What’s the Opposite of Snowplow Parent?

Life is not easy. Yes, I know, it’s cliche but so true. It’s a lesson we all learn, yet something that we’d rather not teach our kids. After all, who wants to watch their kid learn that life isn’t fair? And yet, I will emphatically maintain that I am the person I am today because of the pain I’ve experienced in my life. Despite the pain, I’m still here and live a pretty joyful existence. And, dare I say, a MORE joyful existence BECAUSE of the pain.

And so, why not want that for our kids?

Because it absolutely shatters our hearts when we see our kids struggle. It goes against our instincts to step back and let them figure it out. I must resist the urge to wrap my child in bubble wrap and get out of their way so that they can grow into the adult they are meant to be. I want my kids to have love and joy and contentment. I want them to feel warmth and security from me and their dad. I want to build a strong foundation knowing that they can come to us when they need support.

And then I want them to go out into the world and struggle (just a little bit).

I want them to learn how to navigate some tough parts of life and become stronger and healthier because of those struggles. I want to help them learn not to keep a list of all the ways life has treated them wrong but instead, learn from their mistakes and disappointments. I want them to learn some lessons and consequences to their own choices when consequences aren’t as big as they can be when they’re an adult.

I am not interested in teaching them how to avoid pain because pain IS part of life. And teaching them the life skill of resiliency is SO very important. Besides, as much as we want our kids to be happy, there really is no such thing. No one is happy every day all day. It’s an unrealistic goal for anyone. 

Notice kid in the lower left-hand corner. He was struggling to climb up on this rock. We told him to just TRY because we KNEW he could do it!
And look, he made it.

Here is the other reason I think it’s important to let our kids struggle:

It builds confidence.

Jump in to help your kid too soon, and they grow up believing that they are incapable. Jump in at the first sign of trouble without allowing SOME struggle and the message is, “I don’t think you can do it.” Snowplow parenting at its worst tells our kids, “You’ll never do this on your own, let me handle it.” I want them to learn tools to problem-solve, ask for help and support when they need it and to find the strength to handle more than they think they can.

Will I stand up for my kid if he’s being bullied? Of course. Will I advocate for my kid at school and in medical situations? Absolutely. Will I hug and wipe away tears when someone has had a bad day? Every time. But depending on the situation, I will stand behind my kid and then encourage him or her to try to figure things out first. 

Maybe as parents, if we see struggle and pain for our kids as opportunities to grow, we won’t be so quick to intervene. Maybe, as we see their confidence increase as they develop tools to cope, it will be easier to step back. No matter what, our hearts are going to hurt sometimes. And yet, I know that I can handle the pain if they can. I can’t always take away the pain, but if I’m by their side, I hope my kids know they are never alone.

To me, that makes all the difference.

Julie is a mom of five boys and one girl. She is a runner, biker, yoga instructor and socializer. That about sums it up. Believe it or not, she really does enjoy the soccer, cross country, swim team, track, dance classes, basketball, and theater her kids are involved in as long as she has another mom (or dad) to talk to during these events. Julie is starting a new adventure going back to school to get her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Edgewood College.


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