But what happens when that worry and involvement extend across all aspects of the child's life from playground through college? How involved are Moms in their children's decisions? Do Moms see themselves as helpmates or are they the harmful hovercraft often characterized in the media?
Authors Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay coined the phrase "helicopter parent" in their 1990 book, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. The general press picked up the phrase in early 2000 as college admission officers and deans complained of over-involved parents calling them to check on the status of an application or to complain about a student's grade.
At our agency, we wanted to know more about how Mom views her parenting style and how she links this parenting style to beliefs about her child's success.
In December 2009, we interviewed 795 Moms to assess their views of their parenting styles and behaviors. Some highlights from this report:
While 89% of Moms say failure is healthy for their child, 40% would use a magic wand to keep their child from failing.
Worries about safety extend well beyond the playground and backyard, and 47% of Moms indicated they spy on their children's electronic accounts (mobile texting, email, Facebook) to make sure everything is okay.
One out of every four Moms states she needs to be involved in everything her child does. Among Moms of older, college-bound or college-age kids, 48% feel anxious about their children making decisions on their own and 27% worry that their child will not make the right decisions unless Mom is there to help every step of the way. This involvement continues well into the college years with 33% of Moms helping college-age kids pick their classes.
Implications for Marketers
Mom's influence in family decision-making extends over a broad range of products and services, positioning her as key problem-solver within the family. Though being involved in every decision her child makes may seem to her a natural extension of that position, it instead transforms her from "helpmate" to "helicopter parent."
Fueled by feelings of anxiety and worry, Mom believes she must be constantly connected and "in-control" of her children, in order to be considered a "good parent" and keep her children safe. Marketers who consider this important family dynamic when marketing to Moms may find Moms more receptive to the brand.
Marketers need to consider what is missing. Some common thought-starter questions:
We're not suggesting that marketers teach parenting skills. Just be attuned to what is going on in a consumer's life. Provide a context for how the product may fit into Moms' and kids' busy lives and demonstrate value.
When marketing to older kids, provide tools that enable the child to gain insight and information that help the child participate in the decision-making process. Don't know what these tools might be? Ask a Mom. Ask her child. Ask your customers to innovate with you.