“I’m so frustrated the schools don’t want me there.”
To the chagrin of some, a school district in Connecticut has prohibited parents from hovering over their children during lunch breaks.
Parents in recent years have taken the helicopter approach to the next level, refusing to let their kids eat their school lunch on their own, lest they are forced to (god forbid!) engage in some social interactions with fellow students.
According to a September report by the nonprofit “Child Trends,” the presence of parents around their kids during school hours has reached an all-time high. “In 2016, the percentages of students whose parents reported attending a general meeting at their child’s school, a parent-teacher conference, or a school or class event reached their highest recorded levels,” the report states.
So pervasive has this phenomenon become in Darien, a small, affluent Connecticut town, that the school board has decided to ban parents from the school cafeteria altogether.
“It feels like a punch in the gut,” Jessica Xu, the parent of a first-grader, told The Associated Press last week. “I chose the town for the schools. I’m so frustrated the schools don’t want me there.”
Xu noted that before the new regulation she used to see 6-7 parents on average chumming with their kids in the lunchroom.
Other wealthy school districts around the country told the Associated Press that they’ve been facing a similar problem and consider implementing their own regulations.
“It’s about managing the numbers in the school,” one Oregon school district spokesperson told the AP. “You just can’t have parents hanging out at the school, just watching.”
This concern is almost exclusive to wealthier municipalities in which parents are able to take time off to be with their kids in school during the day.
For some parents, these midday liaisons are a chance to influence their children’s social life, according to The Atlantic.
“The parents would bring pizza for some students and not others,” one Connecticut middle school teacher told The Atlantic, under promise of anonymity. “It became a little bit of a circus and I do remember feeling like it was disruptive instead of being just a sweet lunch between just the mom and the kid.”
Of a particular mom the teacher said, “I think she was using lunch to try to buy her daughter friends.”
And indeed, some parents want to see schools reasserting their borders. Beth Lane, a Darien mom, told The AP she believes the new parent-ban will give children the space they need to connect with each other.
“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.
Academics agree. The prevalence of over-involved parenting has been criticized by many social psychologists and educators for potentially stunting the emotional development of children, and even harming the kids’ education by not giving teachers enough freedom to do their job.