We have all become familiar with the term helicopter parents. As the children of these parents have now grown out of adolescence into young adulthood (or perhaps into extended adolescence) a new category has emerged: snowplow parents. A week ago the Boston Globe ran the story: ‘Snowplow parents’ overly involved in college students’ lives describing how a father of a Boston University student, upset over his daughter’s A- final grade called the professor, then the department chair, and then the academic dean to complain. Residential Life staff receive calls from parents about minor roommate issues. BU, we should note, is not alone. Companies are occasionally having parents accompanying their son or daughter on interviews (and therefore significantly reducing the likelihood of their being hired).
Unfortunately this well meaning concern is counter-productive. An important developmental challenge, one that is best begun to be met during teenage years, is learning to navigate the socio-economic and political environment–learning from failures and disappointments as well as successes. Developing a sense of self direction, mental agility and political savvy is critical in today’s increasingly complex environment. These capabilities are developed through critically reflecting on lived experience. An important aspect of learning to live through life is beginning to shovel your own snow. Meanwhile, young people, if your parent asks why you didn’t (get an A, a particular job, score a goal, whatever) just say the answer is obvious; “you both should have married better, it’s obvious the problem is genetics.” :-) Maybe what we need is more reverse parenting and provocative humor can also be useful.