How to avoid being a Snow Plow Parent

Indy Style

Never stand in the way of your kids earning their own success! 

Dr. Erin Leonard, psychotherapist, discusses “snow plow parenting” as she wrote about in her regular “Peaceful Parenting” section at

The Snow Plow Parent 
A parent who removes obstacles from their child’s path so that the child has a fail-safe path to success. For example, the celebrity moms who cheated attempted to manipulate their kids into a prestigious college.

Why does this approach have a negative impact on a child’s character? 
1. It strips a child of their self-efficacy. The underlying message to the child is, “you can’t do it on your own. You need me to fix it for you.” Even if the child is unaware of what their parent did to ensure their success, when they find out, they will probably be devastated. 
2. If a child does not learn to cope with adversity, they will never be resilient. Parents erroneously believe that disappointment deters a child. Yet, it is dealing with disappointment without the support of a parent that deters a child. If the child receives empathy and encouragement, they become resilient. 
3. Help your child handle disappointment with empathy and encouragement. For example, say a 9 year old boy gets cut from his baseball team. The parent should attempt to understand how the child feels. Chances are he is hurt and disappointed. An important thing for a parent top say is, “You are disappointed. I would be too. You really wanted to make it. I get it, honey.” After the empathy, the parent should be encouraging and reassuring. “Keep at it. It will come.” 
4. Build character by always validating character ahead of achievement. Instead of congratulating the child on her soccer goal, say, “I’m so impressed with you team work and tenacity. Great job!” 
5. Make sure your child values the process as much as the outcome. Revel in their effort and creative process. Enjoy the path to their goal as much as their achievement. 
6. Convey that you love who they are, not just what they achieve. 

Take aways: 
1. Character is the true determiner of success in a person’s professional life and personal life. 
2. It is not what happens to kids. It is how a parent helps them deal with it. 

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