Move over “helicopter parents;” there’s a new parenting buzzword in town. “Snowplow parenting” is the latest controversial parenting technique that is gaining traction across the web. Both are on the bad side of the spectrum, and both have gotten a lot of flak online for potentially damaging children. In a nutshell, they can both be dubbed as “over-parenting,” but of course, nothing is ever as simple as that.
The original term for the overbearing parent: helicopter parenting. An article from Parents mentions that the first time the term “helicopter parents” was first used was over four decades ago, in Dr. Haim Ginott’s Parents & Teenagers. It’s the type of parenting that is described as being too immersed in a child’s life. It is common for parents to want to be involved and to necessarily parent their children, but according to Ann Dunnewold, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, “It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting.”
Being attentive is good, but anything in excess causes damage. If an adolescent has been raised in an unrealistic cookie cutter mold, what then happens when he or she is thrown into the real world?
Tech Times sets an example of helicopter parenting as when a parent goes from guiding to dictating. Even in the most mundane actions such as playing, the article noted that “helicopter parents” would constantly tell their children what toy to play with or how to play with the toy. The researchers also saw that the parents would show the kids how to clean-up after they were done playing and were too strict or demanding.” If parents go beyond their role of guiding, to puppeteering what a child should or should not do, it would take away experiences or mistakes that are vital to their growth and learning.
News Medical notes that as a result of helicopter parenting, children may have difficulty managing their social behavior,“demonstrated by children acting out, and is linked to the externalization of problems.” Tech Times also indicated that kids might have a harder time connecting with their peers or, in layman’s terms, “making friends.” Incessant hovering by parents may also lead to difficulties in managing children’s emotional responses in complex environments, such as when they enter formal schooling.
If “helicopter parenting” was coined in Dr. Ginott’s book from teenagers who described their parents’ incessant hovering, the term “snowplow parenting” on the other hand, describes how parents would remove every single thing from their children’s paths that they deem as obstacles to their children’s success. Today’s Parent states that this is the type of parent who “have their eye on the future success of their child, and anyone or anything that stands in their way has to be removed.”
Parents paving an easier way for kids towards their goals may not seem like a problem, but when done in absurd and excessive amounts, just like helicopter parenting, it is also damaging. The New York Times recent article delved into the scandal that took over the web where, allegedly, “in the recent college bribery scandal…. 50 people were charged in a wide-ranging fraud to secure students admissions to colleges”. This scandal involved some famous celebrity parents.
Ending up with something this extreme just to ensure your child’s success is worrying to say the least. In the same article, it indicates that adolescents who have snowplow parents may have a hard time adjusting to the real world where their parents can’t smoothen everything out for them. In a cruel irony, they also indicated that “snowplowing is a parenting habit that’s hard to break.”
The Fight: Which is Worse?
At first glance, both overbearing parenting styles seem similar. The difference is why they’re doing it. TodaysParent.com explains helicopter parenting as a style that comes out of anxiety. They know the real world is a cold and cruel monster, and they want to protect their child from that. Snowplow parents on the other hand, also micromanage, but are more hell-bent on controlling their future and making sure their kids succeed. One is motivated by fear, the other by ambition.
The Verdict: It’s a Tie
Which then, is the worse type of parenting—the one where the parent embodies Big Brother from Orwell’s book, closely watching the child’s every move, or the parent that will go through hell and back just to make sure their kid gets on the varsity team?
The answer, personally, is none. Parents would do well to be aware of both helicopter parenting and snowplow parenting. It’s easier said than done, but a mixture of balance and self-awareness could play an important role in recognizing if parents are falling into either category.
Lotie Mercado is an Editorial Assistant at Familywise Asia. She loves literature, art and films.