11% of Parents Call Their Adult Children's Bosses — And 6 More Signs of Snowplow Parenting

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Kayla Heisler1.16k

All good parents want their children to succeed. But at a certain point, their well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. Throughout their child’s adolescent years, parents may implore their children to engage in extracurricular activities, go to bed early and finish their homework. But what happens when parents refuse to let go after their children have gone off to college or have even entered the work field? A recent study conducted by market research company Morning Consult indicates that over-engaged parents don’t always back off after their children leave the nest.

What is a snowplow parent?

‘Snowplow parenting' is a form of parenting that involves removing obstructions from a child’s way rather than teaching them how to remove said obstacles themselves. This keeps adult children from learning how to take responsibility for their own lives, and can make it difficult for them to adjust to the obstacles of being an adult, like finding and going to work, paying bills or dealing with professional relationships. 

How many people snowplow parent?

11 percent of parents in the Morning Consult study admitted to contacting their child’s boss if their child had an issue at work. Unfortunately, good intentions can also have negative effects: studies also indicate that while children of snowplow parents do tend to have an easier time navigating college and finding jobs, they’re also less self-reliant and more prone to developing anxiety or depression.

What are the signs of snowplow parenting?

Here are six other common signs of snowplow parenting:

1. Regularly paying your child's expenses.

Occasional extenuating circumstances happen, such as illness and injury, but when parents automatically fund their children’s lifestyles, they keep their children from getting a firm understanding of budgeting and managing personal finances. According to the study, 12 percent of parents gave their adult children over $500 dollars each month to put toward rent and other expenses.

2. Scheduling their medical appointments.

Making appointments can be tedious, but it’s an important skill to master. If someone’s left the nest but still finds themselves relying on mom or dad to make appointments for them, they may be a victim of snowplow parenting. According to the study, a whopping 74 percent of parents said that they have made appointments for their adult children. 

3. Completing important paperwork for them.

Filling out paperwork is often boring at best and frustrating at worst. But if you’re still completing this task for your adult child, they’re missing out on an important part of growing up. This can lead to them becoming overwhelmed when they reach a point where they have to do it themselves.

4. Writing their job materials.

Most would agree that completing job applications can be a tedious process. While no one can fault a parent for wanting to see a child succeed, this can get messy when a parent takes over the job and completes their child’s work for them. While just 4 percent of parents admitted to writing part of their child’s school assignment, 16 percent admitted to helping their child write all of our part of a job or internship application.

5. Doing their chores.

Stories of college students dropping off their laundry at home aren’t uncommon, but when these patterns keep occurring after finishing undergrad, it can become a problem. Yes, running errands and cleaning up after oneself can be a major time suck, but being capable of doing these things is a necessary part of growing up. When adults don’t learn how to clean up after themselves or how to manage their time, they can continue to be dependent throughout their lives.

6. Giving excessive career advice.

One of the most significant examples of snowplow parenting involves parents giving their adult children too much career guidance. Taking charge of one’s own career is an essential part of entering adulthood, but some adults aren’t making that step. 14 percent of parents told their adult child which career to pursue, and 14 percent also used their professional network to help their adult child secure jobs and internships.

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Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.