This past weekend as I was perusing Facebook, I kept seeing the same article shared over and over in my feed—and it was mostly being shared by mom friends of mine who are also teachers. After seeing it shared a few times, I decided I’d better take a look…and I’m so glad I did. The article was written by a teacher who wishes to remain anonymous, on the site WeAreTeachers.com, and covers the behavior of a type of parent I’d never heard of before: lawnmower parents.
According to the article, lawnmower parents are the new helicopter parents.
What exactly are Lawnmower Parents, you ask? Well, as the name suggests, they are cutting things down, but in this case these things are obstacles in their child’s path. The article’s author says, “Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure.”
She cites as an example a dad who took time out of his busy work day to bring his daughter a metal water bottle that she’d left at home because she just couldn’t live without it. I mean, UGH, can you imagine what would happen if she had buy her own plastic water bottle from a vending machine, or —GASP!— drink from the drinking fountain? EEEK!
The article’s author says that she believes lawnmower parents have good intentions, but in the end, they are simply sabotaging their child’s future by mowing down any obstacles they might face before they face them.
“…in raising children who have experienced minimal struggle, we are not creating a happier generation of kids,” he or she says. “We are creating a generation that has no what idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle. A generation who panics or shuts down at the mere idea of failure. A generation for whom failure is far too painful, leaving them with coping mechanisms like addiction, blame, and internalization. The list goes on.”
Kids raised by lawnmower parents are going to have a rough transition to adulthood.
The lack of being able to deal with adverse situations is going to make adulthood unpleasant for these kids; in trying to save them from struggle, lawnmower parents are actually setting them up for failure. We have to let our kids fail while they’re young and suffer the natural consequences failure brings or they’ll fall into dysfunction and blame-shifting as adults. When I entered high school, I did so as a young teen who had, before this time, been good at just about everything she tried.
And then I failed my first test in Honors Algebra II. Turns out just because I’d done well as an 8th grader in Algebra I, I maybe didn’t need to take HONORS Algebra II as a freshman. Ooops. How did I handle this adversity? Well, I cried a lot. And then I studied. And studied, and studied some more. My dad, halleLUjah, was a math teacher (at a different school) and he worked with me when I had struggles. Did he tell me the answers? Nope. Did he get mad and call the teacher and cajole her into raising my grade? Negative. Did he pull strings to get me transferred into a non-honors class? Not a chance. He taught me how to study for math, something I’d never had to do before. And then, he left it up to me to apply my new knowledge.
I got an A- for the quarter, and A’s the rest of the year. I had to study for every single test and I labored over every single homework assignment. But I managed. Thank goodness my mom and dad were not lawnmower parents!
Luckily, I had a few more failures in high school, not necessarily academically, that my parents let me handle and learn from. As an adult, when hard times came, and they did, as they will for your child, I managed. I still manage. My parents equipped me to be resourceful, to problem-solve, and to be resilient in the face of adversity. If we do not do the same for our children, it is we who fail—we fail them.
Moms and Dads, let’s let the teacher who wrote this article give us as parents a lasting lesson: We’ve got to let our kids face life’s inevitable road blocks. And not only that, we’ve got to let them ask for what they need (from teachers or others in their lives) and encourage them to speak up or miss out. Otherwise we risk being the parents of a temper-tantrum throwing young adult, and that…is something none of us wants on our parenting resumé!
Do you know any lawnmower parents? What sorts of things do they do to handle problems for their kids?