What Is Snowplough Parenting –And Should You Be Concerned About It?

Some parents won’t let anything get in their child's way. Not even an avalanche.

We’ve all heard of ‘helicopter’ parenting – and you might have heard about ‘lawnmower’, ‘tiger’, even ‘intensive’ parenting, too. Well, now there’s another method to add to your parenting lexicon: ‘snowplough’.

The premise of this latest guilt-inducing label appears to be the idea that rather than hovering anxiously over their kids like parent-shaped aircraft (being a helicopter is so 2018), 2019 parents are strapping themselves into the driving seat of a machine designed to clear roads of thick snow by pushing it aside. Something like that.

Basically, the term describes the method by which some overprotective parents steam-roll in to ensure their children’s success – and they won’t let anything get in their way. Not even an avalanche.

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Instead, parents clear obstacles with their giant blades, rotating sweeper brooms and hypothetical (usually wealthy) blowers – and this can even lead to criminal activity. In the US, according to The Independent, ‘snowplough’ parents are those responsible for the recent college bribery scandal – where parents went to extreme lengths of paying to get their children into elite colleges (and tried to make sure their child never found out).

Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and the author of How to Raise an Adult, said she’d seen students relying on their parents to set them up on ‘playdates’ with people in their dorm.

Others would ask their mums and dads to complain to their employers if they didn’t get a job following an internship – something she said was due to parents never letting their children make mistakes or face challenges. “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid,” Lythcott-Haims said, according to USA Today.

Child development experts say that learning to solve problems, self-regulation and taking risks are vital life skills. “As parents, the best strategy is to find a balance between overprotectiveness and nonchalance,” they argue. “That middle ground allows children to try new things, make mistakes, and solve problems within a safe structure.”

And Tim Gill, author of ‘No Fear: Growing Up In A Risk Averse Society’, agrees. “Children and young people have the potential to be more resilient, responsible, capable and creative than we give them credit for, yet their lives are becoming ever more scheduled, controlled and directed,” he previously told HuffPost UK. “We need to support parents, so they feel able to give their children some of the freedoms that previous generations enjoyed when they were young.”

But Lythcott-Haims warns the habit of ‘snowploughing’ can be hard to break. “If you’re doing it [with your child] in high school, you can’t stop at college,” she said. “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.”

The general advice is – tempting as it might be to try to protect your kids from failure – it won’t help them in the long-run. Kids need to make, and learn from, their own mistakes.

Here’s your lowdown on all the parenting styles (and yes, we’re very aware how similar some of them are):

Which Type Of Parent Are You?

Snowplough parent: Forces obstacles out of their children’s paths. They act this way because they are always thinking of the future success of their child. Anyone or anything that stands in the way of that success must be removed.

Intensive parent: Wants to be involved in every aspect of their child’s life. Focuses all of their time and money – even when it leaves them struggling – on enriching their child’s free time and spending any time that’s left together.

Helicopter parent: Takes responsibility for their child’s successes or failures (including bargaining with teachers, doing homework). Is involved in their child’s life in a way that is protective and perfectionist.

Lawnmower parent: ‘Mows down’ obstacles to their child’s happiness. Will make sure their child doesn’t experience discomfort. Will go out of their way to ‘fix’ problems (such as going home to bring child’s favourite pencil case back to school, even if it makes them late for work).

Tiger parent: Strict or demanding. Determined their child will achieve success, at all costs. May push and pressure their children to study, practise musical instruments or train for sports – using up all their free time to do so. Believes in ‘tough love’.

Free range parent: Raises their child in a ‘hands-off’ manner. Encourages them to be independent, to make their own choices and decisions, and to play alone or with friends. Sets safety rules, but doesn’t believe in much supervision.