Parenting today has to be one of the hardest jobs on the planet. I read the back-and-forth articles between business CEO's who think stay-at-home moms have it easier than the pressures of the boardroom. But if you've never tried to manage another person's academic growth, emotional growth, physical growth, confidence, self-worth and acceptance among their peers, you're just doing a job.
Being a Parent today is TOUGH!
As most of you know, I deal in the teenage world quite a bit, and my laboratory includes a summer camp in Colorado called KIVU and a Gap Year Program called THE KIVU GAP YEAR. Both of these programs give me unique entry points into how our culture is dealing with education, physical well-being, spiritual well-being and most of all, the concerns parents have today. I've got to be honest, the world has changed.
(DISCLAIMER: I'll try to identify some of the changes I'm seeing below, but please don't get hung up on the word "Moms" vs. "Dads." The labels for moms could just as easily be used for dads as well. )
I'm not sure who actually coined the phrase "soccer mom." But I'm pretty sure of its meaning -- a parent who is driving their kids all over the community, someone who often feels more like a taxi driver than a parent. We drive our kids to school, to practice, to swim lessons, to music lessons and then home. Many of my soccer mom friends have confessed they feel more like a UPS deliveryman than a parent today, and I can see why. A short look over their shoulder in the driver's seat and you'll see the mileage these moms put on a car. WOW!
The bottom line is that our culture changed from one in which mom was expected to be at home, taking care of the house, to a driver who is supposed to take her kids from event to event. No big deal. We're just transitioning to a new way of parenting. This one is easy to see.
This is where things got a little weird. This title began rising in popularity in the late '90s and early 2000s. Again, I'm not sure who actually coined the phrase, but it's used to refer to moms who take an abnormal interest in the safety, security and success of every part of their child's development.
These are the moms who made sure all the homework got done to perfection. After all, you're never going to get a college scholarship if you fail third grade math, right?
These are moms who hovered over their child's every move on the playground, often motivated by the fear of injury or disease from the other kids.
These are the moms who made sure their kid was obeying every rule the soccer coach gave them, leaving little room for the child to decide how to interpret the rules on their own.
The bottom line is this: Moms are trying their best to help their kids be successful. With the best of intentions, these parents want their kids to do well in school, stay safe from whatever fears they have and make sure they instill good habits in their kids before they go away to a top-tier uniersity.
And Then Something REALLY WEIRD started.
Snow Plow Moms.
The current trend we are seeing at our company is a level of parenting never witnessed before in the last two decades. The snow plow mom isn't just driving her kids from event to event. She's not just helping her kid be successful. She's actually paving the way, removing any obstacle, for any sort of struggle or hardship thinking her kid will have a better chance at 'making it.'
We're seeing moms calling teachers to demand that they curve the grades in high school so their kids can have a perfect academic resume.
We're seeing moms actually filling out job applications and making arrangements for their kids to get to work on time.
We're watching moms LITERALLY sitting in on acceptance interviews just in case their student needs a little encouragement in the interview time.
I've even witnessed a level of texting and communication that would cause your face to crumple and your eyes to widen to a level of "SERIOUSLY?" you've never thought possible. I can't remember talking to my parents once a week when I went off to school.
It's cute to walk your kid to the bus on their first day of school.
Of course they need a ride to soccer practice, basketball try-outs or the school play rehearsal when they're too young to drive.
If they need help with homework, it's good practice to sit by them and try to work it out.
But if we continue this trend, there will be consequences:
1. Our kids will never grow up to be independent adults.
They don't need to think anymore. They don't need to prepare. They have no idea what actions and consequences are. Personal responsibility? Why would any well-heeled human take on responsibility if they always have a safety net available?
In my work, I'm seeing more and more 22-26-year-old males who have failed out of college, are living at home with mom and dad and have no vision for what to do or where to go. In my opinon, oday's 25-year-old has the same level of maturity as a 17-year-old just a decade ago.
2. Our kids will never learn how to process information.
They already have access to one of the greatest tools of all time, GOOGLE. Our education system is obsessed with the latest greatest technology, and I'm a fan. But when answers are as easy to find as typing in a question in your cell phone, our kids aren't practicing the art of thinking. It takes work to be able to see two points of view and come up with a solution. Today's high school and university student are satisfied with just getting a right answer, instead of working through a process to come up with a well thought out opinion.
3. Our kids will look at struggle as failure.
Ask any successful business person how many times they failed. Failure is a part of growing. In fact, I could make a good case that failure is a much more important lesson than success. Failure helps us see mistakes and move forward. Success is a celebration at the finish line. Failure helps us recalibrate our ideas and hone our skills. Success is simply an arrival.
If we keep plowing and removing any adversity our kids will face, we're not doing them any favors. We are actually handicapping our kids for the future.
So, which kind of parent are you?
And more importantly, which kind of parent do you want to be?