Ohio parents indulged son’s every wish after he was abused, feeding self-destructive cycle that upended his life

“The word ‘no’ was never there..."

The Dangers of 'Snowplow' Parenting

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Your first instinct as a parent is to do anything for your children, but 19 News is asking if that will do more harm than good.

The college admissions scandal has put a spotlight on “snowplow parenting,” or clearing away all obstacles so that kids never have to deal with failure.

The technique could literally have disastrous results, as one local family explained.

From all appearances Chris Carter has a storybook life, but the path to get there turned into a struggle to survive.

“My babysitter abused me,” said Carter. “My mother and father, it hurt them a lot.”

Carter said his parents felt responsible and went overboard trying to show they were sorry for what happened.

“The word ‘no’ was never there... I got everything whether it was skateboards, bicycles, foosball tables, ping pong tables, pool tables. a BMW, a Camaro, a pool, I got a lot of it,” said Carter. “A lot of the (school) projects I remember that they would just go in there and do them for me."

If his parents ever did tell him “no,” Chris said he would freak out.

“I would cuss at my family, put holes in walls, break my toys and my trophies and it was a downward spiral,” Chris said. “I was still getting enabled and I started drinking and using drugs.”

“I thought I could, if I bought him everything and gave him everything, I didn’t have to deal with the situation,” said Bob Carter, Chris’ father.'

“It’s too many times that you think with your heart instead of your head,” said Shelia Carter, Chris’s mother.

Even with the drug use, the Carters still couldn’t let their son fail.

“I can’t tell you how many times we paid for traffic tickets and DUI’s and paid his bills for him just to keep him out of trouble,” said Shelia Carter. “Why did we do that?”

“It’s a dangerous practice because you see people who are still depending on mom or dad to give them money to survive even in their 40′s instead of learning how to live within their budget or learning the consequences of poor actions,” said Dr. Deborah Koricke, a clinical psychologist at The Center For Effective Living in Rocky River.

Dr. Koricke said snowplow parenting sends children the message that the can’t handle problems.

“It can ruin kid’s self- esteem and they don’t think of themselves as competent people because what makes us competent is when we do something difficult and we succeed,” Koricke said.

Chris said he traded his BMW to a drug dealer for three rocks of crack cocaine and stole his father’s credit card to get cash.

“The hardest thing for me was to say I’ll prosecute my own son,” said Bob Carter. “It’s crushing but I knew I had to do that.”

“I think the biggest thing was leaving,” said Shelia Carter. “We left and went to Florida and it was very hard to do, we didn’t have any contact with him.”

“When you’re an enabler it’s hard to do something like that,” said Bob Carter.

“We just said to him 'when you get your head screwed on straight, contact us,” said Shelia Carter.

“Being spoiled and selfish I was scared because I’d never been left like that before,” said Chris Carter.

“My mother and father always bailed me out with lawyers and money so I figured if I fed them a line and dance, they would feel sorry for me,” Chris told 19 News.

Chris did get his life together.

He met his wife, Megan, who told him, “it’s me or the drugs."

Chris chose her.

Together they’re raising their children, not by buying them the best of everything, but by spending time together.

“We have family fun Friday, we do board games, pick out movies, play hide and go seek, take bike rides and walks, very constructive things,” said Chris Carter.

Chris’ parents say they’re very proud when they look at how Chris is with his family now.

“I’m so proud... he’d been gone for nine years and we kept on praying and praying and people said ‘throw him out, get rid of him, he’s a lost case, and I said no he’s not'” said Bob Carter.

Now, Chris continues to write new chapters of his story, working at Midwest Detox Center, which provides detox and inpatient treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. He said he is breaking the cycle of snowplow parenting.

“I think that’s a huge thing and I know that it can be done,” Chris Carter told 19 News.

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