Most of the nation is aware of the recent college admissions scandal – and an overwhelming majority are shaking their heads. It feels like a blatant case of entitlement, but there is something more to consider.
A new way of parenting is on the rise, and while the parents’ overall intentions may be good, the results are often negative. Within this new over-involved, overprotective parenting style are two sub-styles: The helicopter parent and the snowplow parent. They are similar in many ways, and both lead to future problems.
Stripping away childhood one essential character-building skill at a time
How often do you hear adults reminiscing about the good old days – their idyllic childhoods, where they played outside for hours, barefoot and free with the neighborhood kids all summer long? And why aren’t those people allowing their children to do the same thing?
Instead, a growing number of parents tend to help their kids on the playground rather than letting them learn from their peers. They enroll them in time-consuming elite sports and enrichment activities, even as early as preschool. They stick a tablet in their hand with learning apps, rather than teaching them the art of play. All of these things have a long-term affect.
Research reveals that old-fashioned play is essential, and teaches critical skills needed in adulthood. The same is true of boredom, imaginative play, mistakes, failure, and undirected socialization. Simply said, there is a need to remove today’s overwhelming structure and just let kids be kids.
The other thing research is finding is a rise in anxiety, stress, and even more alarming, suicide. That’s in addition to obesity. When you look at the cold, hard facts, what is happening with kids today isn’t working.
Where helicopter and snowplow parenting fit in
It’s not always easy to recognize when you’ve fallen into a trap. You may judge another parent for “hovering” or “pushing,” but are you guilty of it yourself? Many modern parents are doing these things on some level. It helps to understand what helicopter and snowplow parenting are so you can adjust and avoid said trap.
- Helicopter parenting – The act of hovering over your child’s every move. You constantly direct, dictate, involve yourself; often with your child’s success in mind.
- Snowplow parenting – Snowplow parenting includes many of the attributes of helicopter parenting, but it takes it to a deeper level; these parents will force obstacles out of their children’s way to ensure their success, primarily in an academic setting. For example, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get them into a particular college and employing deceptive tactics to do so.
Are you robbing your kids of their childhood?
There is already a quote about paving roads with good intentions, which is why it is crucial that you look at your actions. Here are some examples and consequences of over-involved parenting styles.
- Susan can’t stand to see her daughter’s feelings get hurt. She feels she’s an exceptionally sensitive child. While volunteering in her daughter’s 1st-grade classroom, she sees another girl say something unintentionally hurtful about her daughter’s outfit. She can see it causes her daughter distress, so she immediately walks over and tells the little girl she is unkind and needs to apologize. More, Susan doesn’t want her daughter to have a negative day, so she takes her out for ice cream after school and sympathizes about how unkind the other little girl is, and that she should find nicer girls to play with. Susan has effectively shielded her child from hurt feelings, which are essential for developing coping skills. She took over, rather than giving her daughter the opportunity to work it out herself, or even have a conversation about how she could handle it next time. Her daughter has missed out on developing her social skills. Lastly, she has given the message that others will take care of your problems; that her daughter doesn’t need to.
- Mark’s son doesn’t like the piano. He dreams of playing trombone. Mark feels there’s more success potential in piano, plus he has some contacts that could get his son into an elite local music program, one that doesn’t cater to trombone players, but will help kids get noticed by college music departments. He tells his son that the trombone won’t be helpful for his future, but that piano will. He also decides maybe more time spent on piano will convince his son, so he increases lessons to three times a week, and cancels his one afternoon of downtime. Mark’s son is given the message that his passions aren’t important, and that “success” should be the primary goal. He develops anxiety around piano. It doesn’t feel natural, but he’s worried his dad won’t love him if he isn’t good enough. Lastly, coupled with sleep problems, and no time for friends or free play, he sinks into a depression that leads him to trying to find ways to numb his overwhelming feelings.
These may be extreme examples, but here are some warning signs that you may be a parent succumbing to the modern social pressure to get your kid ahead:
- Your kids complain because they have no time at home, or they don’t like a particular lesson, class, sport, or camp you insist they keep taking
- You don’t let your child help with everyday tasks (cleaning, cooking, etc.)
- You answer when someone asks your child a question
- You call another parent and try and control a conflict between their child and yours
- You stress about your child going on a field trip if you aren’t there
- You don’t let your child make their own choices, or battle the little things (like the way they fix their hair or what they’re wearing)
- You do everything to prevent your child from failing at something
The most successful kids are raised by parents who…
Most people want the best for their children, but that doesn’t always look the way you want or expect it to. Research shows that by doing the following, you are giving your child the tools to create their own success:
- Listen: Find out what your child wants, don’t push your passions on them. Do things that support their growth and independence.
- Avoid stepping in too often: If you take over constantly, it’s time to dial it back. Let them struggle and stand up for themselves.
- Let them fail and experience consequences: Unless it has life-altering or detrimental consequences, or something is truly unfair, let your kids mess up.
- Let them find solutions: Encourage your children to figure out solutions for their problems. You can guide, but don’t push.
- Understand their strengths and weaknesses: There is no shame in weaknesses, and kids can learn to use their strengths. But not if you don’t identify them.
- Don’t teach your children they are the exception: Entitlement attitudes stem from believing you should be treated differently from other people.
Fostering accountability and social skills, and letting your children fail then pick themselves up and make their own destiny are keys to a healthy adulthood.