Is defending your kids a sign of snowplowing?

I wrote this story two years ago, looking back on how I would jump in to defend my kids when I detected the slightest wrongdoing against them. This was my tendency to hover, helicopter and be a snowplow mom. I don’t think my own mom was aware of most of the troubles I was going through–let alone fight the school, principal, teacher or coach over them. She let me handle things by myself. The only time I remember them getting involved was when my brother got suspended for his long hair, which touched the collar of his shirt. Somehow, after that suspension, the entire high school’s dress code got changed and long hair was allowed.

When they were young.

I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I see that is a trait of helicopter parenting and I might have done more good for my kids by letting them fight their own battles.

Here are a few battles I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion.

There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me last night that during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She’s a week from being done with the class and just wants to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of school during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?

When Mom goes on a job interview — along with her kid

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Family time in the backyard pool.

I read articles from time to time where parents do off the wall things like call an employer to go over benefits for their grown child who happens to be a doctor. Or, accompanies their adult child to a job interview. I’ve written about that here.

In Bringing Mom on a job interview? When bulldozer parenting goes too far by Svetlana Shkolnikova for the North Jersey RecordI learned that it’s not new and it’s rare for parents to get so over-involved.

Here’s an excerpt:

This story is the fourth in a series on the disruptive — and potentially damaging — impact of bulldozer parenting. The series also covers the K-12 years, high school coaches, and the college experience.

In 2001, a graphic designer in New Jersey refused to sign a non-compete agreement required by her employer.

The woman’s father, an attorney, had advised her not to and the decision cost her the job. Years of litigation followed, with the state Supreme Court ultimately ruling that the company had justly fired her.

The incident is a worst-case scenario of what can happen when parents meddle in their adult children’s careers, said John Sarno, president of the nonprofit Employers Association of New Jersey.

Almost 20 years later, parents are asserting themselves to an even greater degree by sitting in on job interviews, filling in job applications, badgering employers to give their children raises and promotions, and — in at least one case — bringing a cake to a child’s potential employer, according to a survey by a subsidiary of Robert Half, a global human resource consulting firm.

“Sadly, it’s not a new phenomenon,” said Dora Onyschak, the New Jersey metro market manager for Robert Half. “Bulldozer parents and helicopter parents are kind of similar in that really they just want what’s best for their kid so they want to try and help them to be as successful as possible. But that can sometimes blind them to the fact that maybe they’re being too involved or their involvement can be inappropriate or certainly unprofessional when looking for a job.”

The article explains and quotes Sarno as saying that the competition to get into good colleges promoted the wild behaviors in parents along with the increased diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. We parents tend to do too much for our kids to ensure their success and don’t know how or when to stop.

“It’s really about a parent who has had this identity, this role as the advocate through the public school, often through college, and they can’t give up the role when the young adult starts their career,” Sarno said. “I really think it’s about parents that can’t let go.”

Part of that reluctance stems from the 2008 financial crisis and changing social attitudes that have delayed typical markers of adulthood such as marriage and home ownership, said Jacob Goldsmith, director of the emerging adulthood program at Northwestern University’s Family Institute. Studies show that unlike more prosperous previous generations, half of children born since 1980 will not out-earn their parents.

“It really scares parents,” Goldsmith said. “I think there are a lot of parents looking around and realizing that their kids are not going to make the same money that they did, that their kids are not reaching the milestones they did at the same time and they don’t know what to make of that and they really want to be helpful, so they jump in.”

Fourteen percent of U.S. adults surveyed this year by Morning Consult for The New York Times said they had pulled strings in their professional networks to secure a job for their 18- to 28-year-old child. About 11% of respondents said they would contact their adult child’s employer if the child had an issue at work. Another 16% said they had written all or part of a job or internship application.

Both Goldsmith and Sarno said parental interference in work matters is rare and not unique to millennials, who have been unfairly maligned by some as lazy or entitled.

Although it’s rare for parents to go to job interviews with their kids, they do a lot of other less noticed tasks for their adult kids, like finding jobs, filling out job applications, etc. The therapists believe these kids have never failed and won’t be prepared to have a tough conversation at work with their boss. Or, they won’t have confidence to know they are capable to make decisions or do their jobs. They enter the workforce without a skill set to cope.

Our job is supposed to be getting our kids ready for the real world. Fortunately my kids learned a lot about failure, picking themselves up and trying again from swimming. I believe youth sports can teach these life lessons to our kids, if we get out of the way and let them learn. Also, failing a test, a class or getting a bad grade on a paper isn’t the end of the world — especially before college when the costs aren’t so high. If they forget their swim bag, their project, their homework, allow them to suffer the consequences. It won’t change their chances for success in the future — I assure you. Plus, they might learn some toughening up and problem solving skills that will help them.

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Back in the day with my baby girl.

What are your thoughts about parents who go on job interviews with their kids. Have you ever seen that at work? Or, know a friend who has done that?

 

Yes. Crazy helicopter parents actually did this…

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I think my daughter was telling me to chill at SMOC a few years ago.

I was reading an article from the New York Times where they asked readers to send in their crazy helicopter parenting experiences. The title of the article was ‘Bizarre and Unusual’: Readers Respond to Helicopter Parenting.

They listed a few letters that I found unbelievable. In one, a young physician was on an all-day interview at a hospital and his dad spent the day with him!  In another, a mom called a hospital to find out and clarify the benefits her young doctor son was getting.  I wonder if there’s any coincidence that a few of them were stories about doctors? It’s very competitive and grueling to get into and through med school and I wonder if mommy supervised the entire way?

Here’s one of the stories from the article:

“My boyfriend’s mom definitely has helicopter tendencies. It is very bizarre to me — we are both 29 but I was raised to be very independent. We both went to medical school and are now in residency. My favorite story is that she apparently somehow got ahold of the information about the benefits offered by his hospital and was concerned about them or had questions about them. So without asking him about it decided to call the hospital herself and ask. The staff found this to be pretty amusing and apparently made an announcement over the intercom in the operating room saying something to the effect of “Dr. X — your mommy just called.”

The article talks about LaVar Ball, the father of the U.C.L.A. basketball star Lonzo Ball who was the second draft pick and plays for the Lakers. I will admit I was out of the loop on this story, but after hearing discussions about him and being clueless—I’ve learned that he is the big daddy of all helicopter parents. He’s the dad of three promising basketball players who has interfered with their coaches, programs and careers their entire lives. Here’s a list from USA Today of the 10 most outrageous things he’s said.

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Back when it was okay to hover and over-parent.

The helicopter parenting stories I’ve witnessed pale in comparison. I remember parents insisting that their kids be moved up in swimming or arguing with teachers about grades. One story involves me. I took my son for swim lessons when he was four years old and insisted that he be moved up a few levels. A few summers later, a swim instructor told me about the crazy parents she encountered and said, “One year we had this mom insist her four-year-old be moved up two groups, and he physically wasn’t able at that age to be in that group!” I smiled to myself. Wow, I made it to someone’s most crazy helicopter mom list! I don’t think that’s a great honor, do you?

 

What are some of the crazy stories you’ve heard about helicopter parents?

Helicopters, snowplows, submarines and “dog moms”

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My son

Have you heard all the new names for parents? We used to have helicopters, but now there are snowplows and submarines. My daughter told me that I’m more of a “dog mom.”

“What’s a dog mom?” I asked.

“You keeping me on a leash or locked in a crate.”

Ouch! Although it’s kind of funny–I mean sort of–if its not true. I guess I should be joyful that she coined a new term, right? Remember, you heard it here, first. “Dog mom.”

In “How Parenting Styles Affect Kids: Snowplow vs. Submarine,” by Maria Schwartz on Teenlife, she explains in more detail about different styles of parenting and how we should strive to become submarines.

Labels for different parenting styles have come and gone for just about as long as there have been parents. Since the college admissions scandal made headlines last month, there has been a lot of talk about the perils of “snowplow parenting” — clearing a path for children by shoving obstacles to the side.

Like the tiger mothers and helicopter parents who came before, snowplowers are highly involved parents who take a proactive and often authoritative role in their children’s lives. Any parent can understand the desire to do everything in their power to make their kids’ lives better. And, with the advantage of age and experience, it can be easy for parents to believe they can — and should — make all the right choices for their children.

The downside of snowplow parenting

There is, however, reason to believe that the kind of top-down micromanagement involved in some parenting styles is doing more harm than good. When children aren’t given a chance to fail, they get little practice grappling with the frustrations and challenges of failure.

On the other hand, kids who lose the student council election, get cut from the basketball team, or get the C they deserved instead of the A they wanted learn valuable lessons about hard work, resiliency, and handling disappointment.

“We learn to adapt and recognize new opportunities when something doesn’t work out,” wrote Rebecca Pacheco in The Boston Globe earlier this month.

So instead of emulating a snowplow or a helicopter, parents should consider drawing inspiration from another source: the submarine. Submarines are powerful machines that gather intelligence and are ready to pop up when needed. But they spend most of their time “guiding & protecting” below the surface.

In the same way, parents who step back (or below) — while their teens take charge of navigating the seas of school, relationships, and personal growth — give their kids a chance to make mistakes, find solutions, spot opportunities, and — most importantly — gain confidence. But, like a submarine, they are ready to surface when needed to provide information, guidance, or protection.

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My daughter

Schwartz includes three tips to be an effective submarine parents: letting kids fail, being a sounding board and getting them out of the house into an independent activity.

Those three tips are good ideas. Without allowing our kids to fail, they won’t know how to pick themselves up and continue on. We’re taking away a valuable life skill of resilience. Listening is so important, too. How often do parents try to give advice and tell our kids what to do when all they want is someone they trust to listen to the?

As for independent activities outside the house, My kids learned so much from their weeks at swim camp when they were younger. They got to stay in dorms with other kids, have college-age counselors, be coached by Olympians. What great memories and independence they had. There are so many activities available for our kids these days. Let them go to experience something new without us hovering and yanking on their leash.

Don’t be a dog mom. Undo that leash, open the crate and let them run!

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Waffles at the beach

What are your thoughts about all the new parenting labels?

Fighting my inner helicopter

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I’m being tested in my parenting skills. My daughter is applying and interviewing for jobs and I’m having a tough time. My impulse is to go straight into helicopter mode, research jobs on indeed.com and other sites and tell her where to apply.

But, I’m holding myself back. This is her life. She’s an adult. I’m trying to stay tethered to my own life and projects without injecting myself into hers.

I think she should take a few classes in design, because she’s talented in that area. She lives in an area with a ton of new home building and interior designers. She could get a job as an assistant if she learned CAD (Computer-aided design) and took one basic design class. With her bachelor’s degree in Business, she could get a degree fairly easily in interior design if she finds she likes it.

I have bought this up and she doesn’t want to hear it.

She’s had several interviews and been called back for more. I’m a nervous nilly and I want to call to make sure she’s on her way with plenty of time to spare! In fact, I did call her an hour before her interview this morning.

I said, “Are you all ready for your interview?”

She answered, “What interview? Oh no! Do I have an interview?”

I was ready for my aortic event when she said, “Hehe. Got you.”

This is a serious tug and pull thing to my heartstrings I’m going through. How can I help without taking over? How do I give some relevant advice? Most of all, I want it to all work out.

I refuse to be one of those parents who go on job interviews with their child, or calls the company if she doesn’t get an offer. There are parents who actually do that. I’ve written about them here.

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I think parenting was easier when they were young.

Any thoughts on how not to helicopter your children when you think they could use your help?

Do Latchkey Kids Become Helicopter Moms?

 

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The park where my kids grew up playing outdoors.

 

I find the headlines of parenting articles to be pretty funny these days. I’ve heard about helicopter parents who hover endlessly over their kids and interfere at the workplace and summer camp. But, I’ve never heard about lawnmower parents before. Have you?

When I was growing up, a lot of kids went home after school to empty houses. More women were working, plus there were a lot more single-parent homes than in previous decades. There was a popular phrase back then called “latch-key kids.”

Here’s a memory about how different parenting was back when I was a kid compared to today. When I was in high school, I took a road trip with one of my best friends from our hometown Snohomish to Sun Valley, Idaho. My friend’s parents asked us to drive their pickup truck while they flew–a 675-mile trip! We slept in the back of the pickup truck in sleeping bags somewhere in Oregon. Then once we got to Sun Valley, we had planned to pitch a tent in a local campground, because we weren’t invited to stay in the Sun Valley lodge with my friend’s parents. For some reason, we chose to sleep in the parking lot in the back of the truck instead. I remember one night the parents were out late in the pick-up truck and we were sitting on the curb in the parking lot, waiting for them to return and to crawl into our sleeping bags. We were on our own for meals and everything. Wow. Talk about NOT being a helicopter parent!

In “Finding a balance between latch-key and helicopter parenting,” I found some interesting ideas:

“Latch-key kids surged from the 1970s to the early 1990s due to economic changes requiring two incomes to get by, and societal changes where an increased divorce rate created single-parent homes.

‘Now the generation of latch-key kids are parents themselves. Many generation X’ers over-compensate for their latch-key upbringing by being a helicopter parent,’ Janice Emery, 4-H youth development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said.

A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child’s experiences and problems. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.

As parents, it is important to find the middle ground between these parenting styles and balance protecting children, and making sure they grow into responsible adults,” Emery said. “Parents have to keep in mind parenting success is not measured by how much a parent does for their child, but rather how much they teach them to do on their own.”

The second article I read today explains the difference between helicopter and lawnmower parents. In my humble opinion, I don’t see that much difference between the two of them. Both won’t allow their kids to fail and learn from their mistakes. I do agree we need to do less for our kids so they can grow up to be competent, well-balanced adults.

Helicopter of Lawnmower? Modern Parenting Styles Can Get in the Way of Raising Well-Balanced Children

“Helicopter parents, as the name suggests, spend a lot of time hovering. They always stay close to their children, ready to swoop in and direct, help or protect (usually before it is needed). Lawnmower parents are one step ahead of their children, smoothing their path and making sure nothing gets in their way. Common tactics of both include interfering significantly with their grown-up children’s lives, such as complaining to employers when their children don’t get a job.

As with anything, there is a middle ground. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that providing children with opportunities and support helps them to gain experiences, confidence and networks that they wouldn’t be offered in more adverse settings. But there is an important line between supporting children and wrapping them in gold-plated cotton wool.

Allowing children freedom to take appropriate risks through outdoor play is essential for their development. Risky play does not mean placing children in grave danger, but instead allowing them to be children – climbing, jumping from heights and hanging upside down are good examples. Risky play allows children to test limits and solve problems. And, yes, this includes learning what happens when they overstretch themselves and fall.”

 

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A view from my home town where I was a latch-key kid.

When I was growing up, we could ride bikes throughout the countryside. We told our parents where we were going—it could be to a friend’s house who lived five miles away—and our parents never worried. Even our golden retriever Pepi lived a free-range life.

For some of my childhood, I was a latch-key kid and the scary thing about it was going home to an empty house. If my brother, who was two years older, had golf or tennis practice, then I was riding the school bus alone and being dropped off at a bus stop, a quarter mile from my house. It was lonely and quiet, but I survived. The bad days were when Thelma, our bus driver, dropped me off at my doorstep and announced that a prisoner had escaped from the Monroe Penitentiary, which was a couple miles away. She’d wait until I was safely inside my empty house. Those were the worst days as a latch-key kid.

I wonder if spending some years as a latch-key kid influenced my involvement with my children every step of their way to becoming adults?

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The pool and swim team that allowed my kids space in a safe environment without me helicoptering–too much.

Did you grow up as a latch-key kid and do you think it affects how you parent? Or do you think we’re living in different times and we cannot allow our kids the same amount of freedom we had?

Are Snow Plow Parents to Blame for the Cheating Scandal?

robertHere’s a different take on the college admissions scandal where wealthy parents have been bribing coaches, athletic directors and SAT proctors to get their kids into the schools of their dreams—maybe it’s not the fault of being a snowplow parent after all.

In an article from Psychology Today, written by Daniel R. Stalder Ph.D. called “Are We Overreacting to Snowplow Parenting?” he makes the point, “We may not want to shame all snowplow parents over the admissions scandal.”

In the recent college admissions scandal, some wealthy parents allegedly bribed and lied to get their kids into certain colleges. Although we’ve known for a long time that kids from wealthy families have advantages in higher education, the criminal element of this story is new. Parents are getting arrested.

Many of us have criticized these parents for such behavior. But along the way, some of us have gone further by criticizing their general parenting style.

As a professor, I’ve had to deal with cases of student cheating, such as smuggling cell phones into tests or copying a classmate’s answers. Such behaviors are wrong, but I don’t extend this judgment to other aspects of the students’ lives, such as how they study or take lecture notes. Is it different for judging parents who break the law?

Maybe. I’m definitely not trying to defend the alleged behavior. But several recent authors in The New York Times and elsewhere have gone further by using the scandal as a jumping-off point to criticize “snowplow” parents in general. In my view, everyday parents who seem to snowplow or hover get criticized enough without unfairly grouping them into a high-profile scandal.

Snowplow parents are usually described as parents who clear their child’s way of every obstacle, or shield their child from any stress or failure. Helicopter parents are similarly described as wanting to “ensure their children’s success” (Darlow, 2017). A common criticism of all these parents includes the adage that we learn and grow from our mistakes and failures.

I like the fact that this writer makes the distinction that the parents who broke the law aren’t just snow plow parents — they are doing something beyond annoying — they are acting immorally and illegally. While we helicopter and snow plowers may cross the line on what is helpful to our kids, we stop way before the illegal line.

In my profession, if I get a call from a parent demanding I change their child’s grade, does that mean this parent is a snowplow parent? If a student makes a similarly unreasonable demand, does that mean they were raised by a snowplow parent? I don’t know.

My first point is that there is an inability to see the whole at-home story based on a single behavior. This is partly to say that a particular parent might seem to fit a parenting label in one context but not another (Stalder, 2018). But even if the label fits a parent in general, I’ve observed other biases in criticizing snowplow (and helicopter) parenting. These biases include the strawman fallacy, dichotomous thinking, the converse error, and just not considering individual differences in children.

I enjoy that the article discusses the fact that it’s not a one or the other situation. It’s not black or white. I think that’s true for me. I may hover in one area, and not in another. We are after all trying to do our best to raise healthy, happy and successful kids. Maybe we need a break on the labels and blame? kat

Anyone else agree? What are your thoughts about the snow plow and helicopter labels on parents?