The Dangers of Snowplow Parenting

As winter weather hits the northeast, I am oddly reminded of this past year’s college admissions scandal and the snowplow parents. It was a jaw dropping series of events for many. It was particularly juicy because it involved celebrity parents. In a couple of cases it was even a bit of a shocker, at least for me. In any event, we all got a glimpse behind the curtain and it wasn’t pretty.

These parents were, I assume (I hope!), trying to do what was best for their kids. After all, isn’t that what all parents want, the best possible life for their children? Of course it is.

We want our kids to thrive. We want our kids to feel confident and capable of navigating the world.

The paradox here is that when we do everything for our kids, we’re not helping them. We’re actually doing them a huge disservice. When we plow obstacles aside and smooth the way, we actually harm our kids. And when we do it in an unethical or flat out illegal way, well then we do damage that often can’t be undone. Sadly, we leave them with scars that will stay with them for life.

Pretty sobering, right?

Now here’s the thing, most parents aren’t doing anything even close to what these steamrolling, pave the way parents were.

But most parents are missing an opportunity to help their kids launch into life with super hero like powers. I’m talking about guiding your kids in creating life skills. Specifically, teaching them how to organize their lives, how to manage their time and mindset, how to set goals, how to power through the tough stuff, and how to bounce back from failure. Which means you’ve got to let them spread their wings and maybe fall. Maybe even fall hard.

I actually spend my days helping adults learn some of these things. And almost always our work starts with them telling me they think something is fundamentally wrong with them. I hear thing like ‘I just wasn’t born to be organized’, or ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I feel like I’m spinning wheels and I’ll never get out of this rut’. Sometimes it’s sadder yet, they’ll confess that they lack confidence in their ability to follow through on anything meaningful.

When I start to ask questions, I almost learn these people grew up in an environment where life skills were never even discussed, let along taught.

I am never surprised. I didn’t grow up learning them either. For years, like well into adulthood, I thought I was broken. I didn’t have a clue how to navigate life with any level of real confidence. I can’t blame anyone for that. If the general consensus is life skills are something we’re born with, why would you bother to teach them?

I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but when you don’t know how to self manage, life gets wicked messy. And you feel like a failure.

Does any parent want that experience for their child? In a word, no. We’ll do whatever we can to help them avoid it.

So when we see our kids struggling, even if we aren’t the full on snowplow type, our first instinct is to swoop in and do whatever we can to make it better. We come to the rescue.

That feels like good parenting. We’re protecting our babies.

In the process though, we’re also preventing them from learning and growing. It’s a real disservice.

It sounds super harsh, but that is exactly what’s happening when we don’t help our kids build life skills. When we do for them, we’re being derelict in our duties.

Now you might be thinking yeah, I get it, but it’s so much easier to just swoop and save than it is to teach.

And it is.

But swooping in and saving on a regular basis is morally questionable. After all, we have a responsibility to prepare our children for the world.

Beyond that, it’s also short sighted.

It’s true that there is a lot of front end effort involved in helping your kids build these like skills, but it pays off in a really significant way.

Think about it like this, what’s easier, teaching your child how to do something for themselves or doing it for them, forever?

Teaching is clearly the better choice – better for your child, and better for you. Your future self will thank you when your child leaves the nest and you don’t have to worry about them boomeranging back because they couldn’t navigate the world.

To be clear, teaching is really about sharing information and giving opportunities to put into practice what is being taught. Feedback in the form of guidance helps your child build the skills.

Still not really sure this is wort the time and effort? Let’s take a look at an example of what it would mean to your child if you instill organization skills. Which happens to be a keystone life skill, since almost everything is easier if you can self organize.

I’m not here to do a deep data dive, but if you were to poll teachers and school counselors, you’d learn that that kids who are more organized do better academically. And that makes absolute sense. When you’ve got logistics under control, it’s easier to focus on embracing the learning process.

So how did those students become more organized than others? I can’t say with certainty where the difference is, but I can take an educated guess. They’ve been exposed to organized living, meaning they’ve seen that kind of behavior modeled by their immediate family. And they’ve been encouraged to follow suit. Which means they’re actually given opportunities to self-manage. And, more often than not, they have enjoyed the benefits of parental coaching.

And just to be clear, coaching is really important. Coaching is about meeting your kids in the moment and helping them help themselves. For them it’s about practicing and applying what they’ve learned in real time. They’ll make mistakes and you’ll guide them through the recovery process, but you aren’t fixing things, you’re there as support.

The beauty is that as your child builds proficiency in an area, like getting themselves ready for the day without you stepping in, they can apply that same skill set to other areas – like getting ready for travel or planning a school project.

Wondering where to start with teaching your kids these important skills? Well, that’s where Get Organized For Good comes in – we’ve got the tools to help you and your whole family.

Helping people live better is our thing. With our practical, user friendly products, you and your family can easily create supportive routines, build better habits, and enjoy a more harmonious life. Pop on over to our sample fundraising page to see some of our practical tools. And while you there, download our free Simple Daily Planner – we think you’ll love it!

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