parent opinion

Snowploughing is the new parenting trend that is ruining children's lives.

If you’re forever telling your children they’re special, calling their teachers and enrolling them in after-school classes, we have… bad news for you.

You might just be a “snowplough” parent, and it’s not good for children in the long-term.

According to Madeline Levine, psychologist and author of Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes’, snowploughing leaves children in a position whereby they are not equipped to cope with the challenges of adult life.

Speaking to the New York Times on the back of the college admission scandal, the author explained that the parenting style can lead to children unable to cope with university.

“Here are parents who have spent 18 years grooming their kids with what they perceive as advantages, but they’re not,” she told the New York Times, adding that some children were unable to deal with dorm environments and even sauce on food, because their parents had protected them from things they were uncomfortable with.

In March 2019, Felicity Huffman and Full House star Lori Loughlin were among dozens of people arrested for a $US25 million ($A35 million) scheme to help wealthy Americans cheat their children’s way into elite universities, such as Yale and Stanford.

The scheme relied on bribes, phoney test takers and even doctored photos depicting non-athletic applicants as elite competitors to land college slots for the offspring of rich parents, and has been slammed by psychologists and celebrities alike.

Teacher and author David McCullough says “snowplough parenting” makes children “anxious, dependent (and) narcissistic”, The Australian reported in 2014.


In his book You Are Not Special, McCullough says the parents who fill their kids’ days with tutors and extracurricular activities may be harming, rather than helping, their kids by turning them into “achievement machines” who aren’t able to deal with failure.

“From birth they are strapped into the car seat and protected, driven and aimed in one direction,” McCullough said.

“Kids are not being allowed to come up with their own definition of success,” he added. “They have given up self-determination and willingness to explore their own interests.”

When they grow to adulthood, McCullogh says children whose learning was micromanaged in earlier life often find it difficult to cope.

“[At university] they besiege professors for extra lessons or expect a private tutor like they had when they were 17,” McCullough says.

“In some cases, they just drop out, seeing failure as a failure of the support system around them and not as their failure.”

McCullough made headlines in 2012, when a high school graduation speech he gave went viral, and that argues parents should try taking pressure off children and giving them “free reign” to explore their own talents.

“Let them follow their own passions and curiosities without … interference every step of the way,” McCullough says.

“Sometimes they will make mistakes. That’s OK.”

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