The recent college admissions scandal has demonstrated that helicopter parents and tiger moms are being shoved aside by parents who practice a more hyper-intensive style: snowplow parenting. These pushy mothers and fathers take extreme measures to clear the path for their children by removing any obstacles to what they want their children to achieve.
Some experts say that this method deprives children of the life skills necessary to find their own way in the world. "Like most parents who want the best for their kids, their intentions are good," says parent educator and coach, Helaina Altabef. She warns that this is not the path to raising empowered kids. Rather, snowplow parenting sends the message that the child cannot be trusted to make life choices and find their own way in this world.
As an entrepreneur, you need not worry about plowing the path to happiness and success for your children. By virtue of the experience and qualities you possess as an entrepreneur, you can demonstrate and teach your kids the life skills and values that are essential to their happiness and success.
Even if your kids don't follow your career path, Altabef says that you can inspire and equip your children to launch successfully and control their own lives. Here's how.
1. Help them find their zone of genius.
This core concept of entrepreneurship, where you identify and leverage your superpower, is one of the best things you can watch for in your kids.
"My first question to clients who come to me because their kids aren't cooperating or motivated is 'What is his superpower?' says Altabef. "It catches them off guard because they have become habituated to look at their weaknesses."
When we are constantly focused on their weaknesses, kids get the message that there is always something that needs fixing. But when you name their zone, it becomes something concrete and real to them. Once kids recognize their own strengths, they become more self-possessed. When they are faced with a new challenge, you can remind them of their superpower and encourage them to use it. In short, notice and support your kids' interests and strengths and they will show an improvement in confidence, cooperation, and motivation.
2. Teach them to be problem solvers.
Parents naturally want to protect their children, so we can tend to jump in too quickly to fix our kids' problems. However, approaching things with a high level of urgency can rob kids of the chance to use their intuition and analytical skills.
"Our wisdom as adults is helpful, but so is the chance for children to solve problems in an age-appropriate way," says Altabef. "One client I work with said that her son told her, 'Your way works for a mom. My way works for me.'"
If we are always jumping in, then kids don't get the chance to go through the temporarily painful, but ultimately satisfying process of fixing their own problems. This is a muscle we must give them a chance to exercise.
Altabef offers these short phrases to cue kids to use their problem-solving muscle
- What is your plan?
- I'm curious about how you think you should solve this?
- How have you approached this before?
3. Let them figure out their productivity methods.
You can try to teach your kids the methods that worked for you, but what if your kid is nothing like you? This means you might have to step back and let them find their own flow. "This is hard, but it works wonders," says Altabef.
For instance, if you have a kid who is holding it together all day, forcing him to do his homework right after school is going to be a nightmare. "I work with a client who started allowing her son to figure out homework time for himself," says Altabef. "He decided to do the work that's easiest for him at night and set an alarm for the morning to do the stuff that's harder for him." Give your child space to determine his or her best approach to productivity.
4. Teach them communication skills.
You're probably an amazing communicator at work, but as a parent in a digital world, you may worry about your kid's social skills. Start with modeling the basics, like eye contact, not interrupting, making sounds of acknowledgment, active listening, and asking for clarification.
You don't have to dive deep to teach your children about perspective and point of view, but some simple phrases like,
- I'm curious about what's going on from your perspective.
- Can you see where I'm coming from?
- Tell me about what you love about your games/hate about piano practice/understand about your teacher.
- What are you concerned about?
- I will listen to you and not tell you what to do.
- I can hear you when you aren't attacking me.
5. Force them out of their comfort zones.
Entrepreneurship involves tolerating a lot of discomfort. Altabef believes this is beneficial for kids living in the digital world. Some kids are used to the safety that being at home and on screens affords. Others who have been conditioned to being controlled may initially have a hard being nudged out of their comfort zone, and that's okay. Altabef suggests that parents challenge their children to take risks such as trying out for a team that they are on the fence about or enrolling in a program that they are reluctant but curious about choosing. "It's a gift to show kids that they can be fine, even if something is hard, new, or scary," says Altabef.
As an entrepreneur, you've mastered these challenges. Pass your mastery on to your children and they will have the skills to find their own way to happiness and success.