How To Stop Being a Snowplow Parent – Part 2

How To Stop Being a Snowplow Parent – Part 2 May 21, 2024

This is Part 2 of a two-part series for parents who are tempted to do too much for our kids. (Guilty!!) Part 1 covered the importance of recognizing our teens’ desire for freedom and letting them make mistakes. This Part 2 tackles “but what if____” sorts of questions and how to handle the mistakes!

When my friend Lisa Rice and I were doing the research with 3,000 teens for our book For Parents Only and several others, my children were pretty young – but she had four teenagers in her house.  And every day, I was amazed at how well Lisa and her late husband Eric allowed them to navigate the bumpy road of adolescence without hovering. With young kids at the time, I was used to constant hovering!

“Be sure to give the teacher your permission slip – if you forget, you won’t be able to go on the field trip.”

“Did you remember your lunch? If you forget, you’ll be hungry.”

“Here, you’ll be cold if you don’t wear your coat.”

By contrast, here’s an example of something I heard from Lisa when her teenage daughter called from school, having forgotten her permission slip: “Oh honey, I’m so sorry to hear that you missed the field trip. You must be so disappointed. No, sorry, I can’t come get you. We’re on a job today so you’ll need to stay at school and just work on homework and come home on the bus at the normal time.”

Guess who never forgot a permission slip again?

Many of us parents don’t realize the dangers of what developmental experts call “over-involved parenting.” This could include helicopter parenting – trying to swoop in and pluck a child out of a problematic situation. Or it could mean snowplow parenting – trying to prevent problematic situations to begin with.

The problem is, as we said in  , our kids need to be able to make mistakes. In order to become fully functioning, resilient adults they need to experience the bumps, bruises, and disappointments we are trying so hard to prevent.

Now, some of you have probably been sputtering (as I originally was!) “but… but… what if they get hurt? What if they make serious, life-ruining mistakes?” I’m not minimizing those concerns; the “but what if’s” are crucial to consider. Thankfully, in the For Parents Only research, teens had something to say about that too.

So based on the research – and the best advice of developmental experts – here are three more action steps for all of us tempted-to-snowplow parents. (If you missed the first three in Part 1, I encourage you to read that post first.)

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