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Don’t be a snowplow parent

20 Jun

As parents, we often want to protect our children from hardship. We want to spare them from pain and difficulty. We don’t want them to go through what we did. However, instead of helping our children, we may be hindering their growth. That is the conclusion of an article in Sports Illustrated entitled, The Rise of the Snowplow Sports Parents.”

The author of the article explains the term, snowplow parenting.

The phenomenon also reflects what’s happening in the rest of society, says psychologist Madeline Levine, an expert on the topic. “It used to be helicopter parenting,” she says. “And now it is snowplow parenting, which is much more active: It means you are doing something to smooth the way for the child. It’s not just that you’re hypervigilant—it’s that you are actually getting rid of those bumps, which robs kids of the necessary experience of learning and failing.”

Towards the end of the article, hockey agent Allain Roy realized he was not doing his son any favors by being overly involved in trying to advance him in sports.

Two years ago, hockey agent Allain Roy was flying home with his teenage son after spending several thousand dollars to take him to a weekend baseball showcase to improve his chances of getting a college scholarship. He started wondering, Is this worth the investment? How much is too much involvement? He started typing out his thoughts into a post for his agency’s blog, writing, “As we rush to fix every little blemish in our kids’ lives and try to influence their way to success, we cause more irreparable damage than we know.”

In contrast to that, I remember a statement I heard some years ago when Carol and I were helping our youngest daughter, Caitlin, get settled into the dorms at Gordon College. During one of the sessions for parents, Dr. Judson & Mrs. Jan Carlberg shared some words of encouragement. Jan Carlberg used the phrase, “Struggle is a holy word.”

As parents, our desire is to smooth out the path for our children. We want to shield them from pain. When a child calls home to say they are not getting along with their college roommate, we want to storm the administration to demand a change. When that same child says they are unhappy after the first week of school and wonder if they made the right decision to go away to college, we want to jump in the car or on a plane and bring them home forthwith. Yet, when we do that, we often stunt our children’s growth because we don’t allow them to struggle.

Jan reminded us that God uses trials as a catalyst to help us grow. As James 1:2-4 says in The Message, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so that you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Struggle is part of God’s strategy to help us and our children grow to maturity. Avoid the temptation to be a helicopter and/or and a snowplow parent. Struggle is a holy word.

 

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