It used to be called Helicopter parenting – the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity. Some parents now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.
How do you know if you are a snowplow parent? Answer these 3 questions.
1.Do you clean your child’s room? Full disclosure, I used to do this. Well, sort of. I would alternate between just not going upstairs and then going up there in a frenzy with trash bags and disinfectant spray. I would clean, curse, and swear I would never let the rooms get that bad again. Then I realized our home has the perfect floorplan for living with teenagers – 3 rooms and a bathroom upstairs, all for their use only. So I made a deal with the teen girl. She promised to feed the cats and keep their litter box clean, and I stay downstairs. There are two caveats to this plan. a) if pests or rodents move in, I will not pay for the pest control service and b) they must clean the entire upstairs to my satisfaction before the in laws visit. Then we can all pretend it looks like that year round.
2. Do you do your child’s homework/projects? The one exception for me is that dang Pinewood Derby competition. No honest 1st grader can make the kind of cars that show up to that race. That is all dad work, folks. And my husband had some much damn fun making that car. It’s cars and racing. Let the dads of little kids have that race to relive the fun. At least he wasn’t the dad that cheated at the Girls Only Pinewood Derby (added more weight to the car after weigh in). Definitely don’t be that dad.
I am talking about regular school projects and homework. And really just any non preferred work. I will never forget the first summer I ran my academic support skills program. At drop off, a parent asked if she should stay in case he was not having fun and wanted to leave. Um…. no. She signed him up for the program because he was not doing well in school. He needed to be there. Not a choice when you are 13.
My oldest drives me crazy with projects. I will say he is better now that he is in high school, but saving things until the last minute and then staying up all night to get it done works for him. I do remind him the following morning when he complains about lack of sleep that he created the problem, and being tired is a natural consequence for not getting a good night’s sleep.
3. Do you offer choices of food for dinner? The only time in my life I have ever been given choices for meals was the fancy way the people who fed me in college called leftovers. They called it “The Week in Review” which is a really nice way of saying “all the crap that has been picked over all week, and probably has most of the green vegetables.” Children do not need choices with their meals. Most days I feel like a rock star parent if I can put together some heat and serve Trader Joe’s on the table. And guess what? That is ok.
I hope you were able to answer no to these questions, or maybe you are where I was with #1 a while back. It is ok to say no, set limits, and allow your children to experience natural consequences. Let’s all channel the 1980’s way of life again. We all survived, right?
Want to chat about parenting in the teenage years? Check out the Let’s Talk Parenting link and get in touch. I would love to talk with you!