I have to admit this, during a recent substitute teaching assignment, I came across something scarier and more disturbing than a Lawnmower Parent – A PRACTICING LAWNMOWER CHILD!
Named after the device used for cutting grass, a lawnmower parent will intervene or “mow down” any person or obstacle that stands in the way of them saving their child from any “inconvenience, problem or discomfort.”
I actually had a 4th grader argue with me and then cry that he “could not turn in his homework” because his dad did not “check and approve” the assignment. The exact words were, “my daddy wants me to always get good grades because it will help me in life.” I wanted to track down this parental problem but thought otherwise.
YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE – YOU MAY BE ONE YOURSELF
You’re probably familiar with the “so yesterday” term “Helicopter Parents,” where parents hover over their kids and swoop in to rescue them at the first sign of trouble. At the college level, the physical presence required to hover may be limited. But, it’s no surprise that parents find their way in to still attempt to “help” those they may have already affected.
There are some other non-creative names, but this is my favorite, though not so mainstream: “Curling Parents,” given the similarity to the Olympic athletes who in precision form move ahead of the gently thrown stone, frantically brushing a smooth path and guiding the stone towards an exact pre-determined location.
IT DOESN’T END WELL
Joking aside – this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects including:
● Students becoming poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences. This includes everything from sharing feelings and dealing with annoying people to much broader skills like communicating with others, negotiating for something they want and coping with disappointment.
● Students cannot develop a sense of personal motivation or drive, since they only know how to follow a Lawnmower Parent prepared path.
● Students do not have the confidence to make a decision, big or small, without the guidance of others.
● Students constantly receive the message that they are not good enough to “do this themselves.” In essence, the Lawnmower Parent is repeatedly demonstrating to the child that they cannot be trusted to accomplish things on their own.
HOW YOU CAN AVOID BECOMING A LAWNMOWER PARENT
For school age kids: start practicing now. Let your kid do the talking as often as possible: ordering at restaurants, asking for directions, or even calling a friend on the phone to ask for a play date (I really dislike that term) instead of arranging it yourself via text message.
High school kids: while there is still room for parental involvement at this age, insist your child attempt all communication first on their own. If they miss a quiz and do a make-up, have them make the arrangements with the teacher. If they have a conflict between track practice and music lessons have them discuss the possibilities with the involved groups, make the decision and deal with the potential consequences.
FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES
TRUST your kid to do well, and tell them repeatedly that you believe they can make good decisions on their own. Give room to make mistakes, even major ones sometimes, and learn from them together.
As parents, we will inevitably watch our kids struggle, feel uncomfortable and fail. As painful as that may be, you aren’t doing your child any favors by trying to shield them from this part of life or solve their problems for them. Instead, give them opportunities to learn strength and self-confidence, so they can handle future challenges with style and grace.
In essence, turn off the mower and park it in the garage.
This column is by Ritchie Lucas, Creator of The Student Success Project and Think Factory Consulting. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org – and on Facebook @ The Student Success Project and YouTube @ The Student Success Project.