The recent college admissions scandal certainly shows how far some parents will go to give their kids the best. But a new study by Morning Consult conducted for The New York Times reveals some parents carry their interventions even into young adulthood.
The study, conducted among parents with children ages 18 to 28, revealed some eye-opening tendencies. Pay particular attention to the last two:
- 76 percent reminded their adult children of deadlines they needed to meet, including for schoolwork.
- 74 percent made appointments for them, including doctor appointments.
- 42 percent helped them study for a college test.
- 22 percent helped write all or part of a job or internship application.
- 16 percent called or texted to make sure they did not sleep through a class or test.
- 15 percent helped write part or all of an essay or school assignment.
- 11 percent would contact a child's employer if he or she had an issue at work.
- 8 percent contacted a professor or administrator to discuss child's grades.
OK, the issue with writing an article like this is that I come across as unfairly judgmental or holier-than-thou. While I can say I believe my wife and I will resist engaging in any of these behaviors when my 16-year-old daughter reaches college age, it doesn't mean that I don't understand where it all comes from. I'm more involved than I need to be in some of my daughter's affairs now, exponentially more so than my parents were--and yet somehow I've miraculously avoided prison time (so far).
I'm just calling out what I think is a dangerous trend, what experts call "snowplowing," or clearing away any possible obstacle that's in your child's way.
It seems antithetical to encouraging a child's personal growth and development. The bumps and bruises along the way are actually some of the good stuff.
Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, puts it this way: "The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid."
The goal is not to prevent your children from ever making a mistake. It's to build their resiliency for when they do.
Lest I paint the over-involvement as all-unhelpful, there is a positive side here. The Morning Consult/Times study also showed that parents reported a much more engaged relationship with their grown children then they ever had with their parents. They reported that they "spent more time with their children, communicated with them more often, and gave more advice than their parents had when they were the same age." In fact, 80 percent said they were in frequent communication with their adult kids, largely through the use of texting.
But experts point out it's about striking the right balance, as it is with so many things in life. Research cited by the Times shows that over-involved parents have kids who are better at getting through college and landing a good job but that are also less independent and more likely to be anxious or depressed.
So this is a classic case of too much is too much. If you catch yourself snowplowing or lawnmowing or helicoptering try instead recalibrating and releasing.
It's like my wife's favorite artist, Sting, says: If you love someone, set them free.