You may know what a helicopter parent is, but do you know what a lawnmower parent is? What is lawnmower parenting, and how can we make sure we don’t become a lawnmower parent?
We have all heard the term helicopter parent. We shield our children from getting hurt and hover over their every move to ensure their utmost safety. Most helicopter parents are parents of younger children who are still so little that they can get physically hurt or who still need supervision most of the time.
However, these children eventually grow up to be school-aged kids whom their parents cannot watch every second of every day to protect them. These parents soon find themselves in a world where their children are exposed to mean kids, bullying, authority, and other seemingly uncomfortable and confrontational situations. And thus, the lawnmower parent is born.
A lawnmower parent is a relatively new term created to define those parents who do everything in their power to protect their children from anything that is an inconvenience, problem, or causes discomfort. They will essentially “mow down” any obstacle that stands in their child’s way of complete happiness. They are the parents you see asking (read: yelling) coaches to let their child on the team or to play more innings. They are the parents emailing teachers about why they are “giving” bad grades. They are the parents going to interviews for an after school job with their high school-aged children and emailing their child’s college professor about a missed assignment.
All parents want to protect their children from getting hurt, either physically or emotionally. We have all contemplated putting our children in little bubbles that protects them from the outside world for as long as possible, because we know how scary and cruel that world can be especially for someone who is experiencing it all for the first time.
However, there are things that we simply cannot protect our children from for forever. Especially in the dawn of advanced technology, our children have more access to information than ever before. So how do we, as parents, create a balance between protecting them from harm and building a resilient child?
This is a hard balance to strike since we, as parents, often instinctually feel that we should remove our child from any situation that isn’t ideal. However, there are some ways you can help build your child’s resiliency as they venture out onto their own:
- Don’t accommodate every need– Did they forget their library book? Have them bring it tomorrow rather than bringing it to school for them.
- Give them tools to solve their own problems- When your child comes home from school with friend troubles, don’t call little Johnny’s mom to tell her about it. Give your child some verbiage to use with his friend and explain life lessons on working out relationship issues (i.e., “Sometimes we fight with the people we care about the most. How might you make up with your friend?”).
- Let them mess up– You know that this project isn’t going to end well, but if you take care of it for them how will they learn? Be there when they fail, but let them have the opportunity so they know they can always come to you.
- Help them with their emotions– It can be hard to let your child feel big, strong emotions when they are causing them emotional pain. But these feelings are good- and you can help be a model for support when they encounter someone else with feelings like this. You can’t stop the emotions (and you don’t want to!) but you can give them help processing them.
- Spread the positive– When you see your child overcome something difficult for them, give them praise on how hard they worked to accomplish their goal or persevere.
- Don’t give them all the answers– Let your child work to figure things out for themselves, or research something they have questions about.
- Model resiliency– All of these obstacles that you are allowing your child to face without you is just setting them up for adulthood. Be open about something that is hard for you, and show your child that you are continuing to work on it even though it is difficult.
Upcoming generations are already being deemed as being lazy and entitled, and lawnmower parents aren’t helping that assumption. Although many of the current millennials and Generation X-ers might agree that we are anything but lazy and entitled, those of us who are raising children without any feelings of discomfort or obstacles are creating a generation that will not be able to accept any kind of adversity that life throws at them. By helping model and cultivate residency in our own kids we can develop a generation of go-getters and problem solvers that will help make our world a better place for generations to come.