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Are you a Snowplow or Lawn-Mower Parent?

It's time to embark on some introspection as the US college scandal exposes the criminal extent some parents will go to behave like lawn mowers: mow down every obstacle or difficulty their children may have to face.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   18-03-2019

Operation Varsity BluesOperation Varsity Blues: Actress Lori Loughlin, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli and Emmy award winning actress Felicity Huffman have fallen criminally into the over parenting trap

You would have to be naïve to think there is a level US college admission playing field: expensive test prep companies, private tutors, elite prep schools, legacies, large donations, unfairly tilt the process in favor of those with access and coin. These are just a few of the legal shortcuts.

Then there is the illegal shortcut or side door, and you never want to go down that fork of the road. The reaction to the FBI’s indictment of 50 people in a US college admissions scam, including 33 parents (some even Hollywood royalty), who used their wealth to get their children into elite universities, has been swift, fierce and ricocheted around the world. “Our big college admissions scandal just made the US look a lot more like the rest of the world,” lamented “The Washington Post.”

To many, the news was shocking and the interviews, follow-up stories, and moral commentary have started to roll in.

Most of those will miss the point entirely.

The meat of the story is not that rich people tried to lie, cheat and steal admissions to top-tier American colleges. The “Post” is right. It happens in most sad corners of the world. The real issue is that overzealous parents are losing the plot, and we should think long and hard about our parenting styles.

Many parents, especially Asian ones, bought wholesale into Yale law professor Amy Chua’s tough love and helicopter parenting style described vividly in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. With her razor-sharp pen, Chua, a self-described “tiger mother”, chronicled stories about never accepting a grade lower than A, insisting on hours of math and spelling drills, daily piano practice, and keeping a hawk-eye on her daughters, both brilliant but insecure overachievers. Chua’s parenting style was also characterized by a helicopter-like tendency to hover over her girls and micromanage them.

The concept of “helicopter parents” who hover anxiously over all aspects of their kids’ lives has been around for a while, but there are increasing headlines about another type of parent. “Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities,” said “The New York Times.” These snowplow parents are known as “lawn mowers” and even “curling parents” in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands.

“Taken to its criminal extreme, that means bribing SAT proctors and paying off college coaches to get children in to elite colleges — and then going to great lengths to make sure they never face the humiliation of knowing how their children got there,” noted the newspaper.

Sadly, the baba log in India, have their special brand of helicopter, lawn mower and snowplow parents. While most parents start scaling back their involvement when children head to college, helicopter, snowplow and lawn mower parents actually ramp up support.

I know too many Indian parents who keep their children digitally tethered with round-the-clock Skype, WhatsApp and cell phone calls. Essentially, they are micromanaging their college going kids — even when they are studying half a world away in America.

The truth is that young adults don’t have to be micro managed in college. They simply need to reach American shores with a desire to learn, and have basic survival skills like how to cook, clean, do laundry and solve their own roommate hassles.

According to the complaint filed by US federal investigators, Jane Buckingham agreed to pay a bribe of $50,000 to have someone else take the ACT college-entrance exam on behalf of her son Jack. Buckingham also wanted to administer a copy of the test to Jack at home so that he would believe that he had taken it.

One can see how Buckingham and the other parents charged in this investigation code-named Operation Varsity Blues, were acting as the ultimate snowplows: clearing the way for their children to get in to college, while shielding them from the difficulty, risk and potential disappointment of the process.

Real life seldom pans out so smoothly: it’s full of messy disappointments so students must be able to accept rejection and deal with failure.

“You might never fail on the scale I did,” JK Rowling, who made $54 million without releasing a single book in 2018, told students at a Harvard commencement address two years ago. “But some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default.”

Parents must channel Rowling, and distil her wisdom to teach their children that failure is the very foundation for success. It is important to break free of the over parenting trap and raise children who can cope as young adults.

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