There's actually a difference between a Helicopter (hovering nervously), Tiger (you will do what I say - no questions) and a Snowplow (move out of my way so I can help clear the way for you) parent.
I wouldn't recommend living your life as any of them...but it's important for the successful development of your child(ren) to see where you fall on the spectrum, with Snowplow being the most advanced style.
I spent the day with my 20 something son yesterday and we had a very candid and supportive conversation. But one of the things I learned from that conversation was...
If we don't let our kids do it themselves, they won't grow up to have confidence that they can. And that's our fault.
I have seen it all when it comes to parenting.
In a leading private K-8 school, top 10 U.S. private high school, in special ed, in public school and in elite private colleges. I paid attention. And, I have to confess, exhibited some of the traits that equate to a certain type of mom. But I caught myself and did a 180 whenever I could.
I'm still not 100% there yet, but I've come a long way and am happy I have because I am close to each of my kids and have learned to let them lead their lives, not mine.
Let's face it. We love our kids unconditionally. And that's a good thing. A very important, emotionally significant trait that you should have. It will matter more than anything you ever do with or for your child. More on that later.
But before you can come out on the other side of over managing your child(ren), you need to know where you fall on the spectrum.
ARE YOU A SNOWPLOW PARENT?
You don't let your child walk or bike to school with friends (even if it's walk or bike to school day with school monitors all along the path) because you are afraid that they will be kidnapped or bullied or, God forbid, make it school without you. You have FOMO because you need to monitor/observe/manage every interaction your child has. You are a snowplow parent.
You volunteer in the classroom every week. Or maybe in the library, but you peek in your kid's classroom, find a reason to deliver books or hide behind posts to watch them during recess. If you find yourself biting your nails because heaven help him, your child is not playing with anyone for a split second, you are a snowplow parent.
You bully the kid that bullies your kid. You call the parent: Your child is mean to my child. You don't let your child work out any of their own problems with others. You pepper them with questions about their day the second you pick them up from school. Did you notice that I said pick them up and not let them walk home, ride their bike home or ride the bus home? You are a snowplow parent.
OK, I know you are thinking...but my kid's not even IN school right now, It's all online. You still monitor the interactions online. You call the parents, the teachers. Your child isn't getting enough attention. Too much negative attention - whatever. You are lurking or even in the screenshot as online school is in progress. You take notes. Guess what? You're a snowplow parent.
Homework. You do it with your child. Or, let's be honest, you do it for your child. How many 'projects' have you done with or for your child? They get turned in and look like your child works at Nasa or is a Master Gardener or (wow!) Thomas Alva Edison's apprentice. Such an amazing invention! Exquisite diorama or report on your home state, or movie...you get the drill. You are a snowplow parent.
You hire the best of the best private coach(es) for your child. What are they good at? You'll figure it out. You don't ask what do you love, you say we're going to figure out what you're good at. And that will get you into an Ivy. But good at soccer might not be good enough. It may have to be chess, or sailing or la crosse (a definite east coast college winner). Or... try pickleball (it's the newest craze and they can get to Nationals by age 11 if they're good enough). If you are curious and are already googling how to play pickleball, or the best pickleball coaches/camps in the world, guess what? You are on your way to becoming a snowplow parent. And, when you hire these amazing, high-priced private coaches, you watch every session. Pretty soon you're the expert and you start telling the coach how to coach. Uh oh....snowplow.
You do everything for your child. I mean everything. They have no chores. You give them a trophy just for getting up on time. You make their favorite breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and find pride in your success as a premiere chef. You make their bed, clean their room and do all their laundry - every day. You feel so proud to help. Guess what? Well, you already know the answer.
Playdates run your life. You have a calendar that is quite organized with playdates. And you pick those playdates based on networking advantage. You invite over the kid whose dad is the head of special effects at Disney. Or the one whose parents are on the list of Forbes richest people in the world. You plan culturally significant events that give your kid a leg up. Museum visits, online mastermind courses. Maybe they take classes at the local JC to augment their schooling because they aren't being challenged enough. Maybe you get your kid in as a volunteer docent at 9 years old. Hellllooooo!
If you don't change your parenting methods now, you could end up with children who may be high achievers on the outside, but feel like failures on the inside. Or, have lesser emotional connections to others.
We will hear from the psychology experts on this topic in a future post and in our upcoming course.