The Effects of the Snowplow Parenting Trend on Children

While snowplow parents may believe they are helping their children succeed, the effects of the snowplow parenting trend can actually hinder children from learning crucial coping skills. This parenting style may not be as beneficial as it seems.

Like one that clears snow from the street, a snowplow parent does the same for their child. These parents do not want their children to be unhappy or have any difficulties, so they are quick to step in and provide solutions. In 2019, the name “Operation Varsity Blues” was popularized by a New York Times article on the college admissions scam.

To investigate the prevalence of “snowplow parenting,” we consulted with professionals. What follows is an exploration of the effects of this parenting philosophy on today’s youth.

Why is this trend happening now?

“snowplow” and “helicopter” parents constantly interfere in their children’s lives. Helicopter parents, for instance, are “hyper-focused on their children,” as described by Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., head of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in the Detroit area. Dr. Daitch adds that parents often emphasize their roles in shaping their children’s outcomes too much.

Nevertheless, “snowplow parenting” (also known as “lawnmower parenting”) depicts parents who not only hyper-focus on their children but also overprotect them by taking on their children’s problems themselves.

How the Media Play a Role

Dr. Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker in Newton, Massachusetts, notes that “Whether we choose to call them snowplows, helicopters, or lawnmowers, this generation of parents is raising children in a time of worry.”

And according to Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure: How the Greatest Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children May Achieve, the media is to blame.

To paraphrase what Lahey says about the media, “In the eyes of the media, danger is always lurking around every corner, and our kids are constantly in danger.” The media exaggerates extremely remote, prospective hazards to our children, but the truth is that this is one of the safest times in history to be a kid in terms of violent crime.

Technology facilitates interfering.

Is this latest innovation adding fire to the snowy avalanche? The mobile phone is in your lap. Being a snowplow parent now is considerably easier than it was in the past, thanks to technology.

The Consequences of Snowplow Parenting

How are the children of snowplow drivers doing these days? Not fantastic, I’m afraid. Children of snowplow workers may have difficulty becoming independent adults because they are accustomed to having their every need met.

Distress over how to handle anger.

According to Lahey, children whose parents are more controlling are less able to deal with setbacks and succeed when faced with challenges. To be more specific, the term “desirable difficulties” is used to characterize learning that calls for greater work but pays off in the long run.

According to Lahey, children who aren’t exposed to challenges of any kind grow up unable to deal with frustration, give up at the first sign of difficulty, and have a diminished capacity for learning.

Have trouble figuring out how to fix things.

One poll conducted by the New York Times in 2019 on snowplow parenting indicated the various methods in which parents helped their college-aged children deal with issues:

  • Sending out gentle deadline reminders to the young’uns.
  • Facilitating the scheduling of their appointments.
  • I am calling to have them get up and ready for class.
  • Contributing to their monthly living costs.
  • Assisting with the composition of various essays, internship applications, and other assignments.

Although life is a marathon, Dr. Korb compares snowplow parents to sprinters. He writes, “A snowplow parent might assist their child in getting into a more esteemed university, landing the lead role in the school play, or making the most competitive soccer team, but by doing so, the snowplow parent deprives their child of the chance to learn problem-solving and struggle-handling skills, which are crucial life skills.”

Depression is caused by doubting one’s own abilities.

According to Lahey, children who are never taught to take responsibility for their actions develop a low sense of competence. They are less likely to take action because, as Lahey puts it, “they don’t trust that their acts will lead to positive change.” “Parents are the first and best teachers; this trait is also known as learned helplessness.”

Worries have grown.

According to Dr. Naumburg, when parents’ judgments are influenced by worry, they take measures meant to calm their children’s nerves rather than helping them learn to deal with adversity, build resilience, and cope effectively.

“When parents make decisions out of fear, they pass that fear on to their children,” explains Dr. Naumburg. Anxiety disorders in parents have been shown to affect parenting styles, which in turn may raise a child’s vulnerability to anxiety.

Being a Snowplow Parent: What You Need to Know

To protect their children from hardship, snowplow parents either overindulge in their children’s successes or pull back emotionally. Yet, challenges are necessary for development. Instead of avoiding difficulty, Dr. Korb advises adopting a growth mentality.

In light of the recent “snowplow parenting” movement, here are some additional suggestions from our experts for how to bring up a child to be independent.

Do your best to calm your own nerves.

Managing one’s own anxiety is crucial, says Dr. Naumburg. She argues that we are more likely to bring up resilient kids if we can maintain a level head as parents and let our principles serve as a compass.

It’s important to think about the big picture.

Lahey recommends that parents put their attention on long-term objectives rather than immediate concerns. She also emphasizes the value of putting more weight on the learning itself than on final scores. “Real parenting occurs in the process of improving for the next go-around.”

Take the big picture as a parent.

Dr. Korb promotes “big picture” parenting, in which parents ease their restrictions on their children to let them develop into responsible adults. In the face of adversity, a parent with a broad perspective will ask their child, “How will you fix the problem, and what will you do differently next time?” They may provide suggestions but will ultimately respect their child’s process as they determine what they need to do to succeed.

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