Snowplow Parenting

Move over helicopter parents, there is a new way to mess up your kids- ‘Snowplow Parenting’. Just to really terrify you into anxious panic about your parenting, the results of this parenting style are not great. Kids with Snowplow parents tend to have narcissistic personality traits, are anxious, dependent on authority figures, and only seek achievement that has success certainty. They can not cope with failure, so often times they will quit if they are not sure they can achieve their end goal. But have no fear- all these things can be corrected. Let’s review the signifiers of Snowplow Parenting and how to remedy it.


1) Terrible Boundaries. Every time you do a homework assignment or put in college applications for your kid, you are destroying their sense of personal achievement and confidence that they will become a successful competent adult. The best way to learn is to do and if you are doing, they are not learning.

2) Eliminate or greatly reduce obstacles for your children. We may feel like we are helping them out and creating self esteem, but we are actually reducing resiliency and creating dependency on the snowplower.

3) No decisions. When you take away someone’s sense of decision making, you deteriorate their faith in making ‘correct’ choices. Later in life, they will be unable to make simple decisions like where to eat or what they like and will often defer to others to make their choices for them (which can go horribly wrong as they start to get into peer pressure).

4) No accountability. If you are not held accountable for what you say or do, you are unable to learn responsibility on an altruistic level. They may follow the rules when someone is watching, but as soon as the likelihood of them getting caught lowers, they are more likely to break the rules.

5) Entitlement. Here is the big disadvantage we train into our kids with this parenting style. Parents will often view their kids as superior and therefore ‘deserve’ more than others. They may argue with teachers/coaches about grades or game time. These conversations are often peppered with ‘it is only fair’ or ‘_____ works so hard’ or ‘____ is just so busy- but they deserve____’.

6) No social skills. If someone is always around to fight your battles or set up you for success, you never learn how to do these things. Social skills are one of those awkward things you have to do and fail, before you get good at it. Anxiety reigns king here because as they get older, it becomes obvious that they are behind their peers socially.


– LET THEM FAIL. Let them see the real obstacle. We want to teach them how to fail, how to bounce back and when to ask for help.

– Have them make decisions and live with the positive or negative consequences.

– Create rules with consequences and hold them to it. All consequences should be ‘natural consequences’ or those that make reasonable sense. All consequences need to be explained and understood.

– Your kid is a turd, just like everyone else’s kid. Your kid is also amazing, just like everyone else’s kid. Try to see the ‘global understanding’ of the situation and have them learn how to work around inconsistencies and unfair situations. Life is not fair- so teach them how to work with issues instead of avoiding them.  

-Give them independence, privacy, and lots of opportunities to fail socially. This needs to be done age appropriately- but give up the control a little bit.

– Create a healthy relationship with enough quality attention time. If you are spending all this time Snowplow Parenting and then suddenly pull away from these traits, it can be seen by the kid as abandonment. So we need to create a healthy relationship with them based on good boundaries and positive regard so that as issues come up, you both will have a sturdy foundation to work from.

My Challenge to you: Look at these parenting traits and identify one you need to work on. I need to work on #2. I tend to be a fearful parent who wants to safeguard self esteem and make sure my kiddos have all the things that I feel I did not. But by reducing these obstacles I am reducing their ability to cope and problem solve. So I am going to try and keep the ‘global understanding’ of these situations and just be a support for them as they ask for help or just need a hug.    

Happy storm weathering friends!

– Jessie the Therapist

Photo by:Lukas Neasi

Jessie Shepherd is a Mental Health Counselor and owner of Blue Clover Therapy in Utah. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Utah. Her focus is treating trauma, eating disorders and adjustment issues in adults, adolescents, children and their families. She utilizes Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Play Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Neurological Feedback.

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