The preponderance of "helicopter parents" who sidle up to their kids in an attempt to prevent every negative thing from happening to them appears to be — pardon the passe expression — old school.
Now we have "snowplow parents," the New York Times reported, who are like "machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child's path to success, so they don't have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities."
It's the legal form of the recent college bribery scandal, the paper noted, and often goes hand in hand with affluence.
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It starts early, when parents get on wait lists for elite preschools before their babies are born and try to make sure their toddlers are never compelled to do anything that may frustrate them. It gets more intense when school starts: running a forgotten assignment to school or calling a coach to request that their child make the team.
Later, it's writing them an excuse if they procrastinate on schoolwork, paying a college counselor thousands of dollars to perfect their applications or calling their professors to argue about a grade.
"They've cleared everything out of their kids' way," Madeline Levine, psychologist and the author of "Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or 'Fat Envelopes,'" told the paper.
Levine added to the Times that she's seen college freshmen who "have had to come home from Emory or Brown because they don't have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college."
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One came home because there was a rat in the dorm room. Some didn't like their roommates. Others said it was too much work, and they had never learned independent study skills. One didn't like to eat food with sauce. Her whole life, her parents had helped her avoid sauce, calling friends before going to their houses for dinner. At college, she didn't know how to cope with the cafeteria options — covered in sauce.
What are the consequences?
Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of "How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success," told the Times that the result of such parenting can be failure in adulthood.
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At Stanford, she said, she saw students rely on their parents to set up play dates with people in their dorm or complain to their child's employers when an internship didn't lead to a job. The root cause, she said, was parents who had never let their children make mistakes or face challenges.
Snowplow parents have it backward, Ms. Lythcott-Haims said: "The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid."
Snowplow parenting, by the numbers
The Times pointed out a new poll it conducted with Morning Consult of parents with children ages 18 to 28, and it found that "three-quarters had made appointments for their adult children, like for doctor visits or haircuts, and the same share had reminded them of deadlines for school."
In addition, the paper said:
- 11 percent said they would contact their child's employer if their child had an issue.
- 16 percent of parents with kids in college texted or called them to wake them up to prevent them from falling asleep in class or during a test.
- 8 percent contacted a college professor or administrator about their child's grades or problems.
Carolyn O'Laughlin, a former resident life director at Sarah Lawrence and Columbia, told the Times a mother once called her for a list of dining hall salad bar items so she could choose her daughter's lunch while another parent hopped on a video chat to fix a roommate dispute over stolen peanut butter.
"If you're doing it in college, you can't stop when it comes to the workplace," Lythcott-Haims told the paper. "You have manufactured a role for yourself of always being there to handle things for your child, so it gets worse because your young adult is ill-equipped to manage the basic tasks of life."
(H/T: The College Fix)
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