Parenting, through a certain lens, is a fascinating undertaking. We are likely all very introspective about our approach to being parents, at some points in time more so than others. There was a time when it seemed my middle child was destined to break at least one bone every year. I wondered what my wife and I might do differently to break this streak. Then, the year that this stopped, I wondered what we had done to contribute to her not breaking any bones that year. She was four or five then, and she's fifteen now. This many years later, I think it's likely we had no effect whatsoever on whether or not she broke those bones. (Although, one time, I am sure I could have been more directive about how brakes on a bicycle work.)
It was about this time that I first heard the phrase "bubble wrap kids." It was also around this time that the phrases "tiger mom" and "helicopter parent" came out. Shortly after, as so often happens, there was a backlash of "free range parents." Most parents likely wonder where they match and differ whenever one of these labels come out.
The recent news coverage of families that have taken extraordinary steps in order to get their children into college has brought attention to a more recent parenting category: "Snow Plow Parents." The image is pretty self-explanatory. Snow Plow Parents attempt to smooth the way ahead of their children, endeavoring to remove all obstacles and challenges that their child might face on their way to success. They bear much in common with helicopter parents in that they likely hover over their children, monitoring their every move from the food they eat to the friends they make, but Snow Plow Parents take this a step further by anticipating what might lay ahead and taking active steps to make sure the obstacle that their child might face is eliminated before the child ever sees it.
At the extreme level, this is the parent who paid an imposter to take the SAT for their child yet administered a duplicate of the test to their own child so that the child would believe s/he had actually taken it. It's the parent who conspired to create a false athlete's profile so that their child could get into a top-tier college on a sport scholarship only to fret that the child would then be demoralized by being benched when it became clear the child did not have any athletic capacity.
There are lesser examples, too. There's the family whose daughter despised sauce. Any sauce. Every sauce. She just could not stand sauces. The family successfully eliminated all sauces from the family dinner table. Unfortunately, the child wound up dropping out of college as she could not deal with the sauces that saturated meals in the university dining common. There's the mother who called the university to ask what foods are on the salad bar so that she could advise her daughter what to eat. There are the dads who have called university professors to have their children's grades raised. And, there's the parent who Skyped in to adjudicate a misunderstanding between his child and his child's roommate regarding food that had gone missing in the shared refrigerator.
Nowadays, parents of college-age students are making haircut and doctor appointments for them, giving them wake up calls, and following their syllabi online so as to remind them of approaching deadlines.
For younger children, well, one can extrapolate the signs of the snowplow for one's self. It's the parent chewing out a referee from the sidelines, going for ice cream instead of the award ceremony when their child does not place, asking that curriculum be tailored when their child experiences boredom, asking teachers to change work groups at the first sign of conflict. It's the parent who finds external forces to always be the cause of their child's "failures."
Parenting is not easy. It's hard. It's harder to watch my child struggle with the zipper on his coat than it is to zip it for him. It's harder to watch my daughter sit on the bench than it is to corner the coach and convince him to play her. It's harder to make my son earn his gas money than slip him a ten-dollar bill.
If you asked me, "Don't you wish you could remove all pain and difficulty from your children's lives?" I'm sure my knee jerk response would be, "Yes, at any cost!" The "cost" however, is much too great.
In bestowing advantages on our children, we may disadvantage them. By enabling them, we may be disabling them. Daily, weekly, yearly, our children gain developmental skills. Those skills come to them by way of the challenges they face and with which they struggle. The Snow Plow Parent removes those challenges and struggles. The result is children who have not learned to face struggles, to be challenged, to persevere and to thrive... on their own.
There are synonyms for Snow Plow Parents, including Lawn Mower Parents and Bulldozing parents. We all want to set our children up for success, but how, in reality, does this happen? Send them to a Montessori School, one like Aidan Montessori School. This is an environment in which they will be guided towards success by adults who get out of the way so they can discover the joys of the struggling. And, to the extent possible, do the same for them on the home front.