It was bound to happen eventually; it was not enough to be a helicopter parent hovering above your offspring, warning them of every looming danger, pointing out an easier path and keeping a constant eye on everything they do, say, eat and feel. Move over helicopter parents, here come the “lawnmower parents”.
Lawnmower parents spend their days and nights mowing down any and all obstacles that may appear in the path of their beloved children. No challenge is too small, no obstacle too minute for these parents to mow down as they ensure a clear and easy path.
At a time when I believed that I had seen it all, I stumbled across an article on Fox News on the subject. They described it as “Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure. Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place.”
“My advice? Lock the lawnmower away in the shed, step out of the helicopter and just take a genuine interest in the lives of your children.”
In a post on the education blog WeAreTeachers entitled ‘Lawnmower Parents Are the New Helicopter Parents & We Are Not Here for It’, an anonymous educator describes her run-in with a lawnmower dad.
The writer recounts being called to the school office to pick up an item from a parent.
Believing it was something important like an inhaler or money for dinner, the writer was stunned to find that a dad had come all the way to school to make sure his daughter had her insulated water bottle.
“Hi, sorry,” the parent said sheepishly. He was in a suit, clearly headed to work (or something work-like).
“Remy kept texting me that she needed it. I texted back ‘Don’t they have water fountains at your school?’ but I guess she just had to have it out of the bottle.”
‘He laughed, as if to say, teenagers, am I right?’
Perhaps the most telling line is the one that followed that, written by the educator: ‘[We are raising] 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.’
Of course, I want the best for Sasha. Is that not what we all want for our children? With this in mind, I can almost understand how some parents may fall into the trap of lawnmower parenting. The problem is that because they have become so focused on protecting their children and making life easy for them, they lose sight of the fact that dealing with disappointment, hardship and failure are a crucial and an important part of growing up.
Children need to experience some setbacks in life, a little disappointment and the occasional hardship to learn the skills necessary for problem-solving and independence. If all the obstacles in life have been removed by a lawnmower parent, how will these young people cope when they eventually move on from the protection of their parents?
I am not implying that we should place obstacles in their way to make them tougher. I am not implying that we should stand back stoically as they stumble or fumble and offer no guidance or assistance. What I suggest is that we stop protecting them from any hardship long before they have even had a chance to identify it.
My advice? Lock the lawnmower away in the shed, step out of the helicopter and just take a genuine interest in the lives of your children. Offer them guidance, share your advice and experiences with them, but allow them to grow and feel and occasionally fall – after all, you did and seemed to have coped just fine.
Mike Said is a marketer, public speaker, committed dad and part-time adrenaline junky, who dedicates his blog to his only daughter, Sasha. When she came into his life 15 years ago, he was going to teach her right from wrong and how to be a good person. He was going to teach her to live her life to the full, to see the fun in all she does, to suck the marrow from the bones of life and to never waste a single second. Little did he realise she would be the one to teach him all these things and more. You can find him at www.daddyblogger.co.za or www.mikesaidwhat.co.za