Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Snowplow Parents

A Boston Globe article details "snowplow parents," who interfere constantly with their children in college, including phone calls to professors and administrators. I hadn't heard that term before (a quick Google search shows it has been around a little while) but from experience I am familiar with the concept.

Fortunately, over the years I haven't dealt with parents much. The time I do most is when participating in Explore UNC Charlotte, an event held several times a year at Halton Arena where prospective students and their parents come and learn about different programs. Each major and program has a table with information with a representative. Parents routinely talk for their children. One even said, literally, "We're thinking about law school." The kid stood behind his mother, mute.

But occasionally I also field phone calls and even get personal visits from parents with their children (always, of course, accompanied by the FERPA discussion/signature). Much of the time, at least in my experience, it is a situation where the student has misinformed the parent about a given circumstance, greatly downplaying or omitting their own fault. The parent is annoyed, talks to me, and then I do not hear from them again. Other times they are not angry but just hovering, and the student lets them do all the talking.

Parents should be active in their children's lives, but should not make such contacts except in really serious cases. As the article points out, they are undermining the independence and self-confidence of their children, who need to learn how to navigate problems on their own.


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