Why Your 'Snowplow Parenting' Style Is Ruining Your Kids (And How To Stop)

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Why Your 'Snowplow Parenting' Style Is Ruining Your Kids (And How To Stop)

Long gone are the days where kids refer to their parents as being "strict" or "laid back." Welcome to the modern era in which child-rearing strategies have transformed into a totally different beast. 

Our society has invented various terms to describe parenting techniques, with the most notable being Tiger Moms, free-range, and helicopter parents — all with varying degrees of authority. While working with parents and children at The Little Gym for decades, I've seen these different parenting styles first-hand, and have even noticed the emergence of a new type of parent: The Snowplow Parent.

Similar to helicopter parenting, snowplow moms and dads micro-manage their kids' lives, removing any obstacle that can potentially threaten their success.

To a certain degree, going to the principal's office and asking why your child isn't making all As is totally fine. However, when you accept nothing less than perfect and place all blame for your child failing on the school, then there's a problem.

How? Because you're teaching your kids that failure isn't an option, robbing them of the ability to cope and preventing your child from developing an appropriate level of independence, self-esteem, and confidence that will help them get through the ups and downs of everyday life.

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I get it. No one wants to see their child fail, especially when they come home crying because they made a bad grade or lost their soccer match. It's heartbreaking, but as parents we need to teach our kids that failure is a part of life, and that not everyone can be perfect.

So when you're struggling with teaching your kids that failure is totally normal and feel yourself going back to your snowplow parenting ways, heed the warning and remember these helpful tips:

1. Help them label their emotions.

When your child experiences feelings of failure, help them process those emotions by labeling their feelings and letting them know it's normal to feel that way. 

Ask your child, "You didn't get chosen for that activity at school. I understand how that could hurt your feelings and make you feel sad. It's OK to feel that way. Would you like to talk about it?"

2. Be a good role model.

Parents can model coping skills for their child. Share your own experiences of failure with your child and how you dealt with them.

Let your child know how you felt and what you did to overcome, as well as what you learned from it.

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3. Learn to let things go.

One of the most difficult concepts for parents to come to grips with, is how and when to let it go. Just like Elsa, let it go! Both you and your child might learn something. 

Ask yourself, "Am I choosing my actions based on what's best for my child, or what's best for me?" OR "Am I doing my child a favor by sheltering them from failure, or am I preventing my child from a meaningful learning opportunity?"

4. Prepare them for disappointments and successes.

When your child chooses to try an activity or an endeavor that could end in disappointment (i.e. trying out for the dance team), discuss with him or her all of the outcomes, both negative and positive, and ask if they're willing to accept them all. Give them your full support. 

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Randy McCoy is the Director of Curriculum at The Little Gym International.