Posted: May 20, 2013 11:00 AM
We've all read about tiger moms who push their kids to exceed at everything, no matter what the cost — or helicopter parents who hover over everything their child does. Snowplow parenting is the term for parents who move obstacles out of their child's way to make life easier — but make it worse in the end.

Wouldn't life be so much easier if you had someone to remove all obstacles in your path? Some parents think this is the best way to ensure their child's success — whether on the field or in the classroom. But what if the obstacles our children face are really doing them a favor in the long run?

Is this really happening?

One mom recalls a Boy Scout mom who bargained to have her son placed in the troop with the easier leader.

What sounds like another attack on parents who simply want their children to succeed is actually happening in the parenting trenches. Stories swirl about behind-the-scenes deals for prime soccer team placements or a spot in the honors program. One mom recalls a Boy Scout mom who bargained to have her son placed in the troop with the easier leader, because she was concerned her son might not make Eagle Scout under a tough leader. Some parents hold their child back a year in school to give him an edge but are actually removing many academic obstacles by giving him an extra year of maturity.

On the field

Many parents hire private coaches or trainers, who work with their child independently.

There is no question that youth sports have become incredibly competitive. To give their child an edge on the field, many parents hire private coaches or trainers, who work with their child independently to give them an edge on the club team or high school team.

Steve Sells, athletic director at Aragon High in San Mateo, California 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 a trend in parents encouraging students to participate in one sport they excel at, to ensure their success on the field. Often this type of hyper-focus on one sports activity can lead to overuse injuries or burnout. By passing up opportunities to try other sports, young athletes are missing the chance to push their skill set beyond their comfort zone.

Failure can be good

We tell them that this is the name of the game — look smart, don't risk making mistakes.

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation. She is a professor of psychology at Stanford University, and her book Mindset is the culmination of decades of research into achievement and success. She sees quite a different outcome than the parents who push their children to succeed at one endeavor. "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." Do you want your child to think they are smart, or resilient and capable? "When we praise children for their intelligence," Dweck wrote in her study summary, "we tell them that this is the name of the game — look smart, don't risk making mistakes."

Dweck's research showed that when fifth grade students were praised for their achievement, they became afraid of failing and stopped trying to push themselves harder. When students get something wrong, it encourages new effort or another method of attack and they become more resilient.

Bottom Line^ Part of parenting is to let your child fail — to a degree. Depending on their age and ability, letting them struggle through a problem with academics or sports will result in a stronger competitor in the end. And that's a win-win.

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