It’s a confusing time to raise kids. There are so many conflicting parenting philosophies, I get dizzy listening to other moms talk about some of these popular child raising techniques and the experts who espouse them. Attachment parenting, Helicopter parenting, sleep training, Free Range parenting, Joyful parenting, Dr. Sears, Dr. Karp, Tiger Mom, Rie Method, French parenting… those are just a few. I’m sure I’m forgetting something!
In a recent New Yorker article, Spoiled Rotten: Why do kids rule the roost? Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the abundance of middle class parenting books that have arisen from what many observers believe is a generation of spoiled kids. Books with titles like A Nation of Wimps are in response to extremely permissive parenting that has led to over-indulged, spoiled kids. One expert points to our homes as the prime evidence. When parents can afford it, their houses are filled with kids’ possessions that spill out into other rooms, giving the home “a very child centered look.”
Apparently, we’ve discarded “helicopter parenting” a trend where parents hovered over their children, making sure their little (or big) one’s every need was met. Now we are living in the age of “snowplow parents.” “Snowplow parents” step in and clear every obstacle from their children’s path, grumbles one educator quoted in the New Yorker. Why bother hovering? Just move any obstacle out of the child’s way. “Snowplow parents” make sure nothing will get in the way of their kid’s path to the Ivy League. From toddler-hood to college, these “snowplow” moms and dads stand ready to hurl aside anything that stand between their kid and success.
If “snowplow parents” are the new norm, what happens when we let our kids struggle to solve problems on their own or find solutions to challenges without help? Are we then failing our kids? Will the offspring of “snowplow parents” have an unseen advantage?
I’m very familiar with “snowplow parenting.” It dominates young kids’ sports. Whether its recreation league basketball, club sports or school athletics, virtually no parent wants tryouts. Tryouts are to be avoided at all costs. Tryouts mean somebody won’t make the team. Teams are rigged in advance so that the “bad players” are guaranteed to be on another team, setting up the team to win. If a “bad” player does somehow end up on a rigged team, they get less (if any) playing time, despite equal playing time rules, and are encouraged not to show up for important games.
Ridiculously complicated drafts for 7-8 year old teams are held to make sure both parent and professional coaches can hand pick the teams they want. After all, no kid should ever be on a losing team. Ever. Championship trophies are the primary goal. Sportsmanship, fun, and learning are secondary. Arguments with coaches and referees are common among “snowplow” sports parents. Disagree with a call? Jump onto the court yourself and challenge the “inept” referee!
After a few years of this nonsensical “snowplowing” in sports, my husband decided he’d had enough. To the shock and surprise of the other dads, my husband made the “bold” move to have our son try out for one of the top soccer club teams in Los Angeles. We didn’t know any of the parents or the coaches. Kids from all over the city came to the open tryouts. The other dads were perplexed. My husband was peppered with questions as to why he’d do this when we had a spot guaranteed on my son’s previous club team (no tryouts were required). Why would a dad risk letting his 8 year-old son tryout for a team and, God forbid, NOT make the team?
Here’s the reason.
After two months of rigorous tryouts each week, my son made the soccer team. I cannot tell you how proud he was the day he was told he’d been selected to play for that club team. He knew he’d earned it. We’d spoken to him about the fact that he might not make, that there would be a lot of good players trying out. Even at 8 years old, my son knew that his own hard work and skill had created the opportunity for him to play for the team. His teammates include a talented kid with waist-length hair whose parents speak only Spanish. Another of his teammates is David Beckham’s son. He can’t wait for the fall soccer season to begin.
Christina Simon is the co-author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider's Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. Her work has been published on Salon.com, Mamapedia, The Mother Company, Mommy Poppins, ecomom, Momangeles, SupermommmyNot and numerous other sites. Christina has two kids, ages 9 and 12 and writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochurela.com.