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Snowplow parenting, it’s a word that’s come up now since the college admission scandal where parents are no longer helicopter parenting, rather, snowplow parenting clears all the obstacles out of the child’s way, so they don’t have to struggle with some of the things that their parents did.
While the intentions might be in the right place, this is not healthy for children. If you want a great guide on what to do instead, you might want to check out Kathy Kotch’s book, Start with the Heart: How to Motivate Your Kids to Be Compassionate, Responsible, and Brave (Even When You're Not Around). It’s all about motivating your kids to be compassionate, responsible, and brave.
It is so hard to know where the line is between helping your kids succeed and doing the work for them. Kathy says that it starts at home, letting them learn to perservere, and there is a great analogy from nature, when you are watching chicken eggs in an incubator
You might conclude, Oh! His time has come–he’s about ready to come out of the egg! And you gently crack open the egg and say, “Welcome to the world, little chick!” Do you know what happens to that chick? It dies.
It’s the effort to peck its way out of the shell that develops its lungs and allows it to breathe and live.
Struggle produces character, and that’s something that is better taught inside the safety of the “egg” of your home than outside of it.
It’s easy to talk about change, but how do we encourage our kids to actually do it? Kathy talks about a 3 step biblical process to change:
- Take off your old self
- Renew the spirit of your mind; “make it new”
- Put on the new self
Kathy shares a good reminder as we go through difficult change:
Remember God’s grace is available for all — His unmerited favor. He chooses to bless us because we are His. Grace isn’t earned through obedience. It is God’s gift to you. Talk about it, and display grace toward yourself and your children because they are your children. We are free when we understand that we do not need to change because God is angry or He won’t love us in our messy situation and sin. (73)
How do you figure out what your kids value? Kathy suggests the “Find Five” exercise:
Ask them to list five things in each box that they want in their lifetime. […] Not only will you benefit from learning about your children’s top five, but they’ll learn a lot about you in a non-threatening way. (119)
If you want to try this out with your family, here’s a printable to use:
You may have heard that you’re not supposed to be friends with your children, you are supposed to be their parent. But Kathy digs deeper and talks about four different roles for parents:
Be a teacher. Because of our sin nature and the chaotic culture with and anything-goes foundation, obedience and Christ-like character are among the most challenging things to get right. […] Explain what you want your children to do. Include enough details using vivid verbs and descriptive adjectives. (132)
Even more than teachers, Coaches break tasks down into bite-size pieces. Doing this makes it easier for children to get started, keep on task, and finish well. Remember, initiative is an important character trait that increases motivation. (133)
Cheerleaders provide enthusiastic support throughout the game. […] Great cheerleaders pay attention to the game’s score so their cheers are realistic. They might begin the game cheering “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” But when the team is down by thirty points in the fourth quarter, they change the cheer.
Pointing out negative decisions, attitudes, and behaviors is something you must do. […]If you don’t blow your whistle, your children will continue to make mistakes. If you let them keep repeating the errors, they won’t believe they’re doing anything wrong or understand they should change. They’ll get good at doing the wrong things well. Now change will be more challenging. (137)