I’ve seen some pretty funny memes about ‘Snowplow Parents’.
Some people also label this type of parent also as a Lawnmower Parent.
This type of parent is one step up on the ‘extreme ladder’ compared to a Helicopter parent, where that they like to clear obstacles from the path and remove all discomfort for their child.
I just read a fascinating blog post from Lauren over at They Say Parenting titled: “Snowplow Parenting: What you Need to Know”
I loved the post and she always has great ideas to share with parents. In fact, back in December she was on our podcast talking about: “3 Tips On How To Raise A Resilient Child“.
It also got me thinking, the day after reading the post. While I’m a huge proponent of raising resilient children and letting my kids figure things out on their own, I realized I might actually fall into the trap of being a lawnmower parent from time to time. Let me explain why in a moment but first let’s review what a snowplow parent is.
What is a Snowplow Parent
According to Dr. Argie Allen Wilson from the Today Show, Snowplow parenting is “moving everything out the way, all obstacles so that your children don’t even know they have a problem.”
The problem, though, is that this isn’t realistic in life.
We are all going to encounter problems: in our relationships, in our work, our friendships, etc. And by adulthood, we need to have developed problem solving skills to work through those challenges.
Moreover, we need the resiliency to not let those challenges break us. They’re merely a temporary setback.
Are We All Snowplow Parents
While I do believe wholeheartedly in letting our children figure out things on their own, I would argue that we have all been a snowplow parent at one point or another (or that we’ve had to desperately fight our instinct not to be one).
Which is really why labels are so unproductive. It creates an “us against them” mentality.
When the truth is that most of us have “helicopter parented” our kids at some point. Or been a lawnmower or snowplow parent from time to time.
It’s hard (if not impossible) not to be.
In fact, in some instances, I would argue that there’s a very fine line between being a snowplow parent and a good parent.
For example, let’s say that your child is on a competitive basketball team.
The team works really hard and does their best, but the opposing team gets the ball in the last 20 seconds of the game and the defense isn’t able to stop them from that last free throw that wins the game.
The entire team is upset and blames the defense. And the coach, perhaps in an attempt to “motivate” says that maybe a few members should be off the team.
Now, we all know what a statement like that, paired with the animosity from the other teammates, can do for a child’s mental state. They’re more likely to second guess themselves the next time they’re on the court. Or it may want them to quit playing altogether. (We’ve talked in the past about how most kids quit sports by middle school.)
The question is, as a parent, do you let your child work through the problem on his or her own?
Do you give lots of individual pep talks and build your child up that way?
Or do you step in and have a private conversation with the coach?
In the podcast episode (above), Sheena mentions how a child at the playground made a comment during a game of tag about “the little guy isn’t playing.”
And she struggled, wanting to step in and protect Gannon.
Instinctively, we all want to step in and protect our kids. It’s just a matter of choosing those battles wisely and taking a moment to think through whether our stepping in is really the best thing.
After that it’s just a judgement call. No one has all the answers.
Conclusion: The 411 on Snowplow Parents
Not allowing our children to fail is detrimental to our kids’ ability to be resilient and bounce back after failure. They need to understand that failure is just part of the journey of life. It’s part of learning something new and pushing boundaries and getting better.
It’s up to us as parents to walk the fine line between teaching our children to work through problems on their own and stepping in to protect or guide them when necessary.
As Lauren writes, “They say parenting is hard. Well, I think they are correct! It is hard—period. It is especially hard when we are constantly comparing ourselves to what we see and hear. It is hard when we try to find answers but all we find in the end is conflicting information. With so many “rules” and opinions, it’s impossible to know what is best.”
Which is why at the end of the day, you, Mom and Dad, need to make the judgement call about when you need to let your children work through problems and when you need to step in and guide them.
No one, “expert” or not, can make that judgement call for you.
However, if you’re looking for some insight into parenting, Lauren is coming out with a book soon! We couldn’t be more excited for her and are looking forward to reading it.
We are also curious how YOU avoid being a “snowplow parent.” Do you stay out of it at all costs or step in periodically? Leave us a comment below or jump in our Facebook group to join the conversation.