The Helicopter Parenting Paying For College FINAL SHOWDOWN (or, Part 3)

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Our beloved cousin-bloggers, Penny and Rich, have been bickering over whether or not Rich’s “legacy plan” to pay for his kids’ college is just a form of helicopter parenting.

In Part 1 of this Blogchat Debate CAGE MATCH, they discussed controlling vs. planning, manual labor, learning for the sake of learning, and the value of a degree.

In Part 2 of this awkward family debate, they discussed learning in and out of the college system, autonomy, and if someone can make these choices at age 18.

And NOW, the final showdown …

RICH is in blue, and PENNY is in red.  


wouldn’t it be great for you to have received college support? you wrote eloquently about receiving food support, and your mom helping you obtain a mortgage, but why wouldn’t this also be true, even more so, of your parents or family helping you earlier in life as you’re figuring out college and career and what you want to do with your life?

This is a great question! I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and here is why I am still not on board with funding our kids education. It comes down to indebtedness and control. Isn’t that the whole argument against government support? Because when people rely on the government for support then the government can control them?

I don’t feel particularly indebted to the government (in getting our food support), but let’s compare this to the scholarship that we get for the private school that we send our kids to. We definitely feel indebted to them there. My husband and I have talked about how after the kids move on from that school, we still plan on donating money there. 1) We like the school and it’s mission and we want to support it, and 2) We want to make up the money that they gave to us.

With this indebtedness, I also feel like I don’t have the right to have much a voice at the school. I feel grateful just that they let us be there, and, although I do agree with the majority of the stuff that the school does, I don’t feel like I would have the right to voice my opinion if I didn’t, since we’re not paying full price to be there.

And while we can be grateful for the support that we receive, I think that comparison can be made to funding our kids’ college education as well. I want to make sure that their voice is the one they’re following. I want to make sure they feel like they’re in complete control (as part of that whole autonomy thing that I talked about).

I don’t understand this at all 🙂

Do you really not understand? ///

Well, I don’t understand the diff bt your very eloquent giving and receiving point of view, and why wouldn’t that apply to you with your kids? So you’ll give to a charity so the kids in the charity can go to college or something? But not your own kids?

Well, the gratitude part holds true in receiving, but, as I elaborated, it does come at a price. Sure, we can still be grateful for whatever we receive, but it does come with a “loss of a voice”. So, if you’re funding your kids education, they don’t have total control over it, they get their voice squashed a bit. (Also, I would not give to charity so the kids in charity can go to college. I give to charity so the kids in charity can have their basic needs met, like eating and having access to clean drinking water and stuff.)///

Sure, but that just assumes the people receiving charity stay forever dependent. The whole goal of charity is that people can stop being dependent on charity (or support, or outside assistance, or whatever) and get their lives together (like going to college!). Help from government and help from a school is the same to me, it’s just you don’t see the government every day. And wouldn’t it be nice if you could pay full tuition and thus have a voice at school? 

Sure. (And I’m saying that I don’t *feel* it with the government so much, which is why I used the school as an example, since I felt it more personally. But, yes, support is support. I know.)

Just to clear this up again, I never said I would pick my kids’ school or tell them what to study. What I’m trying to say is that in practical terms, providing no money means they won’t have as many choices. It’s about tilting the odds in their favor, but they could always be beach bums I guess if they were dead set on it. and one of them seems a bit inclined to the beach part if not the bum part.

If you want to be a bum, do it here.

is your mom a helicopter parent for helping with your mortgage? She should let you do it!

My mom doesn’t help pay our mortgage and didn’t put any money into our house, all she did was sign a paper. And it is kind of weird having her on the mortgage because then we don’t have total control over it. Again… grateful, but a loss of control. ///

Right, exactly. So we sort of agree here. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m trying to live out this example of self-sufficiency as an adult, and the best way to get my kids on that path is for them to go to college and find a career. but at this point i feel like my family has high autonomy and independence … so shouldn’t we win the argument?


Ha ha great.


A question for you: In your post you mentioned that “The desire I have to provide this, as a parent, is a deep core value. Very deep. As in self-determination key to happiness philosophy of life center of the earth stick it on my grave stone deep.” – Why do you think this is? What do you think it stems from? Is it wanting to avoid shame? A fear of vulnerability?

I find it curious that you think this core value might come from something negative. To me it’s all positive. I won’t repeat all I’ve written about self-determination and my philosophy of life, but being able to support oneself, for most people, is very satisfying. Same for being able to provide for one’s family. I think my kids will have the best chance of supporting themselves and their families (rather than debt, food support, and us signing for a mortgage) if they go to college and get good jobs. No?

Yes, I guess my response was curious. I guess I can see how it can be positive. Maybe it was because of your passionate response, the “center of the earth stick it on my grave stone deep” that made me think of the negative aspects of it. I don’t know. It was just so final and definite and no room for another way of thinking.

Do you see *any* negative aspects to it? Or is it 100% positive?

Yes that was passionate. Well, that part of it was more about wanting to support myself and I do feel pretty strongly. I think the negative aspect would only be internal. I mean, if there was a catastrophe and we became financially dependent, I would feel like I had let them down by not being prepared, because the reality is I have very little reason to let our family struggle financially considering our advantages in life and my income. So, I’d feel like wow, I’m smart, I have a good job, I screwed up here.

Yeah, but you had those beliefs even before you had a great job. It seems to be something ingrained within you.

Ahh. Wouldn’t you say most people feel this way?

I think it is definitely a male perspective. Remember that book Men are from Mars

Mrs. Rich would feel the same I think. 

And Mr. Penny would probably feel the same way as me. I guess this goes back to different temperaments and level of ambition and stuff? I dunno.

I do think you are rather unique in your contentment! Compliment. Are you the oddball? No offense?

I don’t actually feel like we’re NOT doing a good job of supporting ourselves. As I said before, we could get by without food support, we take it because it’s there. We could get by without a private school, etc. I feel like we are doing a good job, so it’s weird thinking of ourselves like this. In a sense, it’s true, but that’s not the whole story. You and the government are the ones telling us that we’re poor. We think we’re doing alright. And we are actually perfectly fine with the amount of money that we’re making right now, even if we end up making this amount for the rest of our lives. It is enough for us. It is not a goal for us to make a lot of money. As I’m constantly saying, life is about so much more than money and work and debt.

I agree that you are supporting yourself in the day to day, but it doesn’t seem a value to … I guess strive for financial security. Maybe that’s the term I’m looking for.

Yes, that is true.

And I don’t think you’re necessarily poor. The words “rich” and “poor” are thrown around but they’re subjective, relative. I’d say you’re not financially secure. I’m financially secure, but to say i’m rich is also debatable. ///

My final point on this: people I know who can’t support themselves are mostly miserable. Another reason to avoid it.

it’s true that people you can’t support themselves seem miserable. I guess I don’t know a lot of people who can’t support themselves.


I had one other thing to share, about money left to your kids.

Keep in mind, a living trust is not the same as a trust fund. But ok, go.

My mom was asking me if we wanted money left to us after she died. I said no, and that it was her money, and that she should spend it as she wants.

/// You are sometimes super silly. ///

My sister said yes, she wanted money. There’s this book called “Die Broke” that I’m interested in reading. I like the idea. I’m not expecting to get money from my parents, nor do I really want or care if I get any. And, in leaving money to our kids, I don’t plan on it. I’d rather the money went to someone who would need it more than the would (like starving people and stuff). ///

I guess here’s the thing. WHY CAN’T YOUR KIDS NEED IT? 

Because they would be financially independent. 😉 ///

You have a strong notion to give and receive in the abstract, like “starving people”, but when it comes to your own family it’s no biggie. Do you know what most starving families would want?  The chance to get a degree and get a job to support themselves!  Right?

Yes. But my kids would already have that, by nature of their place in the world they were born in.

/// // Hmmm Perhaps. But it’s going to be a hard road if they can’t afford college.

I disagree. Our road hasn’t been *hard*.

it’s fascinating to me that you don’t want extra help from your mom but you’re thankful for extra help from food support and school but you don’t want to give extra help to your kids so they won’t need extra help in the future. i can’t figure it out. wouldn’t it be better for a bigger dose of help so in the future neither you nor your kids will need extra help?

Sure, I would accept extra help from my mom when she dies, but I want her to know that I don’t expect it. I do want her to be able to enjoy it for herself. Isn’t that a good thing? Don’t you want the same for your mom? I’m sorry, but none of this is just that important to me. It’s the “everything is going to be okay” mentality that I have. I don’t worry / plan / have concern for all this stuff like you do. That’s just the way it is.

Of course I want my mom to enjoy herself, but I don’t need her money. I’m self-sufficient and could actually give her money if I needed to. That’s the positive generational cycle at work.

Well ok. I do think we’ve discovered a major difference which is i’m more concerned about the end result which is staying out of a cycle of indebtedness, whereas you are laser focused on the process and let the chips fall where they may.


Well time to wrap up. Bringing it full circle, i would like your response to one thing i had meant to include in this helicopter discussion, which is that isn’t the traditional view of a helicopter parent someone who hovers over their young children, like not letting them climb trees and sheltering them and such? i’ve seen this, and i’m not this. 

my kids are natural risk takers. most kids are, but even their teachers give them special credit for this. probably after they scaled the wall of the school and needed the security guards to get them down because they were too high for the teachers. or when one of them removed the stinger from a bee … and stung another kid with it, just to see what would happen. 

you ever read Calvin and Hobbes?  That calvin is just like my kids. they love his antics. i think it’s a great parenting book for getting inside the mind of a young boy.

we play with tools. we explore foreign countries. we make fires in the fire pit and cook with hot pans and cut with real scissors. 

is there anything i’m missing in this helicopter idea?

 I think that covers the traditional view of helicopter parenting at a younger age. I think it looks different as the kids get older, like, in terms of overseeing their grades. I’ve heard stories from teachers having to discipline the child, and the parent comes in and defends and believes what the kid does, without listening to the teacher.

Do you mean the Calvin and Hobbes comic books? Or is there a different book. I’ve read the comics.

A good parenting book to read, kind of in line with what we’ve been talking about, would be The Gardener and the Carpenter. I haven’t read it yet, but read the description on what it’s about.

Oh I wasn’t looking for anything. I think I just wanted to express a distinction between hovering over a kid on the playground and wanting them to go to college or setting expectations for grades. I don’t lump those together as the same type of thing. 
What you’re describing is extreme to me. I’d be the opposite — the student is responsible for his grades and I’d normally side with the teacher. My view would be to help the kid with study habits if needed, but it’s up to them to do the work. 

I could be wrong but do you think you are lumping all these things together as helicoptering? 

Yes, I’m lumping them together, but it’s just a bit different as they get older.

END OF BLOGCHAT … who won the debate?


5 Replies to “The Helicopter Parenting Paying For College FINAL SHOWDOWN (or, Part 3)”

  1. I guess it all boils down to whether someone values self-determination or not. I equate it with true freedom, and the absence of control over my decisions.

    As it pertains to kids, they are a parent’s responsibility until they are adults, so by definition lack self-determination until the time they can be on their own. All a parent can do is maximize their chances of becoming self-sufficient, assuming of course that’s their core value to begin with.

    Thanks for another fun exchange!
    Max Your Freedom recently posted…Why you’re not being Promoted at WorkMy Profile

    1. I guess where I end up is that a parent could practice all the methods of encouraging independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency … and still help pay simply to avoid debt. Money doesn’t need to enter the philosophical realm — money won’t crack the books and won’t write the papers. It’s a transaction to avoid student loans. Right?
      Rich @ recently posted…Rich’s Plan To Build A Generational Family Legacy. Uh, Yeah, In 3 Easy Steps!My Profile

  2. I think it’s really interesting that you all are cousins but have such divergent views. I wonder if your other cousins have weighed in to share their points of view. It’d be interesting to hear what all of them thought about this as well 🙂

    1. Good point — well when it comes to the value of higher ed, I’m not sure where the entire extended family comes out, but I can say in my family (6 kids), we all have advanced degrees (Master’s minimum) and have careers, autonomy, etc. It doesn’t lead to perfect happiness but takes a lot of misery off the table.
      Rich @ recently posted…Are Stocks In A Bubble? And Why Do Engineers Retire Early? — Rich’s RamblingsMy Profile

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