Owner of MommyDaddyKids and mother of two, Meagan is passionate about her family and sharing real-life advice with everyday people.
What Does Lawn Mower Parenting Mean?
Chances are good you’ve heard the term “helicopter parent” before but a modern breed of parents have taken helicopter parenting to a whole new level.
Meet the lawn mower parents: the ones who not only hover over their children and advise them to watch out but mow down obstacles before their children have to deal with them.
As a parent, you want to protect your children but there is a fine line between protection and suffocation. Children need to learn how to cope with consequences in order to grow into well-rounded adults. When parents take that away from their children—even with the best of intentions—it could have a devastating effect on their development.
Check out the signs below to find out if you are a lawn mower parent and learn how you could change your behavior today.
1. You Spend Hours Doing or Perfecting Homework
Parents often double check their children’s homework and help them when an answer is incorrect. As long as your child is the one doing the work, this is perfectly acceptable.
But if you stay up half the night redoing their homework while they sleep soundly in their bed, you might be a lawn mower parent.
Wanting to support your child is understandable; but how are they being helped in this scenario? What they’re learning is that someone else will fix their mistakes for them and they won’t know how to handle it themselves in the future.
You don’t have to walk away completely. Helping your child with their homework is still an option, but make sure they are the ones doing most of the work. Give advice when it is needed and help them learn how to come to the conclusions themselves.
2. You Blame Their Failure on Others
Lawn mower parents will go to any extreme to shield their children from feeling like they failed. They will often blame other people when their child does not succeed, so their child does not blame themselves. For example:
- Your child played poorly during a soccer game and did not score one goal. It’s not because your child decided to play with friends instead of practicing. It’s the coaches' fault for not putting them in the right position.
- When your child brings home a bad report card, you don’t tell them they need to stop playing video games when they should be studying; you blame the teacher.
Children who are constantly watching their parents blame others for their behavior are going to learn to do the same. Try to acknowledge your child’s part in their failure and help them identify it as well.
3. You Clean Up After Your Child Without Making Them Help
Children should begin learning how to pick up after themselves at a young age. It’s never too early to teach that lesson. Some parents find it easier to just do it themselves instead of fighting about it, but the older they get the harder it will be to teach them. If you’re constantly:
- cleaning your child’s room
- picking up their dirty dishes
- putting away toys and games
- doing their laundry (after they are old enough to do it themselves)
- doing any age-appropriate chore they should do themselves
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—then you need to back off and teach them how to do it on their own. This behavior will follow them into other parts of their life, and they will always expect someone else to do it for them.
4. You Do Every Little Thing for Your Child
Do you do things your child is capable of doing themselves because they say they can’t or claim it’s too hard? Lawn mower parents will do everything in their power to keep their child from struggling even a tiny bit. Children catch on to things quickly. They will recognize this and ask for help even when they don’t need it.
Helping is normal. There is not a parent on earth who would willingly make their child struggle, but when you have to work harder at something, you feel rewarded when you accomplish it. If we don't allow our children to do difficult things, they will never feel accomplished.
5. You Talk for Them
Have you had someone ask your child a question and rather than allowing them to speak, you piped in so they would not feel uncomfortable? Well, if you do this all the time, you may sit at the lawn mower parent’s table during lunch.
It’s natural for a parent to feel a surge of emotion when they witness their child dealing with discomfort, but it’s important to let them deal with it. Being uncomfortable is what forces us to step outside our comfort zone and that’s when we learn to adapt.
Nobody changes when everything is perfect.
6. You Resolve Disputes for Your Child
What would you do in the below scenarios?
- Your daughter is being playfully teased by her friends on the playground.
- Your son was pushed down by another child who wanted to get to the swing first.
- Your teenager had a fight with their significant other.
- Your children are fighting amongst themselves.
In any of the scenarios above, it would be a parents first instinct to jump in and resolve the conflict. Most parents would allow their children the space to decide how they would like to handle it while lawn-mower parents jump into action and try to fix it all before their kid feels negative emotions.
It’s understandable, but doing this will not help your child. Teaching them how to face adversity and conflict in healthy ways is a much better solution.
7. Your Child Cannot Cope With Failure
How does your child respond when you fail to catch a problem before it arises? Can they cope? Or do they collapse in a heap of self-loathing and depression? Perhaps the biggest sign that a child has grown up with lawn mower parents is their inability to deal with failure. Instead of utilizing coping skills and finding a solution, they will call and beg their parents to fix it.
Kids who grow up in a home where they were shielded from hardship are in some ways worse off than kids who were neglected. They never had to learn how to take care of problems on their own or think of creative solutions. We cannot learn from our mistakes if we were not allowed to make them. What we teach our children in their younger years will follow them throughout the rest of their lives.
What's Wrong With Helping My Child?
Nothing. Helping is what parents are supposed to do. The problems arise when parents overstep helping and cross the line into enabling. To help someone is to assist them with something. Rooting out problems before they exist or mowing down obstacles before they become a problem is not helping, it’s hindering.
Parents often feel like we have one job in this world, and that’s to protect our children. It’s easy to understand how someone might take this to the extreme. Especially if they had a bad childhood. What could go wrong?
We are raising a generation of children who have no idea how to deal with hardship or conflict. They totally break down at the first sign of a problem or challenge. These kids are the future. They are the people who will eventually be running the world, and if they’re all throwing tantrums when things don’t go their way; what is that world going to look like?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Meagan Ireland