Snowplow parents getting in the way

I get it, I’m a few years past sending my kids off to college. But, have things really changed that much? It seems so when I hear stories about what some families are doing.

A neighbor’s daughter is about to be a freshman at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. She is very excited about attending, although with some very understandable and normal apprehensions. A friend of hers will also be attending Wheaton and her friend’s mom has chosen to rent an apartment in the tiny town of Norton, Massachusetts for the first month of school, in case her daughter needs something. When I heard about this, my reaction was “are you serious?” Now my neighbor’s daughter wants her to rent an apartment as well! She told me that she’s even playing the “if you were a good mother card!” Thankfully my neighbor put her foot down and explained to her daughter that she would be just fine and there was no need for her to have her mother within spitting distance.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of parents taking extreme measures. I remember reading how one mom insisted on sleeping on an air mattress in her daughter’s room for the first week of college! Wouldn’t you like to be the other roommate in that dorm room?

We’ve all heard about the Tiger Moms and Helicopter Parents, but a new moniker seems to crowding the field  – “Snowplow Parents” – you guessed it – parents who are willing to plow down anything or anyone who gets in the way of their child obtaining success.

Yes, these are the parents who cause other parents, and even their own children, to roll their eyes in disgust, disdain and embarrassment. Snowplow parents terrify Parent Orientation leaders because they’ll hijack a discussion and drown out everyone else.

Kari Kampakis is the author of a great book called “Prepare the Child for the Road, Not the Road for the Child”  She is a proponent of letting kids experience failure. She says “it’s hard not to clear every obstacle in our children’s path so they can be happy now – getting what they want, when they want it – and buck the current trends. But when we clear the road for a child, we make their life too easy. We don’t allow them to build life-coping skills they’ll need down the road to handle life’s realities.” She goes on to say that right now our children face a “little league” age-appropriate stress but very soon they will be moving to the “big league”  – and if we don’t provide them with the tools to cope with the little league stresses, there’s not much of a chance they’ll survive the stress of the “big league.”

The best advice is that preparing the child for the road means packing their suitcase with care; put all the good stuff in, while making sure to save room for resiliency and character.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;