Recently my husband and I visited Minneapolis for a big event. Upon arrival, the locals warned us: a snowstorm was approaching. Not to worry, they said. Minnesotans take pride in the fact that they can make it anywhere—even in the middle of a blizzard!
Our hotel window overlooked the Mall of America’s huge parking lot. And sure enough, at about 8 p.m. the snow started blowing. We watched in amazement (we’re southerners, after all). We enjoyed the beauty of the weather, but were also amazed to watch the snowplows begin their work. They buzzed around like little ants, pushing snow, clearing roads, and making a way for the throngs of people dying to get into the warm mall for a winter reprieve.
Today, many parents are also working busily like snowplows. A dangerous parenting trend “snowplow parenting” traps parents into clearing an easy path for their kids, regardless of the cost. Recent scandals have uncovered parents who lied, cheated, and bought their kids’ way into influential colleges. But it isn’t just wealthy parents or TV stars falling into this trap. It’s an easy mishap for everyday parents who want the best for their kids, too.
Let’s look at six signs of a snowplow parent to see if we’re unknowingly slipping into it.
1. A snowplow parent emphasizes success too much.
Anytime we try to cut corners or cheat to give our kids a perceived leg up, we are teaching our kids to be successful no matter the cost. Throughout the Bible, God speaks to the principle of reaping and sowing. God is described as a Father. He cares deeply for His kids.
While He gives many blessings to His children, He also commands us to work and to do our part in society. Jesus said to us: “In this world, you will have trouble.” So we know life won’t be easy.
Instead of making success the primary goal for your kids, plant things like honesty, hard work, and integrity. Then our families will harvest peace, integrity and a good name later on. It’s never too late to make a good decision and follow God’s plan.
2. A snowplow parent is tempted to clear away failure.
Oh, I know this can be so easy to do! I hate to see my kids struggle or fail. But we need to recognize that grit and determination are key components to true success. Removing obstacles to success actually says to your child: “I don’t think you can do this on your own.” And that is not the message we want to give our kids!
If your child has a bad game, brings home a poor grade, or hits the wrong note, empathize. Then encourage your child to keep trying.
3. A snowplow parent ties his own identity to his kids’ success.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if our kids don’t get the best grades, the right scholarship, or score the winning goal, that somehow it reflects poorly on us. Parents, we can’t get our happiness or satisfaction solely from our kids! Our true identity can only be found in Christ.
Furthermore, I have found that sometimes my kids have different values than I do. After a loss at a club soccer game, my son told me it was hard, but he loved playing against his friends from school. Frankly, I was embarrassed by the loss because we were supposed to be the superior team. I was putting my value in his performance. Lesson learned!
4. A snowplow parent shovels away responsibility.
Recently, my son was bored in study hall. He texted us to see if he could have a little more screen time to play chess. While that sounded very educational, we asked him instead to start researching when and how he would take his ACT. We also asked him to find individuals or companies that could help him with testing preparation. And how much all this would cost.
Giving him this responsibility says: You are partly responsible to get into college and we need to see your willingness to help in this area. If he’s responsible and takes part now, he’s more likely to take on the next steps as well. We’re seeing him as the responsible one for internships, scholarships, and maybe even a potential job or career.
5. A snowplow parent clears the path of negative consequences.
Consequences are hard, but not bad. Not playing in a game or missing out on an activity or event is never desired. But discipline has to be painful in order for it to work! Our daughter made some poor decisions in high school and got caught. Her consequences were fair, and we stood behind them. They were hard on us all, but the pain of them made our daughter vow to never do those actions again. She learned a great deal from that painful situation.
6. A snowplow parent shrugs off timeless wisdom.
It’s tempting to try to go this parenting thing alone. But when I’m around people who seek to follow Jesus, it’s just easier to make good decisions. I become more aware of how other Christians handle certain situations. We can talk about these issues together.
Snowplow parenting can be a blind spot. So many of us may not even be mindful we are doing it! A church body or small group can help us become aware of where we are weak and then make adjustments to our parenting. When we are planted in a healthy place, we will bloom and produce good fruit as parents.
Snowplows are wonderful when you live in a snowy place. But they are a terrible parenting metaphor. It’s hard to raise kids, especially when they blow it, mess up, or aren’t performing well enough to earn that scholarship. But our children can flourish if we let God do the work in them even on the hard days. And isn’t that what we want for the long term, anyway?
Copyright © 2019 by Jen Goins. All rights reserved.
Jen and her husband Brian speak for FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, and Brian serves as vice president for content development at FamilyLife. Jen has a passion to help parents reclaim the family dinner table. They enjoy their kids, hiking mountains in Montana, and cheering their beloved Tarheels. You can find Jen on Instagram @dinnerfam