The Lawnmower Parenting Style
Introducing the new “parent” in town, the Lawnmower Parent. In contrast to the emotionally supportive Elephant parent or the overbearing Tiger parent, the Lawnmower parent will go to any lengths to smooth the path in front of their children so that the children must never have to experience anxiety, struggles, challenges, or adversity.
One Lawnmower mother, who wished to remain anonymous, shared that her teen daughter’s friend text her from school because her daughter had forgotten her cell phone in the car. The mother responded to the text by immediately leaving work, driving to the school, and delivering the phone to her daughter.
Self-described Lawnmower dad, Robert M., shared that he “mows” down his daughters obstacles because he had such a tough childhood. His mother was emotionally cold and his dad was not in his life. “I had no one to take any burden off of me. It was all on me and I was too little for that. I stumbled so much and I don’t want that her her. There will be plenty of opportunities for that in the future.”
“In the short term, kids may feel relief when a parent clears obstacles that would otherwise produce negative consequences, but long-term growth suffers by taking away opportunities for that growth. Discomfort from consequences is often the catalyst for change in behavior,” shared Patti Dowling, a therapist at the Baton Rouge Counseling Associates. She continued, “In other words, if a child gets a bad grade on a test and the parent goes to bat for them with the teacher, the child loses the opportunity to learn how to negotiate and communicate with the teacher. Additionally, the parent inadvertently sends the message that the child can’t take care of their own situations, thus fostering dependence and stunting the development of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy involves what we think about our own ability to perform and its related to our experiences. When there is a pattern of parenting this way, kids may end up down the road in college, for example, ill-equipped to handle their own business which could lead to anxiety, low distress tolerance, and depression.”
Teachers, as well as therapists, are seeing the ramifications of Lawnmower Parenting. “Struggle is necessary for learning to take place,” shared teacher and mother Layla D. “When we learn new things, it’s uncomfortable, it’s challenging, it’s frustrating, and sometimes just NOT fun! Parents never want to see their children struggle; however, by eliminating moments of struggle for their children, parents are handicapping them. By the time their children reach adulthood, they are often unable to function without the support they’ve received their entire lives. They’re unable to own their mistakes and struggle with being productive.”
A former principal once told me to ‘never give a child a crutch he or she doesn’t need.’ Yes, there are times when students need support, but simply providing support before the student has even experienced some struggle is in no way beneficial to that child.”
Veteran teacher Mary H. reports, “These are the parents who will even go so far as to complete assignments so their children don’t suffer negative consequences. I think of this parenting style as enabling children to not take responsibility.”
Lawnmower parents don’t come from a bad place, some simply want to shelter their children from situations that were difficult for them when they were children. Dowling continued, “Due to technology, it is easier than ever to stay connected and on top of our kid’s business. Whether it occurs via email to the school or staying abreast to social media issues, parents have access to more information. Some of this increased information causes parental anxiety and therefore parents choose this type of parenting approach to prevent that, without asking themselves if the experience, although potentially painful, could produce growth and maturity in their child.”
Long term consequences of Lawnmower Parenting can include unhealthy coping skills such as: shutting down in the face of emotional strain; internalizing; addiction; blaming others for their own shortcomings; and those who are reluctant to take risks due to the overwhelming fear of failure.
What is your parenting style?
Your child has a big assignment due tomorrow, but hasn’t started it yet! What do you do?
That would never happen, your child always excels at their responsibilities in and out of school.
You “help” your child with the assignment. You may do entire assignment, just to be on the safe side.
You discuss the assignment and the implications of not completing it with your child. Ultimately it is his choice, but you’ll be there for emotional support either way.
You support your child doing as much of the assignment as they can before getting a good night’s rest.
It is a new school year and the Parent Teacher Association is getting started. What do you do?
You don’t have time to volunteer for everything, but will have a direct line of communication regarding all information.
You are the school’s top volunteer, but not out of the kindness of your heart. You want to have an “in” with teachers and administration, just in case.
You may volunteer for one or two “light-duty” events or committees. You want to be involved, but not spend too much time away from the kids.
You and your child volunteer together for community outreach and humanitarian projects.
Reports cards came out today. What are you expecting?
Nothing less than the Straight-A Principal’s List.
They should be pretty great, you’ve sent lots of teacher-goodies and have negotiated well.
Whatever they are, you and your child will review the grades together and he will feel loved no matter what the report says.
After all of the hands-on activities you and your child have done together, the report card should reflect a deep understanding.
Your child is moving to a new environment and is going to make new friends. How do you handle it?
You keep your friends close and your competition closer. You will be fine with whomever your child wants to befriend, but will keep an eye on their successes.
You’ve done your research and will carefully choose which friendships to promote by selectively planning out-of-school playdates.
You encourage your child to be friends with everyone and are there to emotion coach them through any ups and downs.
You prefer balance for your child. Playtime has its place, but so does work, cooperation, and downtime. You’re ok with saying no to too many commitments.
If you answered mostly:
A’s: You have a tiger parenting style. You value your child’s academic and extracurricular success above their emotional climate. You set the bar high for your child.
B’s: You have a lawnmower parenting style.
C’s: You have an elephant parenting style. You are the direct opposite of the tiger parent. Emotional security and encouragement are the foundation of your parenting.
D’s: You have a dolphin parenting style. Like a dolphin POD, you encourage Playtime, Others, and Downtime, including self-care.
Published in Baton Rouge Parents Magazine