Snow plough parent

Posted in: Parenting

The joys of parenting. The other day I heard the expression “Snow plough parent” for the first time. Basically it means clearing away obstacles for your child. A good thing or not?


“What I needed to do is help understand the true obstacles and help remove them…”

I guess it depends on the circumstance and the extent at which you help. A good parent wants to provide for their child, do anything they can to help and support them, but when is too much? I’ve found there’s a fine line in wanting to help your child and incapacitating them so they can’t do it on their own.

Never has this been as evident as when my daughters started the university application process. My first daughter decided she only wanted to apply to one university as she knew where she wanted to attend. The university is very selective as it’s a top private university in the US. Even though I had strong belief in my daughter, I was a bit apprehensive in her only applying to one university. What if she doesn’t get in? Will it be too late to apply for early entrance of another university? Maybe she should have a back-up plan. In the end, I practiced self-control and let her decide. She was accepted and is now enjoying her first semester at Baylor University.

My second daughter is now in the process. Having scored very high on the SAT, the college entrance exam, she received information and invitations to apply from universities all over the country. However, she is much less definitive about where she wants to study. Selecting universities to apply to and filling in all of the applications seemed a daunting task. Going through the process already, I knew it was best to get applications in early, so I tried to push her to get started. However, she just wasn’t ready to work on the applications. It became an incredibly stressful situation for both of us. Finally though, I realized I wasn’t helping her at all and what I needed to do is help understand the true obstacles in getting started and help her remove them.

I became a snow plough parent! We outlined the obstacles 1) deciding which universities to apply to, 2) creating time in her busy schedule to write the applications, and 3) understanding all of the different components of the application. We found a great website where she could list her criteria for selecting a university and a list of universities would be generated that met the criteria. We deciphered the university application and realized it could be segmented into areas for her to work on. And finally, I helped her set a date of completion and milestones weekly so she coule spend just an hour a day working on the application. When the applications finally went in, we celebrated with a chocolate chip cookie!

There was a lot my daughter learned through this process that will help her succeed in the university and beyond… time management, organization, tricks to “chunking down” a problem in bite size chunks. However, I learned just as much about what makes a good snow plough parent and one that is pushy!