4 Signs You Might Be a Snowplow Parent
It’s the latest parenting style taking the country by storm: “Snowplow parenting” is the act of clearing obstacles out of your kids paths before they hit. Or, as The New York Times describes it: “Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing [anything blocking their child’s success], so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.”
Still, it’s a fine line between helping and obstacle clearing. And while you’re probably not paying somebody to take the SATs for your kid (we hope!), it’s worth making sure you don’t have any of these much-more-minor warning signs.
You ‘Help’ Your Kids with Their Homework
That ten-page paper on To Kill a Mockingbird? Yeah, Gabby meant to read it, but it’s due tomorrow and she’s only at chapter three. Mom (or dad) to the rescue, plotting out the paper and setting an alarm so she can wake up early and fill in the holes. We get it: The last thing you want is for your hard-working child to suffer a bad grade, but removing that obstacle is a serious parenting no-no. (Isn’t it better to teach the lesson of what happens when you turn in something late?) Doing the work for them can be product of intensive mothering or fathering, according to research published in the academic journal Social Forces—and it can lead to child-centered parenting that’s pervasive. (Not to mention, standards that are difficult to attain.)
You Text/Email Their Teachers Instead of Holding Your Child Accountable
So, your kid went to bed early and you didn’t step in to write the paper on his behalf. Instead, you fired off a late night email to the school explaining all the reasons he deserves an extra week on the assignment. Yet again, no lesson learned. Simultaneously, this action actually disempowers kids when it comes to sticking up for themselves and denies them a chance to gain experience conversing with superiors. (A life skill that requires practice.)
You Play the Blame Game
Your child got a bad grade on her report card. Or should have pitched in the softball game instead of spending the second half on the bench. It’s OK, you tell her. It’s someone else’s fault. (“That teacher had it out for you.” “That coach doesn’t know talent when he sees it.”) Instead of encouraging kids to examine their own efforts, you’re nixing the obstacle with a dangerous lesson: They’re always right, others are always wrong.
You Don’t Give Your Kids Options
By eliminating obstacles before they present themselves, you end up prescribing the exact activities kids should participate in, the schools they should attend, even the people they should hang out with. In other words, if you don’t give children the opportunity to color outside the lines and make mistakes along the way, you don’t give them the opportunity to figure out what they really want to do in life. Making a concerted effort to “cultivate” our kids’ lives reflects a pressure on uniformity—something that may or may not be what you’re striving for.