I recently came across an article about new policies being enacted by the Bedford, New Hampshire school system in response to “snowplow parenting”. The term “snowplow parenting” was coined to refer to parents who try to remove all obstacles from their child’s way, in order to make life as smooth and stress free as possible. While these parents think they are helping their child, they are actually doing more harm than good.
One of a parent’s most important jobs is to teach their child how to deal with adversity, challenges and stress. Let’s face it, no one, no matter how rich, successful, or privileged, goes through life without dealing with disappointment, challenges, stress, and failure. It is just a fact of life.
By trying to “smooth out” the bumps for their children parents are depriving the child of learning how to deal with setbacks in life. When this happens we end up with children who cannot function in the world and who coming running back home to seek parental help every time anything goes badly for them. This is not how a healthy adult functions.
When we work with students who are struggling, and we talk to parents who get alarmed when their child is facing challenges, we tell them to step back and give it some time. Parents need to resist the urge to swoop in and “make it all better”. While this may have worked when the child was a toddler, it is not an appropriate way to parent a middle or high school student.
Children who are allowed to try and fail develop the courage to keep striving. They develop skills to help them cope with stress and adversity. Ultimately students learn to trust in themselves and their abilities, and they gain a greater sense of self worth and dignity when they are able to achieve things on their own.
Remember parents – it is okay to be a cheerleader – it is NOT okay to be a snowplow!