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The term "snowplow parent" is creeping into our feeds and conversations, and like its predecessor, "helicopter parent" the phrase paints an unflattering portrait of the type of parents it tries to define.

The phrase has been floating around the internet for years but was popularized by writers Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwichba, who, in a New York Times article, defined snowplow parents as "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."

All of us want our children to be happy, successful and have opportunities, but the college admissions scandal involving actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin showed what can happen when so-called snowplow parents take things too far.

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Most of us don't have $500,000 to spend clearing an effortless path to college for our children, but plowing obstacles out of their childhoods can cost us even more. When we take all the hard bits out of the road to adulthood, our kids have no idea what to do once they arrive.

If we do everything for our kids, we rob them of the resiliency that children develop when they overcome obstacles, and of the important life skills they develop when they pick themselves up after a fall and pick up more responsibilities. And we also rob ourselves of a future in which we're not parenting an adult.

A poll by The New York Times and Morning Consult found that three-quarters of parents with children between 18 and 28 are doing things like reminding kids of deadlines at college and making appointments for their haircuts and doctors visits. A shocking 11% said they would contact their child's employer if they had a problem at work.

Most of us do not want to be booking haircuts for a 20-year-old or calling our child's boss when they're old enough to vote and legally drink. Instead of vilifying snowplow parents (most of whom likely had the best intentions) let's learn some lessons from them so that we can raise a generation that grows up ready for #adulting.

Here are five lessons we can learn from snowplow parents:

1. We need to let our kids fail so that they can overcome

It is hard to see our children disappointed, hurt or sad when a choice they made backfires, but as one mama, Tunde Wackman, once wrote for Motherly, "I have to remind myself that consequences are gifts in disguise, though, not a dereliction of my motherly 'duty' to protect my children from challenges."

If we pick up the blocks when they tumble, or correct their homework before they hand it in, or rush home to grab the book report they forgot, our kids don't have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and more importantly, they lose an opportunity to learn that they can bounce back from one.

2. We need to say 'no' to our kids and let them feel their feelings

It can be hard to look at your crying child and tell them "no" knowing that a "yes" would protect them from feeling bad, but sometimes we've got to let them feel their emotions, even when it is hard.

"If we never take off the bubble wrap and rarely say no, our children may become incapable of tolerating or managing the inconveniences of life—they'll demand instant gratification and, over time, develop impulse control issues," Ilene S. Cohen, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, previously wrote for Motherly.

According to Cohen, "Research shows that children who have been overly protected from their own emotions lack a sense of agency over their own lives and are more prone to develop unfulfilling relationships in the future."

When our child breaks their toy or drops their ice cream, rushing to buy a new one can numb the pain temporarily, but letting them feel the disappointment or frustration and teaching them that it is okay to feel that way also teaches them that these are feelings that they have the power to overcome.

3. We need to praise effort as much as results

Our children need to know that trying is important. We need to praise our children for doing things that are hard and tell them often that they can do hard things. This promotes a growth mindset, where kids know their abilities and skills aren't fixed and can grow with practice, and helps kids feel confident in their ability to overcome challenges. When a child is praised for not giving up, they're more likely to keep going when times get tough.

4. We need to give our children increasing levels of responsibility

When it comes to household chores, like making the bed or loading this dishwasher, sometimes it feels like it would be more efficient if we just did it ourselves rather than letting a 3-year-old try, but we have to let them try. Even very young kids are capable of taking on small responsibilities, and it's so much easier to start when they're three than when they're 22.

5. We need to get our kids thinking proactively

As Dr. Laura Markham previously wrote for Motherly, it's not enough to tell our children to do something, we've got to train them to be thinking about what they need to do. "For instance, to the dallying child in the morning, instead of barking 'Brush your teeth! Is your backpack packed? Don't forget your lunch!' you could ask, 'What's the next thing you need to do to get ready for school?' The goal is to keep them focused on their list, morning after morning until they internalize it and begin managing their own morning tasks," Markham writes.

If we don't want to be calling a college senior to remind them their essay is due, we should stop reminding our children about their responsibilities and instead ask them which one comes next.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

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Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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