Poosie Orr on Parenting (Traits #1 & #2)

Donald Van de Mark        March 22, 2011

“You want them to have fun! You want them to be able to do what they want to do.”

This is a quote from Poosie Orr, whom I talk about at length in my book, The Good Among the Great. Poosie is a mother to four children and a grandmother to six, all of whom are terrific, independent-minded (Autonomous) people. You could say she’s an expert in raising great kids.

However, Poosie’s parenting style is in many ways the opposite of what we so often see today. She didn’t micromanage her children or worry incessantly over their safety. In fact, when asked how she feels about today’s hovering “helicopter parents,” she responds, “Oh, it makes me cry! Oh, and then they go visit them all the time at college!” Later she goes on to say, about a friend who visits her daughter four times a year at school, “Oh, how awful–for the daughter!”

Here she is, sharing her feelings about modern parenting:

Poosie may be on to a trend.

An August 2010 article in The New York Times talked about parents who have a hard time separating from their college-bound kids. Many literally hover–to the dismay of university staff and faculty. “Moving their students in usually takes a few hours. Moving on? Most deans can tell stories of parents who lingered around campus for days.”

The problem is so widespread, many colleges have taken to kicking parents off campus so students can adjust and begin to make friends.

Formal “hit the road” departure ceremonies are unusual but growing in popularity, said Joyce Holl, head of the National Orientation Directors Association. A more common approach is for colleges to introduce blunt language into drop-off schedules specifying the hour for last hugs. As of 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, for example, the parents of Princeton freshmen learn from the move-in schedule, “subsequent orientation events are intended for students only.”

This is a policy of which I’m sure Poosie would approve.

What do you think of helicopter parenting? Is it necessary in some situations? How about hands-off parenting, Poosie style (or in the style of Maya Angelou’s mother)?  In your experience, which style do you think is more effective in raising independent, successful children? I’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or in my Forum.

Cheers from Sonoma,

Donald Van de Mark

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About the author

Donald Van de Mark
Donald Van de Mark is the author of The Good Among the Great: 19 Traits of the Most Admirable, Creative and Joyous People.

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2 Responses to “Poosie Orr on Parenting (Traits #1 & #2)”

  1. sara says:

    Wow, this is wonderful. Why is independence falling out of style? My mom used to send me into the bank to deposit my own birthday checks starting when I was 8, because she wanted me to know how to do things myself. Half the kids I met in college had no idea how to do their own laundry (in the early 90s). A friend of mine, when he got his first apartment, had no idea how to clean his own bathroom. More than half the kids I meet today are wholly dependent on their parents for everything–literally. Parents of both genders seem to be willingly turning themselves into their children’s slaves.

  2. […] grandmother of six who articulates this kind of enveloping affirmation is Paula (better known as “Poosie”) Orr from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Poosie describes autonomy as has having enough comfort about […]