The Korea Herald


Helicopter parent's questions spark debate online

By Cho Min-jeong

Published : Nov. 14, 2023 - 09:36

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"When my son was in middle and high school, I used to communicate with his teachers via KakaoTalk messages. Is it any different with professors? Did I make a mistake in how I tried to help my son?"

These questions form the gist of a story posted by a mother in an online forum, who tried to find her son's professor's contact information after he missed his midterm exam.

The post, containing simple questions from a mother who appears to be genuinely unaware of any problems on her part, sparked heated reactions.

The mother said her son, a university student, seemed to be upset after the midterm, via an online forum frequently used by women with children.

She said her son had stayed up studying until the early hours of the morning of the exam, but ended up oversleeping and arrived 20 minutes late for the test, so he missed it.

The son blamed himself for missing the exam, but his mother then attempted to take it up with the professor herself.

She went to her son's department office seeking the professor's contact information, but the administration told her such information was private and couldn't be disclosed. She expressed her frustration that she couldn't get in touch with the professor.

Another student who said they were in the office at that time shared a post on Everytime, an anonymous online forum for university students, criticizing the son.

At the same time, the son resented his mother for attempting to approach his professor and claimed he would drop out.

Overall, the reaction to the post was that university students should take responsibility for their actions, as they are not children.

Some respondents suggested that if the mother had not intervened, her son might have learned to manage his time better. Others wrote that retaking the course or the son consulting with the professor directly would have been more appropriate solutions.

This incident isn't the first time parents have tried to get involved in their college-age children's education. Some parents have gone as far as to make requests to department offices to get their children who failed to register for courses into classes.

There have been cases where parents' inquiries about academic changes -- such as a student taking a leave of absence or transferring -- have caused confusion for school administrators.

One university's internal notice instructs students to One university's internal notice instructs students to "please handle academic-related inquiries yourself and not through your parents." (Online forum)

In October, one university's internal notice admonished students to "please handle academic-related inquiries yourself and not through your parents."

"It seems that the predominant cause of these phenomena lies in South Korea's cultural background," said Dr. Ha Ji-hyun of Konkuk University Medical School's department of psychiatry.

"In South Korea, it's common for children not to become independent immediately from their parents upon reaching adulthood. Living with one's parents until marriage is common, and even if one lives separately, many young adults may still rely on their parents for economic support. Such close proximity often indicates that, physically, psychologically and financially, such children haven't achieved full independence, making them still perceived as someone parents need to take care of."

He advised that parents should gradually separate their own identities from those of their children as they grow. Excessive dependency on one's child could lead to inappropriate behavior on the behalf of the parent, even in adulthood.

"Those who have maintained such lifestyle patterns for an extended period are likely to continue similar behavior even after their child enters university and gets a job," he explained.

He also cautioned that such excessive parental support could lead children to think that their parents should naturally take care of everything for them.

Some universities in South Korea have introduced separate online portals exclusively for parents to check their child's activities and submit complaints.