National/World

'Snow plow' parenting becoming new trend

Saturday, February 16, 2013

You've probably heard of "helicopter parents," who hover over their kids all the time, but have you heard of "snow plow" parenting? It's a new trend in this increasingly competitive world. Some experts say overparenting could end up hurting, rather than helping your child.

Parents come in all types. Sometimes we play "tiger mom," sometimes "helicopter parent," and now, the "snow plow parent."

The snow plow parent pushes life's obstacles out of his or her child's way, be it bad grades, or being overlooked on a sports team. Leslie Todd is a Redwood Shores mother of two boys.

"I have definitely got the tools you can pull out to be a snow plow or helicopter or dive-bombing stealth," Todd said.

"Snow plow" when trying to snag her son Lucas a prime position on his baseball team.

"I brought lemon cupcakes to a baseball practice once and realized the coach doesn't like lemon," Todd said. "So I went home and baked new vanilla cupcakes and I brought them to his house that evening for his family to share."

Todd's parenting style and those of her friends Gina and Maria are not uncommon. In fact, their children are already successful. Maria's son, Alessandro, is an accomplished violinist. Gina's daughter Georgi is a competitive skier with Olympic dreams. And Todd's son Lucas excels in baseball and son Ben is a budding local theater star.

But educators are worried about Bay Area parents' increasing tendency to prevent their children from failing.

Kate Lussen is the assistant head of the International School of the Peninsula in Palo Alto, a private French and Mandarin immersion school.

"We have people who come to open houses and tours and say 'OK, if my child goes here will they get into Stanford?'" Lussen said.

In San Mateo, Aragon High School athletic director Steve Sells says it's evident in sports, "A lot more money is spent on club activity outside of school," he said. "And a lot more in the way of private lessons."

He sees parents deterring kids from trying other sports, to focus on success in one sport. One result is over-use injuries at a young age.

Renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D., warns of another consequence, "They're teaching their children a terrible lesson," she said. "If you're not good at something immediately, get out. It's humiliating to be a novice."

Dweck's book "Mindset" details her research, showing when students are praised for achievement, they actually become fearful of failure and stop trying.

On the other hand, "We said, 'When you get something wrong, it means you need more effort or you need to try another strategy.' And guess what happened? They became more resilient."

Dweck points out all successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have failed early and often, and learned from their mistakes. That is something for all parents -- snow plow, helicopter, or tiger -- to remember.

This story is from our sister station, KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

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