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Health and Fitness News

Understanding Snowplow Parenting

Does this describe your parenting style?

As a snowplow makes its way down a street filled with snow, its large, metal blade pushes the snow to the sides of the street as it makes a clear path for vehicles to safely travel. This image was recently used by the New York Times to describe parents who paid hefty bribes to get their children into colleges they didn’t qualify for. But you don’t have to do immoral or illegal things to be a snowplow parent.

Wondering what snowplow parenting is and how it damages children? You’re about to find out.

Clearing the Path

According to a New York Times article, “Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration, or lost opportunities.”

This quote pretty much sums up the definition of snowplow parenting. Both wealthy and middle class parents go to great lengths to ensure their child’s success, whether in academics or sports. All hindrances and obstacles to reaching success are cleared from the child’s path. Parents do this thinking they’re helping their children get ahead. But are they?

Signs You’re a Snowplow

What does it look like to be a snowplow parent? Snowplow parents may pay big bucks, hire private coaches, get personal tutoring, buy expensive equipment, use intimidation techniques, or tap into their privileged connections to make sure their children succeeds.

If their child gets a bad grade, snowplow parents are in the principal’s office to complain and ask for special treatment. When their child doesn’t make the varsity team, they schedule a meeting with the coach. If their child isn’t in a class with their friends, they ask for a new class schedule. After a referee makes a call against their child, the parent yells and argues the call. A snowplow parent helps with every homework assignment, sometimes even doing the work for their child. There’s not much that will stand in the way of these determined parents.

Similar to a Helicopter

Helicopter parents hover over their children and micro-manage their every move. They’re fearful of germs, injury, unhealthy foods, bullies, and potential dangers, so they are quick to rush in to help their child overcome any challenge and avoid any danger.

Snowplow parents may seem like they are hovering, but it’s not out of fear, but out of a strong desire for their child to succeed in the future. They feel entitled to such feelings and if anything or anyone stands in their way, it’s never the parent’s or child’s fault.

The Potential Damage

Snowplows, like all parents, only want to be a good parent. After all, no parent has done this before, and we’re all learning as we go.

Maybe you weren’t given opportunities as a child and you want to make sure your children have what you missed out on. Or maybe you were spoiled and think your children deserve to be spoiled and babied as well. So you snowplow.
Unfortunately, snowplow parenting doesn’t come without consequence. Kids whose parents either hover or plow over obstacles are weak, less resilient, and more anxious. They’re timid and lack the ability to problem solve or make their own decisions. When things don’t go their way, they don’t know how to handle disappointment because they haven’t developed healthy coping skills. Kids with snowplow parents are used to being the best or in first place, so when they’re not, they quit and give up trying.

Healthy Parenting

What should you do if you see snowplow tendencies in the way you parent? There’s a time to stand up for injustices against your child, but in most cases it’s best for your child to learn to figure problems out on their own. Let your kids fail at something. Let them tie their own shoes, make their own bed, do their own homework, remember deadlines at school, and make the JV team. Let the referee make a bad call against your child and let them get a bad grade if they deserve it.

These small setbacks in your child’s life won’t damage your child. It will help them develop into strong, resilient adults who don’t wince at life’s curveballs, but rather face them head-on.

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