Snowplow parenting is exactly what it sounds like: acting as the rescue option for your child’s every need, even when they’re adults.
And while setting up children for success is one thing, one recent poll by the New York Times and Morning Consult found a majority of parents in the U.S. were “robbing” their kids of adulthood.
The poll, which looked at data from 1,508 young adults and 1,136 parents of children that age, found a majority of parents were still doing mundane tasks for their adult children, USA Today reported.
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The poll found 76 per cent of parents reminded their adult children of deadlines at school, 74 per cent made appointments for them (including doctor’s appointments) and 15 per cent of parents texted or called their children to wake them up every morning.
And it didn’t stop there. The poll also found 11 per cent of parents called their children’s place of work if there was an issue and 16 per cent wrote a part of all of their children’s job or internship applications.
Parenting expert Maureen Dennis told Global News this style of parenting is preventing young people from learning basic life skills.
“They haven’t been given the chance to make decisions, to learn from both the good and the poor ones,” she said. “Allowing kids to make decisions when they are young allows them to learn from those age-appropriate decisions, especially the poor decisions.”
Parenting coach Julie Romanowski agreed, adding this type of parenting enables the child any time they struggle with something.
“It runs a very high risk of the child being incapable of coping in the world as an adult,” she explained. “This can lead to all kinds of problems, from mental health issues to financial difficulties, relationship problems, time management, keeping a household and even overall hygiene.”
The poll followed recent news of the U.S. college scam, where Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman and Full House‘s Lori Loughlin were indicted for allegedly paying bribes to get their children into top colleges like Yale and Harvard.
Going into adulthood
Attending college or university is often the first stepping stone of adulthood, and when parents start doing tasks for their children, children don’t have the opportunity to be independent, experts said.
“The trouble is that these parents haven’t had any expectations of their children and have been solving their children’s problems their whole lives, so they have not given their kids the chance to fail or to exceed expectations,” Dennis said.
“These kids have no idea of what they themselves are capable of. They are not driving the direction of their own life. They have just been along for the ride.”
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She added as parents, you can’t just hand over the wheel — you have to teach children how to drive first. “These parents have literally chauffeured their kids through life and don’t know how or want to teach their kids to drive their own life.”
Romanowski said it is only appropriate to check in with adult children if they are struggling or aren’t doing well in school. There are ways to support them without rescuing them.
Giving children space to be independent
Romanowski argued teaching children to be independent starts before sending them off to post-secondary education — life skills start as early as age five.
“Waiting until teen years or early adulthood is when we see problems arise… it is much more difficult to teach and manage.”
And along the way, parents have the responsibility to hold their children accountable.
“The only way we can help adult children is to lay out our expectations for them and to hold them accountable for them. They need to experience the highs and lows of their own decisions and actions to learn life skills,” Dennis said.
Teaching children how to be independent
Romanowski said children learn best by instruction, repetition and role modelling.
Here are her steps on how children learn responsibility:
1. A child needs to feel self-secure first in their surroundings and then in themselves.
2. A child has to know what the expectations and boundaries are for the task/life skill/routine.
3. A child can then predict what the expectations are for that task/life skill/routine to be executed.
4. A child can then feel more independent around the task or routine.
5. A child can then start to take responsibility for that task/life skill/routine
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“Learning responsibility lies in the areas of a child knowing their place in the world, understanding how they can contribute in a meaningful way, being properly guided at times of difficulty and most of all, being connected to a parent/caregiver who shows acceptance during good times and bad.”