What’s this talk about snowplow parenting?

In a recent article by the New York Times, the idea of snowplow parents is explored. This is the concept of parents guarding their kids from feeling uncomfortable or facing challenging experiences on their own. Being a parent these days can seem really tough with all of the expectations and trying to get it right all the time. While reading the article, a few things came to mind on how to prevent putting you and your child in this situation.

  • It’s okay to make mistakes: It is important for kids at a young age to make decisions and experience the consequences of those decisions (within reason). For example, if your kid forgets a paper at home that was due, you can be causing more harm than good in the long run if you decide to leave work, run home to retrieve the paper, and drop it off in the main office just in time. It may be difficult to know your kid worked hard on the paper and might get points taken off for turning it in late, but part of their grade is following through on the responsibility of submitting the assignment on time. It is much easier to learn this lesson in third grade, as opposed to high school or college when a single paper can hold a lot of weight in a class.
  • Offer support and encouragement: It can often seem easier to simply take care of a situation your child is dealing with rather than talking through the options with them and ‘coaching’ them along. For example, at LSFT, some of our clients struggle with how to talk to a teacher if they are having trouble in a class and need help. Our approach is to role play and help the student use their own words to advocate for themselves. As a parent, it is easy to send the teacher a quick email explaining the struggles a student is having and seeking a solution. But this can be a learning moment for your student in how to deal not only with the situation at hand, but also how to navigate potential future conversations.
  • Model positive behavior: From the time your kids were little you were teaching them skills mostly by modeling simple behaviors: clearing your plate after dinner, brushing your teeth before bed or washing your hands. These behaviors became habits, part of their daily routine. There are many tasks that as your kids get older, you can begin show them how to complete on their own: doing their laundry, packing their lunches or even calling to make their own appointments as they approach adulthood. If you continue to complete these tasks for your child, it becomes more difficult for them to take the reins and do them on their own. Many high school students will eventually go on to college or get a job, move out of the house, and with that growth and transition into adulthood, it is important for them to be equipped with essential life skills so they can eventually manage these important tasks on their own.

Creating good habits now can go a long way in the future. Help your child develop skills that will allow them to be independent, confident young adults, capable of making good decisions on their own. If you are looking for additional resources, consider checking out “How to Raise an Adult” by Julie Lythcott-Haims.

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