How to Tell if You are a “Snow Plow” Parent

This is a remarkable blog about what is now being called “Snowplow parenting”. If you want to get the help you need for doing life with your adult children take a peek at my new book. 

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“How to Tell if You are a “Snow Plow” Parent

Plus, understanding the differences between helicopter parents, lawn mower parents, tiger parents and more

Meet the latest parent-shaming label making the rounds: the “snowplow parent.”

The term has been snowballing ever since recently a New York Times story used it in relation to the massive college cheating scandal, where 50 people were charged with fraud for paying upward of $500,000 in bribes to fake their kids’ credentials and test scores to get them into elite schools.

‘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.’

The New York Times

In other words, the parents clear away obstacles to ensure that their children don’t have to deal with frustrations or failures, so they’ve got a clear path ahead of them, similar to how a plow clears snow off the street.

While it’s natural for well-meaning moms and dads to want to offer help and guidance to help their kids succeed, the snowplow parent goes overboard to where the child never has a chance to learn resilience and resourcefulness by facing the setbacks and failures that are an inevitable part of real life.

“I call it failing forward,” Dr. Argie Allen-Wilson, a family counselor, told the “Today” show on Friday. “When we fail, that gives you fuel in order to be motived for not if, but when the next curveball comes.”

Yet an eyebrow-raising new poll by the New York Times and Morning Consult found that three-quarters of the surveyed parents had made appointments like doctor visits or haircuts for their adult children (defined as ages 18 to 28). What’s more:

  • 11% said they would contact their grown child’s employer if their kid had an issue.
  • 16% of those with children in college admitted they had texted or called their kid to wake them up so that they wouldn’t sleep through class or an exam.
  • 8% had contacted a college professor or administrator about their kid’s grades or a problem they were having.

David McCullough, Jr., a high-school teacher and the author of “You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements,” who helped popularize the “snowplow” term, told the Times that parents “think they’re doing the right thing by their children.” The article notes that snowplow parenting is done “largely by privileged parents” who have the money and connections to give their children these advantages.

College counselors: Wealthy parents regularly ask about illegal ways to get their kids into college

If the growing number of parenting monikers is making your head spin, here’s a quick glossary of the parenting “types” out there:

Lawn mower Parent: Similar to the snowplow, this proactive parent “mows down” all of their child’s struggles, challenges and discomforts. The term went viral after a WeAreTeachers community member wrote a post last summer about the extreme lengths parents in her schools were going to appease their kids. Sometimes also referred to as “bulldozer parents” or “curling parents” (for those who follow curling).

Helicopter Parent: The “hovering” and overprotective parent falls into the snowplow or bulldoze camp, as he or she takes an excessive interest in their child’s life and tries to oversee every area — especially academics — from overhead. They have also been known to complain to a teacher about a bad grade, or an employer about their child’s workload, or to also actively waking their kids up on time by calling them even after they’ve left home.

Tiger Parent: This tough-love, authoritarian style was coined by Yale law professor and mother of two daughters Amy Chua in her 2011 book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and refers to raising a child in a tough, disciplinarian way that puts academics and extracurricular activities intended to give kids an advantage in academics ahead of leisure time.

Elephant Parent: The opposite of the tiger parent, this one is very nurturing and protective, particularly while the child is under age 5, and put encouragement and emotional security over academic success, as described by this 2014 article in the Atlantic.

Jellyfish Parent: These permissive parents have few rules and expectations, and often overindulge their children, according to a 2014 Psychology Today article.

Dolphin Parent: This “firm yet flexible” parent is a balance between the tiger and the jellyfish, according to the same Psychology Today article. While they enforce rules and academic expectations, they also nurture creativity and independence in their children, and let them learn by trial and error.

Free-Range Parent: The mother or father who lets their children walk to school, a friend’s house or a nearby playground alone, or who lets their child take public transportation by themselves, believing this builds independence and self-reliance in their kids. This controversial take has drawn backlash from those who fear this is dangerous or neglectful.

Article originally found here.

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Nicole Lyn Pesce

Nicole Lyn Pesce recently completed a master's degree at New York University's School of Journalism. She earned a bachelor's degree in English at Stony Brook University on Long Island, where she also minored in journalism and wrote for The Stony Brook Press -- when she wasn't rucking and mauling on the rugby pitch. She is currently a freelance writer in New York City, and her work has appeared in Lamaze Parents and Manhattan South magazines, Washington Square News and The New York Observer.

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