Watch Out Helicopter Parents, Lawnmower Parenting Is Here
Seems like every time we turn around there is a new label for something! It can be hard to keep up and it can seem irritating, but there are reasons for calling it out. This new parenting term I’m shedding light to is called the “lawnmower parent” and its one to be aware of. Being a parent is obviously an important job and people want to get it right. Everyone wants the best for his or her child; to provide for them, to give them more than they themselves had. No one wants to do a disservice to their children, but sometimes that’s exactly what parents do when all they focus on is the end goal rather than the journey itself. It seems like so many parents are losing sight of what childhood is supposed to be about.
So, this term “lawnmower parent” is being likened to the new helicopter parent, because like the helicopter parent, the lawn mower parent hovers over the child when problems occur and are overly involved in their child’s life. The big difference is the lawnmower parent mows down any obstacles BEFORE it even reaches the child. By the parenting blocking or removing issues, the child is unable to experience anything slightly negative, difficult, or obtrusive.
Helicopter Parenting vs. Lawnmower Parenting
Involvement in Child’s Life
Remove before ever reaching the child
Childhood is the time to make mistakes. To experience and to test. To allow for trial and error. If a child is not given ample opportunity to practice, to fail, and to try again, then we are NOT setting our kids up for success. We are not giving them the best. We are not preparing them for the future and most certainly we are not giving them more than we ourselves had. Adults now were given much more freedom growing up, many of them falling into the “latchkey kid” category, yet they are rearing their own children in an opposite manner.
Lawnmower Parenting in the Classroom
An anonymous middle school teacher wrote an essay for We Are Teachers and in it, she gave some examples of how she is seeing this parenting style day in and day out. The teacher says this is “the new helicopter parenting and we are not here for it.” In the article, he/she writes about how they got called into the office to pick something up from a parent for one of the students, thinking it may be money or something important. The teacher was shocked to find the parent “sheepishly” standing there with a water bottle. The dad made some joke about how he texted his daughter back “Don’t they have water fountains at your school?” But nonetheless, he was standing there, in work attire, taking time out of his schedule to bring his daughter a water bottle that she forgot.
By doing this, he mowed away his daughter’s problem, instead of allowing her the opportunity to figure out how to solve her forgotten water bottle dilemma. The teacher mentions responding in a sympathetic manner but having a look that said something different. In another account, the teacher talks about a phone call with a parent who pleaded for an extension on a project on behalf of the student, rather than having their own child be held responsible. Mind you, this is middle school we are talking about; older children who are more than capable of thinking, doing and being responsible for their own matters.
“Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure. Instead of preparing children for the challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place.”
By preventing our children from experiencing challenging obstacles for themselves, we are creating a generation of individuals who can’t solve their own problems or think for themselves. Imagine the stress and anxiety an individual like this would face when the day comes that they must face an obstacle and they are not equipped to handle the challenge. This sounds like a scary future.
How can we prevent ourselves from turning into a lawnmower parent?
Allow your child the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. Allow them the opportunity to be in uncomfortable situations that they have to problem solve out of. Allow them to make mistakes and right their wrongs. As a parent, your job is to be THERE for your child, but not to remove them from their life. Be their confidant and a voice of wisdom. Help walk them through their thoughts and help them come up with their own solutions.
Here are some ways to help foster independence, critical thinking, and a foundation for self-confidence:
Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers: be there physically for them to keep them out of harm's way, but begin to let them flex and practice their autonomy and independence; picking out their own clothes, answering questions when adults speak to them, checking out at the library etc.
Elementary School Kids: handling their own orders at restaurants, asking friends for play dates, and allowing them to generally handle their own issues that come up. For example, if they do something wrong or get in trouble at school, having them solve the problem after you counsel them and have helped them critically think and come up with a solution.
Middle School & High School Kids: handling their own teachers and school admin for issues directly related to them; missing school, project extensions, extra credit, needing more assistance etc.
There are many ways to help your children without taking away all of life’s roadblocks. As a parent, our job is to nurture a balanced relationship that is both loving and firm. Respect your child as an individual who is capable and strong. Allow them opportunities to think for themselves to build self-confidence, perseverance, and determination that will help lead them into successful adults.
Instead of mowing down obstacles that life throws your children, help guide them along the process of being able to discern for themselves. When the lawnmower parent prevents a child from experiencing hardship, they are telling the child they are not competent or adept in being able to critically think. Let’s build our children up, to help raise a future generation that is fierce, proficient, and courageous.
Not sure when to help your kids out and when to let them problem solve, check out this helpful article on dealing with teen drama and whether to intervene.