Posted Sep 20, 2018
We've all heard about "helicopter parents" constantly hovering over and micro-managing their child's every move -- from their interactions on the playground all the way through filling out their college applications. Just when we thought parental involvement couldn't possibly get any more over the top, we somehow figured out how to kick the crazy up yet another notch. Enter the "lawnmower parent."
While not a new term, lawnmower parenting is getting a lot of attention recently due to this post from an anonymous middle school teacher on the WeAreTeachers educator blog. As the story goes, the teacher was called to the office in the middle of the day to pick up an insulated water bottle being delivered by one of his/her student's dads. Why, you ask? Because his beloved daughter was thirsty and the thought of drinking water from the water fountain was apparently too much to bear (the horror!). Yes, seriously.
Lawnmower parents not only micromanage their children around life's challenges and obstacles (or, in this case, minor inconveniences), they bring out the heavy equipment and mow them down completely. They go to whatever lengths needed to prevent their sweet snowflakes from experiencing the failures, adversity, heart break and let downs that are a normal part of life and growing up.
While the above story is obviously an extreme example of this so-called lawnmower parenting phenomenon, I get it. I really do. It's hard, downright excruciating sometimes, to watch your children struggle. I never truly understood the depths of pain until having to watch my children experience their own while sitting on the sidelines powerless to make it "all better." To put it plainly, it sucks. But you know what sucks even more? Watching them encounter life's failures ill-equipped with the emotional coping tools to get through them on their own and come out okay, or perhaps even stronger, on the other side.
Our natural instinct as parents is to shield our children from pain and rejection with the belief that we are ultimately raising happier children. We've all encountered the parent who manages their child's sports career by moving them from team to team when they aren't chosen for their favored position blaming it on "the coaching." Or, the parent who constantly calls or emails teachers on their child's behalf when a test or project doesn't go their way. The lesson in each case is clear: It's not your fault and we'll take care of it. While our actions may make our children happier in the moment, we are raising kids and young adults who are unable to cope with adversity and who feel helpless and depressed.
The challenges life hurtles at you become increasingly steady and complex as you age -- today's forgotten water bottle is tomorrow's bombing of a final exam, failure to make the travel soccer team, or college rejection letter. It is not our job to be lawnmower parents, intervening and steering our children clear of every challenge, but to help them accept them, own them, and face them head on with courage and tenacity. In the end, our kids will be happier for it, despite having to drink from the water fountain.
~ Kim Humphrey
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