By Robert L. Mues   |   August 24th, 2019

The 50 people charged In Varsity Blue Scandal Practiced Snowplow Parenting

Overparenting Styles: Helicopter Vs. Snowplow. Which Parenting Style Are You?

parenting snowplow parentThe helicopter parent is the one who hovers over their child, worrying about all the horrible things that could happen to them. They try to monitor their child’s activities and warn them of dangers lurking ahead. In contrast the snowplow parent works hard to clear any thing in the way of their child’s success. They work hard to be sure their child does not encounter frustrating life experiences or have to deal with failures.

This type of parenting has definitely been in the spotlight with the college bribery scandal that has rocked the news. In this investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blue, the 50 people charged were acting as snowplows. They were shielding their children from any of the risks, difficulties and possible failure of the process of attending prestigious colleges. Basically they forged ahead as a snowplow would, clearing the path ahead.  Some of the allegations were bribing SAT proctors and paying university coaches to make sure their child was accepted to the college of their choice. Most of these parents took painful measures to ensure their child would never have to face the embarrassment of knowing how it all came about.

The snowplow parent  syndrome starts early. Even before their baby is born parents push to get them on the list for the most prestigious preschool. Then when they are toddlers they make sure their kid is never made to do anything that frustrates them, or anything they might fail at.  This type of parent can’t seem to stop. Soon they are taking forgotten homework to school, or calling coaches to demand their child make the team, and not just as a benchwarmer.

Snowplow Parent Vs, Helicopter Parent

In a recent article in the New York Times, Dr. Madeline Levine, author of “Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes.’”, says “Here are parents who have spent 18 years grooming their kids with what they perceive as advantages, but they’re not.” In her practice she sees college freshmen who “have had to come home from Emory or Brown because they don’t have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college.”

For example some students never learned to study independently. Some said it was more work than they could handle, and others complained about not caring for their assigned roommates. One of her clients was a young lady who refused to eat any sauce on her food. Ever since she was a little girl, her parents would make sure she never had to, calling her friends parents before she had dinner with a friend to let them know, hold the sauce. When she entered college the cafeteria options seemed to be covered in sauce and the student didn’t have the skills to cope.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid For Success.” and also the former dean of freshmen at Stanford University says that children who are never allowed to fail, flounder once they have to deal with the real world. While at Stanford she saw students relying on their parents to solve their problems.

Prepare Your Child For The Road Ahead, And Not Be The Snowplow Parent Who Plows The Road Ahead

According to Ms. Lythcott-Haimes “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid.” Parents who are guilty of snowplowing find it a difficult habit to break.  “If you’re doing it in high school, you can’t stop at college. If you’re doing it in college, you can’t stop when it comes to the workplace. You have manufactured a role for yourself of always being there to handle things for your child, so it gets worse because your young adult is ill-equipped to manage the basic tasks of life.”

While it is true that most of the snowplow parenting is done by wealthy parents who have the ability and funds to help, recent studies show that parents across lines or race and class are adopting this type of intensive parenting  regardless or whether they can afford it or not.  According to the New York Times Article,  How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood” child development experts say “snowplowing has gone so far, that many young people are in crisis, lacking these problem-solving skills and experiencing record rates of anxiety. There are now classes to teach children to practice failing, at college campuses around the county and even for preschoolers.”

As parents, it is painful to see our children stumble and fall as they negotiate life. It would be easier to plow the way for them and see them “happy.” However, by doing this we are ill equipping them to face life and it’s challenges. Be the parent who prepares your child for the road.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.

Parenting Styles: Helicopter Versus Snowplow Parenting. [Trouble Ahead?]
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