As toddlers, we learn to walk after falling down multiple times. Each time we fell, we got back up and continued to push ourselves. Perseverance is a lesson we learn after every failure we encounter in life, but that may no longer be the case for some children.
Welcome to snowplow parenting, where obsessive parents go above and beyond to ensure their children face no obstacles even in adulthood. While seemingly sweet, the only thing these parents are teaching kids is how to be helpless.
Like helicopter parents, snowplow parents or lawnmower parents are excessively involved in their child’s life, but will also clear any obstacle that may hinder their child’s future. According to the New York Times, the nation saw an example of snowplow parenting taken to a criminal extreme with the college admissions scandal involving two notable actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The parents involved went above and beyond to ensure their children would get accepted into elite schools rather than have their children apply and potentially get rejected.
Snowplow parents are obsessed with ensuring their children have the best of everything. They’ll constantly remind their children of due dates and appointments and call teachers with excuses for their child’s behavior. Most of this coddling diffuses into adulthood.
According to a survey by Morning Consult, a global technology company revolutionizing survey research, for the New York Times, 76% of parents reminded their adult children of deadlines, 74% made appointments for their adult children and 16% helped write all or part of a job or internship application. Children subject to over parenting have less confidence accomplishing tasks such as paying bills because they are trained to believe they aren’t capable, according to PsychCentral. These children have their parents do just about breathing for them, and, in turn, are incompetent at achieving goals themselves.
Over-functioning parents dissuade kids from learning the skills necessary to function in real life later on. The kids of snowplow parents are helpless in college since they lack experience in handling difficult situations and everyday tasks on their own. These young adults begin to face failure for the first time in their lives and find difficulty coping with it. In the New York Times article, one daughter’s parents went above and beyond to make sure she didn’t have to deal with sauce on her food growing up. Entering college, she couldn’t deal with the cafeteria’s food options since they involved sauce, so she left college and ran away from real life.
Snowplow parents are so petrified to let their kids fall that they neglect to recognize the benefits of failure. Acute stress, such as short-term stressful situations, is good for brain development and social skills, according to Psychology Today. Restricting kids of any stress strips away their ability to handle competition, confrontations and failure. If a child isn’t able to learn resilience, they are more prone to anxiety and more likely to give up in future endeavors. Overparenting does more harm than good, ironically. Thus, children shouldn’t be taught to fear failure but to actively work harder after a setback.
It’s a common stereotype for parents to say “Back in my day, we didn’t have television or computers to write our essays or mom to pack our lunches.” They refer to times where they had to learn to become independent and tackle tasks on their own, and that’s a lesson kids should be taught today. Carving the perfect future for a child doesn’t mean the kid is going to be successful, and if parents really want to do the most for their kids, let them fail and encourage them to get back up and try again.