with them, answered questions and had them fill everything out. Now, when they receive information from human resources, they read it over and come to me only if they have questions. 

See? Step back and presto, instant adult.      

About a year ago I received a call from a woman who began, “Hello, I am xxxxx’s mother, I am also his lawyer.” To which I responded, “Well, as his lawyer you are aware that I cannot speak with you because you are not the employee.” She told me that she needed to speak to me because her son did not understand some paperwork he received. I told her to have her son call me--go figure! 

My cousin, Paula Ciccimarra, is a fellow HR professional. She works at Answer Human Assets in Manhattan and shares similar stories. A few years back she placed a young man in a part-time job with a company where his father was also employed. No only did the father call her several times regarding benefits but he also tried to negotiate a better salary.  Did he think his son was a rock star and he was his agent?   

Once your child enters the workforce, he or she has crossed over to adulthood. Please do not call your child’s boss or human resources on their behalf. It is hard for us to hear you with the propellers whirling around. 

Jennifer February 20, 2012 at 02:32 PM
There are moms in Westchester who literally wipe their kids' butts until they are 6...not surprised they call to get them jobs.
Steve Cohen February 20, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Having been on both the employer and employee side of the negotiations I know for a fact that an independent negotiator is a positive for employees. Concept just not ingrained in business culture--because employers don't want it. Unions are good for large numbers of workers but in non-union America on the white collar side they doesn't exist and never will in small companies. And they are disappearing on the blue collar side as well. I own a small company and have often negotiated with suppliers as a "manager." So much easier to blame "the boss" for not wanting to pay asked for price than to say "I want more profit in my pocket." On employee side, they negotiate compensation 1x/yr at best. In large companies the HR specialists do it daily. Experience is a natural advantage. And Nuke: If a negotiator could get you a higher salary or a lower price and you still net out to the plus, what's wrong with that? We all pay contractors daily to do jobs that we either don't do as well as they do--or don't want to do. Level playing fields are a beautiful thing--unless it's you that the leveling is being done against.
Steve Cohen February 20, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Ross--Not everybody has the negotiating skill. You may have many other skills that are valuable to an employer but not the ones that are valuable to yourself. I have an office manager who is great at customer service, record keeping and managing work flow but not comfortable with collections. I outsourced that part of her job and let her focus on the things she is good at. Great employees and people are often negotiation-challenged. Doesn't mean they have no skills.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert February 24, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Amen, Lisa.
Joan Josie March 09, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Give them something to start with. Eventually, they won't need you. Don't worry, your job is done. They don't want your advice anymore. They can fend for themselves. Joan

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