The latest thing going viral on parenting sites and hitting TV talk shows is an essay written by a middle school teacher about the dangers of "lawnmower parenting." The example the teacher used to point at the larger issue was a father who had dropped off a water bottle for his daughter because she kept texting him for it. The term may be new, but the parenting style isn't. We've heard it before – helicopter, bulldozer, even snowplow.
No matter the name, it describes parents who hover over their children, jumping in to rescue them at the first sign of trouble – mowing down all obstacles in an effort to protect them from any potential inconvenience, problem, or discomfort. No matter what you call it, it isn't good.
And the professionals sounding the warning bells are not just middle school teachers, pediatricians, and psychologists, but college professors and even employers. It's because parents have been "lawnmowering" for years and their children, now young adults, are incapable of mowing down their own "grown-up" challenges.
What are the warning signs you're a lawnmower parent?
You can start exhibiting symptoms when your child is just a toddler.
For older children:
If you do, you might find yourself lawnmowering your college-age children, such as helping them select their courses and clubs.
And it doesn't end there. In Amy Morin's book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, she cited the growing number of parents who intercede on their children's behalf in the workplace. She wrote:
In a survey conducted by Michigan State University, 32 percent of large companies report they hear from employees' parents. About 31 percent of hiring managers say they've seen parents submit their children's resumés for them, 4 percent experienced parents attending interviews with their adult children, and 9 percent say parents have tried negotiating their child's salary. She also pointed out that some HR departments report getting phone calls from parents when their child receives disciplinary action.
Now knowing these signs, how can you avoid becoming a lawnmower parent?
For toddlers: Give them the freedom to explore their environment, learn how to negotiate friendships, and cut back on the hand sanitizer. A little dirt won't hurt.
For school-age kids: Let your children do the talking as often as possible, such as ordering a pizza over the phone or going to the teacher if they need help with a difficult assignment. Have them be responsible for daily chores, packing their lunch, or putting their laundry away.
High school kids: While there is still room for parental involvement, insist that your children attempt all communication on their own at first. If they don't get up on time for school, don't wake them. Let them be late. If they forgot to do their homework, have them deal with the consequences. If they didn't get the grade they wanted on a test, tell them to ask the teacher for help and study harder.