Mitch Daniel, President of Purdue, shared anecdotes from college moms in The Washington Post. While we love involved parents, we encourage smart involvement and communicating with your student before contacting campus staff. After all, there is no better time than college to start treating your offspring as a team member rather than a child.
For examples of how to make the parenting switch, we took three of the scenarios mentioned and offered a way “Mom Mowers” can become part of parent student teams to get the same thing accomplished:
Scenario One: Demanding organic food
Daniels mentioned the mom “who insisted, without ever providing any documentation, that her child was allergic to all nonorganic food. She ordered food multiple times a week, accompanied by specially selected spices, and had it delivered to our dining courts with a demand that the staff cook it separately for him, to her specs.” The mom succeeded with this plan for a year.
Alternative: The mom and student talk with an on campus nutritionist about the food that’s served and what’s healthiest for them. Then, they can work within what’s offered and not pay for extra food in addition to potential meal plan prices. The second option is ordering chef-prepared food sent to the dorm and possibly paying less than meal plan prices.
Scenario Two: Secret mold and dorm condition concerns
Daniels mentioned “the mom who wrote and called eight times to complain about her daughter’s accommodations. She was sure there was mold (the test she ordered came back negative) and that the water was tainted (she sent it out for tests — negative again). The oven handle was loose. (Has the college student tried using a screwdriver?)”
Alternative: The mom may not be treated seriously when a real problem happens with on campus housing. Instead, coordinate a dorm room visit with your student, maintenance, and a resident advisor to discuss cleaning and other housing conditions. Give the student a checklist of things to look for that demonstrate there is a health safety concern and let them know how to report it.
Scenario Three: School safety
Daniels mentioned general advice offered by parents on safety such as “adding streetlights or other measures to enhance physical security — on a campus found every year to be one of the safest in the nation. After the university acceded to one mother’s demands and moved her daughter to different housing, she continued to complain on behalf of other people’s children who apparently hadn’t realized the extent of their own jeopardy.”
Alternative: Review campus safety reports and procedures with your student. For instance, students should know where buttons are on campus for signaling a need for help, what numbers to dial, and where to seek shelter if encountering a dangerous situation on campus. All parents should get an emergency contact number for a friend or roommate.
Involved parents are amazing. Now, it’s time to think about how to be a supportive parent to your adult offspring. You’ll get more accomplished on campus, and they’ll have a better chance of surviving as a confident college graduate in the future.