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We all want our kids to thrive and be happy, so it's natural to want to give them as many opportunities for success as we can. But what happens when you take that instinct too far?
What is a lawnmower parent?
Lawnmower parents try to smooth the way, removing obstacles to ensure a failure-free path forward for their children, says psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, author of Kid Confidence: Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience, and Develop Real Self-Esteem.
Lawnmower parenting (also called bulldozer or snowplow parenting) is the new helicopter parenting. The labels given to this new parenting style are a sign that moms and dads are going beyond hovering – they're intervening even more aggressively in their children's lives.
Of course, it's hard for most parents to watch their child experience frustration or disappointment. But lawnmower parents go out of their way to ensure their kids never have to face any kind of adversity. One teacher described a lawnmower parent in a WeAreTeachers post that went viral:
A teacher was called to the office to pick up an item from a teen student's parent. The teacher assumed the item was something crucial like an inhaler but was shocked to see the parent holding a water bottle. The man explained that his daughter had texted him repeatedly because, rather than drink from a school fountain, "she just had to have it out of the bottle."
"We are creating a generation that has no what idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle," the teacher wrote.
Am I a lawnmower parent?
If you regularly prevent discomfort that your child can learn to manage at her age, you might be. For example:
- Your child doesn't like sharing, so you buy two of everything, so he always has a spare toy for a friend to play with and never has to give up his own.
- Your child has broken a classroom rule, but you complain to her teacher that she shouldn't have to face the consequences of her actions.
- Your child stayed up late watching videos so you let him sleep in and be later for childcare or school.
- Your child procrastinated on starting her science project, and you swoop in to complete the project the night before it's due.
Lawnmower parents fear that their child can't succeed or be safe without them, says Laurie Hollman, a psychoanalyst and author of The Busy Parent's Guide to Managing Anxiety in Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way. They think they're helping, Hollman says. Instead, they're preventing the child from learning the skills they need to be independent.
Take our quiz: Are you a lawnmower parent?