Snowplow Parents – Clearing Away All Obstacles on the Path to Success


We have all heard of helicopter parents and free-range parents. Now the media is focusing on another type of parents: snowplow parents.

What are snowplow parents? They are parents who push every obstacle out of their child’s way. They try to shield their children from every stress or failure. Snowplow parents are focused on their children’s path to future success. If anything blocks that path, they just plow it out of the way for their children. I first heard about snowplow parents on The Daily Show from Trevor Noah. Now it seems like I’m hearing about this trend everywhere.

college building

The college admissions scandal is the most visible example of snowplow parenting going to extremes.

A large number of wealthy parents have gone to extreme lengths to get their children admitted to prestigious colleges. These snowplow parents have taken out the barriers to college admittance by having other people take tests required for admission such as the SAT and ACT in place of their children. Other parents bribed college officials to accept their children as athletes, despite their complete lack of skill. These parents are so concerned about their children’s futures that they break the law just to give their kids every advantage possible.

I have the opposite approach.

I actually like it when my children encounter obstacles and problems.

When kids encounter small problems, parents can help guide them to either solve the problem or accept it and move on with their lives. Solving small, unimportant problems on their own helps children and teenagers develop the skills they will need to solve bigger, important struggles when they are adults. For example, we don’t let our children avoid math just because it’s hard. We teach them basic skills from an early age and build on each year until they are able to understand algebra and geometry.

boy doing math

Snowplow parents are also plowing away their children’s sense of responsibility and pride of achievement.

Why will kids care about their grades or test score if their parents will get them into a great college regardless of their grades? Why should they work hard when their parents can get them anything they should be able to achieve alone? The biggest problem with this is that the children of snowplow parents don’t develop the skills to become successful, independent adults. Even if snowplow parents get their children into prestigious colleges, the children will have new problems to face. They will have to make their own choices about how to use their time, what to eat, when to study, and how to get along with roommates. These will seem like giant conundrums if the teens haven’t had practice solving smaller problems in the past.

Are snowplow parents really that bad, though?

The examples we see in the media, such as the college admissions scandal parents, are extreme examples. No one I know has the clout or money to go about bribing college officials. I think that most caring parents do try to remove obstacles from their children’s paths to some extent though. For example, my husband and I picked a house in a good school district so that our children will receive a great education. The difference is that I don’t take things to extremes. I will certainly not do my children’s school projects for them or write their papers and essays. They need to learn those skills themselves. I will be disappointed if they earn low grades in school, but that is ultimately their responsibility. I’m just here to support and encourage them. Much to my children’s chagrin, I’m also here to hold them accountable for their actions.

baby and two parents


Snowplow parents also need to realize that their goals may not be the same as their children’s goals.

Not everyone who goes to college is successful in life. On the flip side, there are plenty of successful, happy people who have never attended college. My ultimate goal for my children is for them to be happy. I want to help them explore their world as children so they can figure out what things bring them joy. It is my job to support them in their dreams and goals, even if I don’t understand and share those things.

If my children grow up into happy adults, then I will consider my job as a mom well-done.

family, man, woman, baby, snowplow parent


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