Parents at Kids’ Job Interviews: What is Going On?
A front page article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday chronicles a problem that seems to be a sign of the times: Parents accompanying their kids on job interviews.
And calling their kids’ bosses to demand better treatment.
And showing up at their kids’ jobs to fight their battles.
These stories can seem apocryphal, but The Journal’s Te-Ping Chen dug up some jaw-dropping examples. One Seattle restauranteur recalled a co-worker whose mom asked the manager to let her son have Sundays off to watch football.
That idea got sacked.
Meanwhile, at the Dollar Tree…
A Dollar Tree shopper told The Journal she was going into the store one day when an angry woman barged past her. It was the cashier’s mom. A customer had given her daughter a hard time and the mom had come to give ’em hell.
But parents aren’t just intervening once their kids get their jobs. Some are lurking not so subtly on the sidelines when their kids have online job interviews. “You’ll sometime even hear them whispering,” one recruiter told the paper. And some are actually accompanying their kids to those interviews in real life:
At Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, Vt., parents haven’t only applied for summer jobs on behalf of their children, they frequently try and sit in on their interviews, too, says human-resources coordinator Sam McDowell. “They generally come in the door first, and their children come behind,” McDowell says. “Sometimes it’s a little bit confusing about who’s actually there to interview.” —Wall Street Journal
Reporter Chen chalks up a lot of this behavior to the Covid cocooning of parents and kids:
During the pandemic, many young people didn’t have the same chances to learn how to interact with the outside world, which might account for the extra hand-holding, says Harley Johnson, who runs children’s and youth programming at Smugglers’ Notch. — Wall Street Journal
Certainly Covid did a number on a lot of developmental milestones. But these problems were mounting long before the pandemic. In fact, here’s a Wall Street Journal piece from 2006:
Helicopter parents are going to work. From Vanguard Group and St. Paul Travelers to General Electric and Boeing, managers are getting phone calls from parents asking them to hire their 20-something kids…. Rich Hartnett, director, global staffing, for Boeing, says one hiring manager was very surprised when a recruit brought his mom right into the interview. Enterprise’s Ms. D’Attilio says the mother of another recruit joined a phone call between her and a candidate and began grilling Ms. D’Attilio about benefits. — Sue Shellenbarger
The Fragile Generation.
Let Grow, which incorporated in 2017, has been tracking – and tackling — this infantilization issue for a while. As two of our co-founders wrote in “The Fragile Generation,” the problem has been brewing for at least a generation:
Beginning in the 1980s, American childhood changed. For a variety of reasons—including shifts in parenting norms, new academic expectations, increased regulation, technological advances, and especially a heightened fear of abduction (missing kids on milk cartons made it feel as if this exceedingly rare crime was rampant)—children largely lost the experience of having large swaths of unsupervised time to play, explore, and resolve conflicts on their own. This has left them more fragile, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. — Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt
If young people are arriving at college or work unaccustomed to frustration and misunderstandings, that’s a serious lack of experience. And if they don’t develop the resources to work through obstacles, molehills come to look like mountains.
And job interviews look like Kilimanjaro.
“Helicopter parents” aren’t the problem.
At Let Grow, we don’t blame “helicopter parents” for overprotecting kids. We blame a culture so obsessively risk-averse it is forcing parents to helicopter. That’s why our goal is to get the whole culture to change.
Yup. Big goal. Here’s how we frame it: Constant adult supervision, intervention, and assistance are robbing kids of the experiences that build resourcefulness and resilience. Kids need the chance to be ON THEIR OWN SOMETIMES, playing, roaming, taking risks, getting scrapes, making things happen, and taking responsibility. After all: How can you learn to solve problems if there’s always someone there, solving them FOR you?
How can you grow brave when someone’s always watching over you?
How can you become an adult when someone who gave you birth is calling your boss?
The antidote is childhood independence.
If we want our kids to succeed, we have to start giving them back some independence. At Let Grow, we’re on it! We’re making it easy, normal and legal to do just that. We’ve got independence-building school programs, at-home programs, and social media galore. We’ve got parent outreach and thought leadership. We’ve even got a legal advocacy arm, changing the laws so no one can be charged with neglect just for letting their kids do things like play outside or walk to the store.
It’s great that our culture wants to protect kids from danger! But it has gone too far. Always helping kids is hurting them.
Deep down, today’s parents know that.
And so do bosses.