We have all probably heard of ‘helicopter’ parents, who ‘hover’ over their kids constantly to ensure nothing goes wrong during their day. Some parents take this form of over-involved parenting a step further and go to extremes to ‘prepare the way’ for their child by removing any obstacles in their child’s path. This is often referred to as ‘snowplow parenting.’ Children of snowplow parents may reach adulthood with little or no problem-solving skills or the ability to advocate for themselves because they were shielded from having to face a challenge or deal with adversity. In addition, a child of a ‘snowplow‘ parent may end up occupying a position in school or in the workforce that he is not prepared for.
Here are some tips on how to serve as your child’s coach on his journey to adulthood, instead of denying him valuable experiences by ‘snowplowing’ any and all obstacles out of his way.
Alleviate the anxiety that may tempt you to ‘snowplow’
We all want the best for our kids and it can be disturbing to watch them struggle and sometimes fail. In addition, some view parenting as a competition and social media makes it easy to get caught up in this competition without realizing it. We may set goals for our kids that make us feel like a success, instead of assisting them in selecting realistic goals that match their interests and talents.
Instead of competing with other parents and ‘snowplowing’ the way to the goal you think your child should attain, teach your child the values and skills he needs to achieve goals important to him and to deal with potential roadblocks. This includes the ability to cope with failure. You and your child will feel a lot less stressed and anxious.
You can still be a strong advocate for your child when needed
The secret to avoiding snowplow parenting is knowing how to advocate for your child when needed and when to step back and coach your child through the process of advocating for himself. Some situations require parental involvement from the beginning, such as requesting special accommodations from the school system for a disabled child or when your child feels unsafe due to bullying. Use these steps to be an effective advocate for your child in these types of situations:
- Clearly communicate what your child’s needs are and provide any requested documentation in a timely manner.
- Be familiar with your child’s rights. Review school policies and any laws, such as IDEA, relevant to the situation.
- Keep the interactions positive but be persistent. Remember, your child is learning by observing you.
- In simpler situations, let your child attempt to advocate for himself
- Listen to your child explain the situation and why he feels concerned about it. Ask him what he thinks he should do to address it. If he says he does not know, advise him to think about it for awhile and come up with a few suggestions he can talk through with you.
- Once your child has decided upon his next step, give him a chance to try it.
- If the approach does not work this first time, coach him through the process of re-evaluating his solution and coming up with a new one.
You may need to step in eventually if the situation evolves into a more urgent one requiring your intervention, but your child at least learned problem-solving skills from his effort.