The unstoppable snowplow parent

College counselor William Singer is at the center of what the Justice Department calls the largest college admission prosecution ever. 50 people have been charged. Mr. Singer saw how far some parents are willing to go to “help” their children get into prestigious colleges and he decided to take advantage – big time!

I have heard many different reactions to the college admissions scandal. Most of them, about the parents and about the system. Having a son in college and a daughter who graduated just last year, I have learned how stressful the process of college applications can be. I feel very bad for the kids who seemed to have everything, but their parents decided to take their kid’s college application as a personal matter. There is a sad message underneath: “we don’t believe in you, we must take care of your education because you are not good enough to do it by yourself”. These kids probably didn’t have the chance to say what they wanted or to prove what they really can achieve. Maybe they never have had.

This way of parenting doesn’t begin the day they meet the college counselor for the first time. It starts earlier on. The internal battle between protecting our children versus letting go is very real and it happens to all of us at some point. The tendency to try to make their life easy, clearing obstacles in the child’s path, and save them from any frustration starts the day they are born and will probably stay with us forever.  But despite our fears and anxiety, and despite all the excuses that responsible and caring parents make, it is wise not to do too much for them, just enough to show them how to do things and get them started and motivated. It begins by giving them the opportunity to grab the rattle by themselves, then the blanket, then the spoon…  Soon they need to prepare their own backpack, take care of their things, and before you know it, they are asking for your car’s keys! It is not always easy to let go and trust that they can do things by themselves, but they can do a lot more than parents like to admit! By trusting in their abilities, we send a positive message: “You don´t need me, I know that you can do this on your own”. This is the true meaning of self-esteem and self- accomplishment. Kids encounter all kinds of obstacles every day. With a little guidance and determination, they overcome challenges as they come. The college admission process is just one of these.

Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich came up with a great new parenting term! “Snowplow parent”. The Unstoppable Snowplow Parent (The New York Times, March 17): “Denying the children, the lesson in dealing with roadblocks takes a toll in adulthood. The point is to prepare the kid for the road, not vice versa.” 

It is a must read!. PEPA

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