Effects of snowplow parenting on kids life

snowplow parenting

One unfortunate parenting trend has been referred to as “snowplow parenting”. The term, popularized by writer Kim John Payne, was first used as a metaphor to describe how parents clear a smooth path for their kids so they’ll never have to bump up against any obstacles. In other words, parents tend to anticipate everything that could go wrong and remove or prevent those potential problems before they even happen.

How does this look in real life? A few examples are making sure young children achieve all the milestones they’re “supposed” to, choosing their kids’ activities for them, and doing too much for older kids (i.e., calling the teacher when there’s a problem instead of having a conversation with your child).

1. Extreme form of helicopter parenting

A close up of a sheep

Snowplow parenting is an extreme form of helicopter parenting, a term that grew out of concern about countless kids spending their entire adolescence inside a protective bubble. Snowplow parents make sure the path is clear for their children while also taking away any potential obstacles, but they forget to teach them how to function independently. Kids never learn the coping skills needed to handle life’s challenges and, instead of becoming self-sufficient, they rely on their parents for everything.

2. Missing out on the best part of life

A group of people standing next to a body of water

It’s easy to understand why snowplow parenting occurs—parents just want their kids to be safe and happy and healthy and loved and successful and good and kind and caring. But by taking away all of the challenges, they’re robbing their kids of an important part of life.

Pursuing some passion—whether it’s dance, gymnastics, soccer, or piano—means that there will be great days and not-so-great days. And some years will be more successful than others (i.e., winning a big trophy one season to losing almost every game the next).

But kids who are taught how to handle life’s inevitable disappointments and failures grow up resilient, self-sufficient, and able to bounce back from adversity. When they finally leave their parents’ homes, they know how to cope with life’s inevitable challenges—and they’ll be more successful because of it.

3. Obstacles make triumphs even sweeter

When parents recognize that kids need to face some obstacles, they can help them come up with a plan for how to handle those challenges. For example, if your child struggles with the attention span necessary for reading lengthy novels, find a book that meets their interests and encourage them to take a break every few chapters to read something else or watch a movie.

If kids feel as though they have some control over their lives, it empowers them and helps them become more resilient. When parents take away obstacles by being too controlling, kids lose the chance to build those important coping skills and self-confidence, which means that they’ll have a harder time-solving problem on their own.

4. Self-esteem

Snowplow parents want the best for their kids. They want them to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults who love themselves and others—but focusing too much on raising children with high self-esteem leads to the development of narcissism. Narcissists feel superior to others, lack empathy, and tend to be selfish.

Parents should focus more on helping their kids build self-confidence—i.e., the belief that they’re capable of doing what needs to be done to achieve success. It’s great if your child feels good about themselves, but they need to know that feeling good about yourself should never be used as an excuse for being self-centered or not listening to others.

5. The limits of technology

Snowplow parents tend to include smartphones, laptops, and tablets in their overprotective bubble because they’re worried about the influence of social media. But these devices can provide opportunities for kids to develop important skills.

For example, communicating with a screen engages different parts of the brain because users need to pay attention to what’s on the screen and interpret facial expressions. Kids learn empathy when they recognize how people feel by “reading” their texts and emails.

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