Snow Plough Parenting

April 10, 2019 | Boys’ Preparatory

Article by Mr Jakes Fredericks - Head of Boys' Prep.

“Snow Plough” parents, are we there?

The recent American University scandal involving well known actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin has again highlighted the dangers of over parenting. This scandal is set to rock the independent school market in North America to its core. As things unfold and play out to a worldwide audience, the following question has been asked a few times over the past few weeks: “Is this problem unique to North American schools or are we seeing the signs in our own society?”

It is unfortunately not a problem unique to North American schools and what is of grave concern is the increasing incidents of over parenting, or snowploughing parenting, that we are witnessing in our own school.

The sad reality is that well intended behaviours to set your son up for success, when taken to the extreme, are more damaging to his long term development. Don’t just take our word for it, this what the latest research is telling us. 

Over parenting leads to:
• Higher levels of ineffective coping skills.
• Greater levels of stress and anxiety.
• More self-reported problems.
• Higher levels of depression.
• Lower levels of reported life satisfaction.

Furthermore, longitudinal studies done by child development experts are confirming what teachers have been saying for years. That learning to solve problems, self-regulation and taking risks are vital life skills. So what is the answer when it comes to raising a well-adjusted son? The answer is to find a balance between overprotectiveness and nonchalance. That middle ground allows your son to try new things, make mistakes, and solve problems within a safe structure. 

If you are unsure of how you are doing, may I suggest that you use the following over parenting checklist to analyse and if necessary, regulate your behaviour:

• Do you get into power struggles with your son over little things?
• Do you struggle to let your son make his own choices?
• Do you struggle with seeing your son fail?
• Do you worry about many issues other parents don't worry about?
• Do you argue with adults over how they treat your son?
• Do you struggle to identify age-appropriate expectations for your son?
• Do you give your son meaningful responsibilities? 

Remember answering yes to anyone of these questions is reason for concern, because if you are over-parenting at prep school, you will be over parenting at high school and most definitely when he leaves for university. If all else fails, put the following quote up where you can read it every time you are tempted to do any of the above.