What is Snow Plow Parenting, and Why Does It Hurt Kids?

Okay, this was a new one for me. I was asked recently if I had heard of snow plow parenting, and I had to confess that I had not. But then when it was explained to me, I realized that I had indeed heard of it. Just not in those terms.

I am familiar with helicopter parenting. I wrote a self-confessional article about it several months ago, recalling my own rueful foray into that over-involved, hovering style of parenting. Fortunately, I learned my lesson without too much pain for me or my daughter. No more helicoptering. (Is that really a verb?)

So what is snow plow parenting?

Well, let’s first ask ourselves what a snow plow does. What is its purpose? It clears the roadway for easier driving. No snow, no obstacles. Just smooth, easy passage.

That’s good, right? Well, if you’re talking about roadways, then yes. It’s a good thing. But what about your kids’ lives?

Is it good to have all the obstacles removed? Is it good to have no difficulties to navigate once in a while?

I would say probably not.

What? Why not? Shouldn’t we make our kids’ lives as easy as possible? Shouldn’t we clear the way for them to have no problems to deal with? No issues to resolve? Nothing that makes them sad or that challenges them in some way?

That may sound good at first, but upon further evaluation, it’s not such a great thing.

Think about this. When your muscles don’t get used, they go soft. They atrophy. They can no longer function because of inactivity. They need to exercise and be used in order to function properly and effectively.

The same can be said for your emotional “muscles.”

Kids must deal with difficult situations from time to time in order for them to gain strength, stamina, and skill when they must face bigger obstacles later on, and they certainly will face them. There will be a person who is a challenge to interact with. There will be job situations that will be unbearable at times.

They must learn how to deal with these situations on their own without mom or dad coming to the rescue. It’s tough, but necessary. Here again, I have to constantly remind myself that my intervention, especially for my teenager, is not beneficial in many situations.

Teens who have never, ever experienced adversity will only suffer later from the lack of ability to cope with what life throws at them. I suppose this could be considered flexing their emotional muscles.

Learning how to take disappointment or loss is a huge milestone every kid must be encouraged to achieve. The inability to do so prevents long term peace of mind and contributes to bad expectations during adulthood.

Sometimes, it may be appropriate for parents to intervene if a teen is in a really bad situation. But frequently, we should curb our enthusiasm for helping, and just let the teens work things out on their own. Instead of us clearing the way, the kids learn how to do it for themselves.

So maybe the snow plowing should be reserved for the roads.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? Wanting to make your kids’ problems go away? I certainly have. Leave a comment in the section below to tell about your experience. As always,

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “What is Snow Plow Parenting, and Why Does It Hurt Kids?

  1. I must admit. That is an exceptional example regarding teaching our children that they must learn to deal with unpleasant situations as they confront them in their adult lives. Good article.