Last weekend, my husband shared with me the trending Hamster/Hampster Twitter thread, knowing that it would grab my attention. The story is about a young 20-something woman in the workplace who is unable to accept correction or criticism from her boss and defaults to calling her mother to be rescued. Regardless of whether this particular story actually occurred or was fabricated to make a social statement, the story is indicative of what is occurring on college campuses and in the workplace. More importantly, the narrative paints a tangible picture of some of the challenges we face as parents today and the pitfalls to avoid as we move forward. (You can read the original Tweet thread here.) Bottom line, there is an overwhelming number of millennials who continue to rely on their parents to mediate for them and solve the problems that they are not equipped to handle on their own. Or perhaps more accurately, parents have continued to intervene and create dependency in their children instead of equipping them to launch successfully.
We live in a society that has rapidly moved past helicopter parenting to snowplow parenting. The helicopter parent hovers relentlessly over the child out of fear and over-protection, micro-managing every move and decision the child makes. The snowplow parent takes it one step further and intervenes -- removing all obstacles, challenges, or problems for the child. These parents have been faulted with writing papers for their children, calling bosses, showing up to interviews, all motivated by a basic principle that their children can do no wrong and all obstacles will be removed in an effort to prevent any discomfort.
According to one study, only 1 in 4 children are considered resilient. A lack of resiliency is on the rise with many contributing factors as we are parenting the smartphone generation, both hovering and snowplowing, while simultaneously encouraging individualism and celebrating a self-focus. We are setting our children up for failure when we continue to place them on pedestals, treating them as if they can do no wrong. We teach them that if any one tries to correct or challenge them, we will run to their rescue while pointing fingers of accusation at teachers, coaches, referees, even college professors and employers, and blaming them for “mistreating” our child. We have taught our children to undermine authority, reinforcing that the world is out to get them instead of showing gratitude and appreciation for the mentors in their lives who are simply trying to do their jobs. We live in a culture that demands the bare minimum from our children while everyone receives a trophy just for showing up, regardless of attitude or apathy. We have made our children our idols: living life to serve them rather than equipping them with tools for success.
This is not reality. The real problem is that our children are not perfect. They will make mistakes. They will fail, but the fall is a lot harder and farther when they have not been prepared with the grit to fall and bounce back.
As a mother of three myself, I would challenge us as parents to consider that we are missing an incredible opportunity to give our children the gift of providing them a safe place to land when they do make mistakes while providing unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace.
While deeply rooted in love, our parenting styles have shifted from Helicopter (protecting) to Snowplow (removing ALL obstacles), and yet, this kind of parenting is damaging to our children. Our children are being robbed emotionally as we have removed opportunities for them to experience real life and the challenges that shape and help them become resilient. The reality is that life has challenges. We will all face obstacles in life, but children require a Trampoline Parent that teaches them resilience and provides them with the tools needed to bounce back from adversity. As adults, we know it is our mistakes and failures that have taught us valuable life lessons and how to be resilient.
It is no wonder that between social media and being placed on a pedestal, there is a lot of pressure on a child when they know they aren’t perfect, but are having to live that lie. Our children are having a hard time becoming adults when we have removed all barriers, and created a false sense of reality for them. They don’t know how to handle disappointment, challenges, and failure.
Due in part to social media, depression and anxiety are soaring while suicide rates have increased. It should be no surprise that only 1 in 4 (only 25%) of young people are considered resilient given the toxic combination of comparison magnified through social media while being incapable of taking correction and failing because they have not been equipped for resiliency.
While the 20-something referred to in the Twitter thread does NOT represent all millennials, the story does draw attention to a cultural flaw and dangerous path we are headed for as a society. Rather than providing encouragement and discipline, teaching character with humility, or providing a soft place to land when failure inevitably happens, we have been in the business of raising weak “snowflakes” that melt under pressure while we sit in the driver seat operating the snowplow. No wonder millennials are struggling with their identity and are quick to blame others for their own shortcomings and insecurities. Removing all obstacles sends a strong message to our kids that they are not capable and we don’t believe they can succeed on their own. We create a perpetual dependency on us rather than equipping them to launch successfully.
The home is the most important foundation for building character in our children. Parents should be their children’s biggest supporter, encourager, counselor, and advocate. But, in the process, we can’t miss the opportunity to teach our children unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, and character. Teaching our children humility and a willingness to learn and listen to others will instill a respect for those around them. Kids want to know that we believe in them. We must stop sending them the message that they are incapable of success without our hand-holding. We must remove the entitlement mentality that they can do no wrong while blaming others.
Parents must role-model respect to teachers, counselors, and coaches, rather than pretend their child is blameless. Teaching truth in love, we must encourage and challenge our children to become pillars of character standing for truth and justice rather than melting under the pressures of life. We all desire to see our children become successful strong leaders, but we have missed an opportunity in how we have taught these lessons. The most successful leaders in our world are humble, teachable, compassionate leaders willing to learn from others with grit and resilience to bounce back when faced with disappointment. Parents have an incredible opportunity to teach our children resilience and instill character, raising up a generation with a backbone that faces obstacles rather than running from them.