Helicopter parents turn into stealth bombers and court orders them to stop stalking daughter at college

We read a great deal about college students who are overly dependent on their parents, but 21-year-old Aubrey Ireland contended that she faced the opposite problem –  obsessive parents who secretly monitored her emails and calls, watched her sleep at night via Skype and showed up at her college uninvited to check up on her and speak to her department head.

A court sided with Ireland, ruling that her parents’ behaviors amounted to stalking and ordering them to stay clear of their only child while she was finishing school. Among the parents’ transgressions: Installing monitoring software on her computer and her phone.

A dean’s list music theater major from Kansas, Ireland said she had no choice but to take her parents to court. Outraged, her parents are now attempting to recoup the $66,000 in tuition they paid the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. (The school gave Ireland a scholarship to complete her final year.)

Ireland told “Good Morning America:”  “They basically thought that they were paying for my college tuition and living expenses that they could tell me what to do, who to hang out with … basically control all of my daily life.”

At the court hearing, Ireland’s mother described her daughter as “an only child who was catered to all her life by loving parents. We’re not bothering her. We’re not a problem,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

In a news story on the case and the hearing, Enquirer reporter Kimball Perry wrote:

That’s not what Aubrey Ireland told police last year when they were called to her apartment. The daughter said she was assaulted by her mom who in turn said the daughter assaulted her. The parents became such an issue that the school hired security guards to keep them out of their daughter’s performances. When the parents stopped paying her tuition because she’d cut off all contact with them, the school gave her a full scholarship for her final year.

The college senior decided to seek a civil stalking order to keep her parents away from her after they went to UC and told her college administrators they could seek to have her taken in for mental evaluations. That, the parents noted, ”will attract a lot of publicity,” according to court documents.

She filed a Sept. 24 stalking order against her parents, a case that was heard Oct. 9 and again Dec. 10.

After Common Pleas Court Judge Jody Luebbers asked the sides to work out a settlement moments before the Dec. 10 court hearing started, Julie Ireland told her daughter’s attorney they wanted her to return to them the $66,000 they’d spent on her three years of college tuition.

After an intervention failed when the mediators told the parents they, not their daughter, were the issue, the Irelands said their daughter was ”a good actor and lying.” David Ireland is particularly worried for his daughter ”because of my family history of mental health,” noting he had three first cousins who committed suicide, according to court documents.

Because Aubrey Ireland, who is scheduled to graduate in the spring, is an adult, she is allowed to live her life as she chooses, a judge ruled.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

59 comments Add your comment

Cobb Coach

January 3rd, 2013
8:58 am

Yikes. There’s always someone out there that makes me appreciate my family more and more.

What's Best for Kids?

January 3rd, 2013
9:20 am

I’m on the fence with this. When I was home from university, and my parents said to be home by 1:00, say, then I was home. They paid for my school, and I was still “living under their roof;” however, the snooping is a bit excessive (even though it appears that the young lady’s parents pay for the phone), and I see parents who control too many parts of their kids’ lives.
This is tricky.

Mother of 2

January 3rd, 2013
9:30 am

Wow. What an awful story. I remember missing my older son terribly when he first went away to college. That first year was the toughest on me. We made a deal that we’d try to Skype every weekend, which helped. Now, we rarely hear from him, but I know that he’s happy and moving toward an independent life – and I’m so happy and proud. Those poor parents need help, but they must be willing to admit that they are having trouble and are the cause of the problem – sadly, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I think the family history of mental illness is showing up in the parents.

Mother of 2

January 3rd, 2013
9:41 am

At what’s best: I agree that college kids need to be respectful and mindful of who’s paying the bills. House rules should absolutely apply. Also, college students are expected to behave while in school ( follow the school rules, get good grades, etc). But these parents are truly excessive. Watching their child sleep, insisting on discussing issues with professors, etc are stepping way over the line.

We have stated that certain expectations must be adhered to in order for us to pay for college. I consider our expectations to be pretty high. But I’m mother of the year compared to this young woman’s mother.

Aquagirl

January 3rd, 2013
9:45 am

David Ireland is particularly worried for his daughter ”because of my family history of mental health

Gee Mr. Ireland, we never would have guessed that.

What's best for adults?

January 3rd, 2013
9:46 am

This is not tricky. There is a stark, bold line between respecting your parents and wanting them to not infect your computer with spyware, etc. It’s not like she’s 14. She’s a senior in college for gods sake.

It’s ironic, the dad is worried about a ‘history of mental health’ in the family yet doesn’t recognize that he’s obsessively stalking his daughter.

catlady

January 3rd, 2013
9:46 am

What’s best: Well, of course when you were HOME you honored your parents’ wishes as to what time to come in. You would do the same if you were staying at anyone’s house.

However. this goes millions of miles beyond that! WATCHING HER, MONITORING HER CALLS AND EMAILS!? And then trying to BLACKMAIL her into compliance by threatening to recoup her college tuition? Maybe they should try to get ALL THE MONEY they had spent on her since BIRTH! You know, after the cord was cut.

No, the mental health problems are not the girl’s, although the parents are trying hard to make it so.

My mother was a control freak also, trying (usually successfully) to get her way on all things by threatening to withhold money or love or approval. After a while, you decide you just cannot put up with it anymore, come what may. And you find out you are stronger and more resourceful and smarter than she ever knew. Then mama has to grow up and become an adult.

Kudos to the young woman. May she always make good choices, but when she doesn’t, let her learn from then and move on.

Big Mama

January 3rd, 2013
9:50 am

The parents need a mental health evaluation. Or, at the very least, a hobby that does not involve their daughter. They have a serious passive/aggressive thing going on here…. Do what we want you to or we’ll have you institutionalized!

catlady

January 3rd, 2013
9:51 am

My expectations of my kids in college: Go to class, make good grades, use the resources available to you, have some fun, choose something you really love, keep your name off the police blotter, and GRADUATE IN FOUR YEARS! The two that finished college did just that. Do I want to know about the other stuff? Nope, unless they wanted to tell me.

indigo

January 3rd, 2013
9:57 am

I’ll bet even money those parents are fundamentalist Christians.

DeborahinAthens

January 3rd, 2013
10:10 am

I like the philosophy of the Arawak Indians that settled the Caribbean. At the age of eighteen, or thereabouts, the family built the child a canoe, furnished it with provisions, hugged the kid goodbye and set them off. The understanding was, that if the child returned, they’d kill him. That is one theory about how the area was settled so fast. Both of my sons, now in their thirties, know they can always come home, but I am so proud they are pretty independent. It is hard not to butt into their lives, but my own Mom, whenever I would ask what should I do about something, always said, “that’s your decision.” Best parenting philosophy ever.

Mountain Man

January 3rd, 2013
10:14 am

I think the parents were way overboard here, but I also agree that paying for college gives the parents SOME rights to make demands on their children. If the kid wants to be TRULY free, pay their own way. Don’t complain about the way your parents are treating you for three years while accepting their monetary support, then turn on them. She could have refused to comply with their directives all along (remember, she was eighteen – and an adult) but then they would have cut her off sooner.

Susan

January 3rd, 2013
10:30 am

Maybe her parents were afraid for her safety in Cincinnati – coming from Kansas. News reports (and today, they are reported over and over and over again) show Cinci as a pretty violent place. They could have been acting out of fear – a place the media keeps us all in most of the time.

Dewey Cheatham & Howe

January 3rd, 2013
10:41 am

“I’ll bet even money those parents are fundamentalist Christians.”

…And I’ll go double or nothing that they are lefty Marxist,free love humanists.

See how that works?

RJ

January 3rd, 2013
10:42 am

My parents often monitored my calls at home. I had absolutely no privacy, even as a young adult in college. What happened? I moved out. You raise your kids, then you allow them to live, make mistakes, and have a life. Kudos to this young lady for standing up for herself.

Pride and Joy

January 3rd, 2013
10:52 am

I am, I admit, a little envious of this young woman. WHen you grow up like I did, with parents that don’t give a rip whether you even get out of high school or have shoes that fit your feet, having parents that monitor my email and Skype me sounds comforting.
For those of us that were tossed out on our own — before eighteen — with no canoe and no provisions — these parents sound like they care and someone I would have liked to have been my parents.
This young woman could have had circumstances a lot worse.

Prof

January 3rd, 2013
11:05 am

It sounds as if those parents are doing their best now to ruin their daughter’s adult life after she leaves college.

stooge

January 3rd, 2013
11:13 am

My parents gave my siblings and I enough rope to adjust to new found freedoms and had the power to pull it back when necessary. Other than that I never experienced anything like this. They held the purse strings and my grades were mailed to them before I ever saw them but I was trusted to do what I was supposed to do. These parents are not okay.

bootney farnsworth

January 3rd, 2013
11:15 am

part of the college experience is to begin to stand on your own two feet and make life decisions for yourself.. if they were unwilling to do this, why let her go away to school at all?

these parents are vindictive nutcases. I just hope the damage they’ve done won’t be permanent.

What's Best for Kids?

January 3rd, 2013
11:20 am

Here’s the thing, though: she wanted her independence, but she also wanted her parents to pay for it. I think that the parents are whack, but along with money comes strings.
No, I did not adhere to the 1:00 rule (actually, it was midnight) when I was at school; however, I did have my parents checking the credit card bill; they looked at the phone bill; they had my grades sent straight to them. They were paying for all of it; I think that I owed them to be responsible and respectful of the money that they were dishing out.
As Mountain Man said, if you truly want to be on your own, you have to pay for it.
As I said, I think that this is trickier than we are making it out to be.

bootney farnsworth

January 3rd, 2013
11:21 am

@ catlady

mostly have the same philosophy with a addition: DO NOT GET PREGNANT OR GET SOMEONE PREGNANT.

also, non co-habitating on my dime. if you wanna live with the opposite sex, they pay or you pay.

William Casey

January 3rd, 2013
11:25 am

Those poor parents are neurotic. They obviously have no lives of their own. No excuse for their behavior. Do they expect veto rights on who she marries.

That being said, did the daughter work to pay any of her college expenses or was she a princess? I fear that she is learning one of life’s difficult lessons: money ALWAYS comes with strings, in her case, chains.

Yucky story all around.

catlady

January 3rd, 2013
11:36 am

I do think she should share her grades with her folks. She should do that whether or not they are paying for it. They are her parents; they want to be able to brag about how well she is doing. Does she HAVE to? No.

However, I have a friend whose daughter is 26. She has been in and out of college for 8 years, and he has NO IDEA how many credits she has accumulated, or what her GPA is. She starts a term and then drops out for one reason or another. Meanwhile, although he isn’t paying her tuition, he gives her the use of a car, gas and food money, etc. While I agree she doesn’t HAVE to show him her transcript, he is a fool for not demanding it as a condition of continuing to support her lazy @z. The failing is his for allowing himself to be blackmailed, and hers, for not being honest. I doubt she has taken any classes for the last year or two, just goes off for the day to hang out.

Some of the posters won’t remember this, but “back in the day” college women had to sign out if they were going out for the evening. Their parents could even make a requirement that they could not sign out at all.

V for Vendetta

January 3rd, 2013
12:20 pm

Hmmmm, and we blame video games for kids turning out to be crazy?

catlady

January 3rd, 2013
12:52 pm

Even if the young woman has made mistakes (in her parents’ eyes) before, I just can’t see this. Seems like they want to play the game* “Gotcha!” * see the book “Games People Play” for more on this.

Prof

January 3rd, 2013
12:57 pm

I also wonder how this young music theater major will fare once she graduates. Why did she choose such a major, and what are her future career plans? Why do the parents want her to begin her post-college life so heavily in debt ($66K) when the job market is, shall we say, fairly precarious for music majors, especially if she doesn’t plan to teach?

bootney farnsworth

January 3rd, 2013
1:38 pm

@ prof

it I was guessing, I’d say she’s not gonna do very well. between making a (IMO) poor choice of career, and her parents actively trying to undermine her…

its probably not gonna be pretty

A lifetime of damage

January 3rd, 2013
4:18 pm

It should happen more frequently. Some parents are indeed hazardous to the health of children.

Pamela

January 3rd, 2013
4:24 pm

This is crazy! It’s amazing to me how disrespectful children are. So she got a restraining order against her parents? This is insane. She should be kicked in her face for this foolishness. Her parents may have been overzelous, but they did not deserve this. It says in the bible to honor thy mother and father period! She is not honoring God, His word or her parents in any fashion, form or way. She should be ashamed of herself! What a disgrace! They took care of her..forget the fact that they brought her into this world, took care of her triflin’ behind and she turns around and do this? They should have NOTHING what so ever to do with her triflin’ behind. They need to let her fend for herself. She’s grown. Let her take complete care of herself. If they are paying for anything for her they shouldn’t anymore. To them she should be considered dead! Shameful..just shameful!

Dis Gus Ting

January 3rd, 2013
4:34 pm

Sound like prior Grady HS parents….

(the other) Rodney

January 3rd, 2013
4:36 pm

Certainly her parents were a bit excessive with keeping tabs on her – but – as mine told me, as long as we’re paying for it you do as we say. You get to live your own life when you pay for it.

Full disclosure – this was way back prior to Skype and even cell phones so it was a bit harder for them to really know what was going on BUT I was required to answer my dorm room phone when they called during the week at 10 and I was required to send my grades home each quarter.

Seems a balance should have been struck between the parents and this girl long before it got to this point but I bet neither was willing to give in a little – she wanted total freedom and they wanted total access. Both parties are at fault.

ActING!

January 3rd, 2013
4:39 pm

Actually, there will likely be plenty of opportunities available for this young theatre major after graduation. Being a theatre, music or art major does NOT doom you to a life of poverty and destitution since the arts teach many skills that can be used in a wide variety of professions. I know plenty of former theatre, music, and art majors who have done quite well for themselves after college, many of them in their chosen fields. Additionally, studies show that students who study the arts tend to do better academically. Please support the arts in your local schools!

Debdoes

January 3rd, 2013
4:48 pm

Psycho! I’m forwarding to my daughter now so she will know how lucky she is to have me as a parent and not those guys! Ha!

Beverly Fraud

January 3rd, 2013
4:54 pm

And these (the parents) are, by by logical definition, the type of people who we will entrust to help determine if public school teachers are “competent”.

How heartening.

Ole Guy

January 3rd, 2013
5:34 pm

Aubrey, believe it or not, family is not always what it’s cracked up to be. YOU ARE THE DAUGHTER OF CAUSTIC PARENTS; you MUST establish yourself, in their eyes…face-to-face; nose-to-nose…that you are to BE LEFT ALONE. If this places your college tuition at risk, so be it. Take it from me, they will persist in this behavior while you’re at college, on the job, and in your personal life after you’ve formed your own family. NOTHING will meet with their approval; they will make this very much known to you, and your life will be hell…UNTIL/UNLESS you set them straight HERE AND NOW.

Never mind the court orders…this will not deter their conception of “loving parents”. The ONLY thing…the only effective thing you can do, at this point, is prepare for battle, and go for it. Tell them exactly where you stand. There will be tears all around; much knashing of teeth, etc, but ya simply gotta do it…or allow your life to get steamrolled at every twist and turn.

Alch

January 3rd, 2013
5:41 pm

Helicopter parents? They are black hawk parents.

There are many more out there, not to this extreme, but there are many more. Parents need to let the children grow up! So many mothers, especially, do not let their sons even speak. For online courses, I often wonder if the parents are taking the exams too.

marm

January 3rd, 2013
5:50 pm

Why are some of you criticizing the child? How many of you would have appreaciated your parents reading you stuff and watching you sleep, really? And as to the comment about her major, why is it in vogue to bash someone for wanting a career in the arts. Sounds like a little green envy to me. Good for her I say.

prettygurl1908

January 3rd, 2013
6:04 pm

@ Alch,…..OMG! That is too funny! However, on a serious tip, those parents went above and beyond what is normal. Yes, they paid the bill; however, to use spyware to monitor her every move? Who has time for that kind of a life? I just told my 20 year old daughter about the article and she looked at me and laugh. She told me, “mama, that could never be you because for 1. you are not going to miss your sleep to watch anyone else sleep….2. you could never monitor our phone calls because you are too busy talking on the phone yourself….and 3. you are crazy, but you are not that crazy.” Financial support does not mean I get to control what time you use the restroom, brush your teeth, or anything else.

mountain man

January 3rd, 2013
6:05 pm

“Why are some of you criticizing the child?”

Because she took the abuse for three years while taking their money. I think she really wanted to “eat her cake and have it, too”. She wanted absolute freedom AND have her parents pay for her education. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. As someone says – money ALWAYS comes with strings attached. Either take the strings, or don’t take the money.

mountain man

January 3rd, 2013
6:06 pm

A good question is: if the school had not given her the scholarship, would she have pressed her court case, knowing she would have to get a job to pay for her living and education expenses?

Logical Dad

January 3rd, 2013
6:11 pm

These are truly, awfiul, mentalyl disturbed parents. I weep for the children of anyone who defends these stains on society They deserve to do jail time for their aggravated stalking (say, in custody until the day after their daughter’s graduation. That sounds fair. They should LOVE being treated by prison guards like they treated their own daughter.)

mountain man

January 3rd, 2013
7:26 pm

“How many of you would have appreaciated your parents reading you stuff and watching you sleep, really?”

I doubt that they were “watching her sleep” – I am sure they were just checking to see that she was alone in the bed. Yes, this was over-the-top behavior for parents, but the daughter should have just declared her independence – by rejecting her parent’s money. The part about threatening to have her committed was just a bluff – maybe, unless there was a chance that a judge would actually find her incompetent. Just call the bluff and go on with your life, and let your parents keep their money.

Big Mama

January 3rd, 2013
8:07 pm

With all due respect Mountain Man, I suspect she tolerated their control for 3 years because that was the way she was raised and what she was use to expecting from them. Sometimes it takes moving away from your parents to realize how crazy they are. These are not the normal concerned parents. They are control freaks on steroids.

Dewey Cheatham & Howe

January 3rd, 2013
9:20 pm

“And these (the parents) are, by by logical definition, the type of people who we will entrust to help determine if public school teachers are “competent”.

…Or we could entrust that function to people like Beverly Hall. I’m sure she would do a better job,don’t you agree? She’s an “education professional” like yourself.

Retire the trophy.The dumbest comment ever.

Lee

January 3rd, 2013
9:20 pm

From the extraordinary steps the college has taken, it is a safe bet that these parents are nutjobs. Hate to say it, but this young lady may have to cut ties with the parental units and go live her life.

She wont be the first – or the last – to do so.

Logical Dad

January 3rd, 2013
9:26 pm

DC&H, what on earth are you talking about? Do they have satellite TV in the world you live in? You win the award for dumbest (or drunkest) comment “ever.” Congrats!

Dawn

January 3rd, 2013
9:37 pm

I didn’t see any clear evidence that her parents were “stalking” her. If they pay the bills, they make the rules. If they bought the computer and pay for her apartment, phone, and Internet, they get to see what she’s doing. Sorry. It sounds like she’s a spoiled, selfish, entitled little girl who wants to party and play around without mommy and daddy seeing what she’s up to, only she wants them to foot the bill. As for them “watching her sleep,” maybe they just want to ensure she’s not screwing every guy on campus or that she’s safe. I think she should have to repay every cent of the tuition.

William Casey

January 3rd, 2013
10:20 pm

Dawn, please don’t procreate. LOL

Beverly Fraud

January 4th, 2013
5:54 am

Dewey Cheatham & Howe…it’s time for you to Get Schooled

It’s a given that systemic stupidity abounds. Still, if parents are allowed to evaluate teachers, that means one, by logical definition cannot exclude any of the parents in the room. (Reread that Dewey, so it fully soaks in.)

Which means Dewey by logical definition along with parents who may be well versed in what good teaching constitutes, you will be allowing mentally disabled parents, substance abusing parents, absent parents as well as others wholly unqualified to make meaningful evaluations decide the professional competency of teachers.

And Dewey you see no problem with that? Not only do you see no problem with that, you think pointing that logical consequence of policy out constitutes “the dumbest quote ever”?

Dewey, you’re in over your head. Recognize that, and you’ll likely spare yourself further embarrassment.

You’re dismissed.

Slo Pony Dog Food Company

January 4th, 2013
8:35 am

Beverly, I stand by my assertion. If you’re a teacher,all of our tax money (and your education) have been utterly wasted.You shouldn’t be allowed around children,sharp objects or public discussion.Other than that,you’re probably a pretty nice person.

You’re not dismissed. You will be required to stay and write

“I will not assume things about others because it fits my warped world view” 100 times.