What’s In a Name? The Value of Name-calling

We all grew up being taught that name-calling is bad.  We probably taught our children the same thing.  We’re not suggesting that we change our basic principles.  Name-calling, labeling, is almost always based on a generalization and stereotype and we need to value and respect people as individuals — and so should our children.

However, some of the labels that are sometimes given to groups of people often have a grain of truth in them.  While we don’t necessarily want to totally accept and believe them, or perpetuate them, holding the mirror up and questioning whether there is truth in them may be helpful.

Consider some of the labels below that have been given to us as parents, and to our generation of children — the current college student generation.  While we admit that some are extreme, the label comes from somewhere.  Understanding the label and confronting it may be the first step toward addressing an issue — and defining a new identity for us and for our students.

Who are college parents?

Helicopter parents  – probably the most well-known label, these parents hover over their children ready to swoop in when their child has a problem or struggles. Some of the more aggressive helicopter parents are sometimes labeled Blackhawk parents.

Snow plow parents — these parents clear the way and smooth the path for their students.

Lawn mower parents — even more aggressive than snow plow parents, these parents mow down anything (or anyone) that might get in their student’s way.

Bulldozer parents — if a lawn mower isn’t enough to clear that path, a bulldozer will certainly do the trick.  A bulldozer can clear a whole forest if necessary.

Submarine parents — unlike the helicopter parents, who obviously hover over their children, these parents travel below the surface, periscope up — and are ready to surface and attack at the first sign of trouble.

Velcro parents — these parents stick to their kids and feel they are required to hold things together.

Hothouse parents — these parents force their students to bloom early and create children who may not be able to survive outside of a protected environment.

Volcano parents — these parents are especially explosive.  Don’t get in their way.


Who are our college students?

Millennial generation —these students, born after 1982, are confident, self-expressive, high-achieving and upbeat.  They are also sheltered, pressured, and feel they are unique and special.

Kidults  — these students between the ages of 18-27 are no longer adolescents, but they are not yet adults.  They are in a new lifestage often called emerging adulthood. These students are self-focused, in transition, hopeful about their future, and busy exploring their identity.  One day they feel like adults and the next day they long for childhood.

Trophy kids — these students received trophies for everything in which they participated while growing up.  Participation alone made you a winner and no one ever lost.

Boomerang kids — these are the students who left home, possibly to attend college, and then returned to live with their parents again (which is often a factor in why they fit the label of kidults).  They need to navigate their new role in the family.

Teacups — good china teacups are lovely, but they are fragile and easily breakable.  If a good cup has a chip or crack, it is flawed.  These students have been protected all their lives and are fragile and sensitive.

Crispies or toasties — Crisp because they are burned out, these students spent many of their earlier years driving forward and seeking to excel.  They are worn out.

Turtles — like their animal counterparts, these students retreat into their shells at the slightest sign of trouble.  They are slow and passionless.

Tightrope generation — these are the students of contradiction who can fall in either direction.  They are in a hurry to grow up, but more dependent on adults than earlier generations.  They are global citizens, but know little about other cultures.  They are constantly in touch with others electronically, but have difficulty with personal communication.  They are truly digital natives in a world that has not yet caught up with them.  (For more see the book Generation on a Tightrope by Arthur Levine and Diane Dean)

Do any of these names ring true for you?  Do you see yourself, or your student, here anywhere?  The point, of course, is not so much whether we completely agree with these identifiers, but whether they cause us to think about who we are and how we act, who our children are and what we can do to help them succeed.  Are there names we’ve missed?

Related Posts:

Affirming Helicopter Parents: A Look in the Mirror

Getting to Know Your Emerging Adult College Student

Book Review: Emerging Adulthood by Dr. Jeffrey Arnett

Is Your College Student a Member of the Apathy Generation?

A Picture of College Parenting

Is Your College Student Stressed?  Probably.



2 thoughts on “What’s In a Name? The Value of Name-calling”

  1. Really interesting observation, Craig. You are right that the common thread through all of these parent labels is helping their children. They are all well intentioned, if sometimes misdirected. It is true that this generation of parents, more than earlier generations, defines its success through the successes of our children, but most parents want the best for their children. We just need to remind ourselves of the ultimate goal for those children (happiness? independence? self-sufficiency?) and educate ourselves about how we can best help them to achieve that goal. A pretty big task and not always as easy as it sounds.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment on a tough issue.

  2. All of the parent labels imply helping students…. some are much more extreme than others, but all are rooted in the assumption that the parent will bail kids out of trouble. Some presumptuously and others clandestinely, but all help.

    But whose success are these parents after? The success of their student or the success of themselves as a parent?



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