In the 1970s, Jim Fay warned of the perils of parenting like a helicopter. Constant hovering and unnecessary rescuing send kids unspoken messages that they MUST be fragile because they need to be rescued.
Like so many other things in this modern day, we have taken helicopter parenting to a new level. It’s not enough to be a helicopter. The new breed of micromanaging adult is the snowplow.
If I’m a snowplow (and sometimes, I want to be), I must go ahead of my children and plow the road perfectly smooth and safe. I don’t even wait to rescue, I just micromanage all the conflict, struggle and disappointment out of their lives in advance.
Of course, I can’t really pull this off. And that’s a good thing. My attempts to snowplow will rob kids of grit and character. What I really want is to equip my kids with good tires and a good suspension (determination and resiliency) to get over rough roads.
Is it realistic to make the path smooth for my kids? To micromanage all the difficulty out of their lives? Or is it more realistic to prepare and equip them for difficulty that WILL come in life?
Part of this equipping is simply stepping back and allowing them to struggle. Resisting my urge to take over and rescue can be difficult, but it is crucially important.
Parents tell us all the time how they eventually felt glad that they let go of some control. Once we let go of our need to micromanage and let kids own their results, some magical things can happen. They own it more. They grow more responsibile. They develop grit.
Once we stop plowing, they spin and slide. They struggle and get stuck. They learn it’s not the end of the world and how to get back on the road.
With struggle, they get (and feel) stronger and more capable. It’s a beautiful thing to watch!