Snowploughing: Experts warn parents against parenting habit that could cause big problems in adulthood

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  • Clearing obstacles out of your child’s path could do them more harm than good, psychologists are warning. Here's everything you need to know about snowplough parenting.

    Snowploughing or snowplough parenting is the latest parenting craze. You’ve probably heard of helicopter parenting – when mums and dads are so anxious about their children’s wellbeing that they ‘hover’ anxiously by their sides.

    But the growing trend for ‘snowplough parenting’ is taking things one step further.

    Snowplough parents mean well – they’re just trying to smooth their child’s path by clearing obstacles out of the way for them. This can mean anything from tidying up after them to making doctors’ appointments, booking them into after-school tutoring sessions and calling up teachers and even employers when they have a problem at school or work.

    ‘There’s a constant monitoring of where their kid is and what they are doing, all with the intent of preventing something happening and becoming a barrier to the child’s success,’ sociologist Laura Hamilton told The New York Times.


    Credit: Monkey Business/REX/Shutterstock

    But psychologist Dr. Madeline Levine says that snowplough parenting can cause big problems later on.

    The recent college admissions scandal in the US, which has seen high profile parents like ex-Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman accused of making pay-offs to inflate their children’s test scores and get them into college, has been called the ‘ultimate’ act of snowplough parenting.

    But even when snowplough parenting is less extreme, it can have serious side-effects. While snowplough parents are trying to spare their children from failure and anxiety, psychologists say that this kind of parenting can actually make children more anxious and less likely to succeed.


    Credit: Monkey Business/REX/Shutterstock

    This is because it stops them from learning key problem-solving and life skills – everything from negotiating with teachers and bosses to setting their own alarms and doing the laundry.

    Dr. Levine often treats university drop outs who ‘have had to come home because they don’t have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college.’

    We know you have your little one’s best interests at heart, but it’s important to remember that sometimes the very best thing you can do for them is to let them learn from their own mistakes.