Lawnmower Parents Are the New Helicopter Parents — Only They Might Be Even Worse
By now, you've certainly heard of the term "helicopter parenting" — when a parent hovers (like a helicopter) over their child and swoops in at the first sign of trouble. These seemingly supportive moms and dads are labeled as overprotective and are often blamed for raising a generation of children who lack resilience, are overindulged, and feel entitled to just about everything.
But as those children grow, a new type of parent is emerging . . . one that might even be more troubling than those who hover.
"We are creating a generation that has no idea what to do when they actually encounter a struggle."
In a teacher's viral essay, she describes "lawnmower parenting" as the latest "troubling trend" of parental meddling that is adversely affecting kids.
Like the gardening tool they are named after, lawnmower parents cut down any obstacle that could stand in their child's way. They "go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle or failure," the anonymous teacher wrote on the site WeAreTeachers.
In the post, which has been shared more than 11,000 times since it was published this past week, the middle school teacher shares an anecdote about a parent who dropped off something for his kid during the school day. She assumed it'd be an inhaler or money for lunch, but it was actually a S'well water bottle:
"Hi, sorry," the parent said sheepishly. He was in a suit, clearly headed to work. "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?
The teacher wrote about how "raising children who have experienced minimal struggle" is not necessarily doing them any favors or even making them even remotely happier.
Why Do People Become Lawnmower Parents?
It's easy to empathize with the desire to not see your child struggle. Likely for the same reason helicopter parents exist, this new version is also well-intended.
"Maybe they experienced a lot of shame around failure as a child," the teacher wrote. "Or maybe they felt abandoned by their parents in their moments of struggle, or dealt with more obstacles than most."
What Are the Negative Effects of Lawnmower Parenting?
It's inevitable that a parent won't be able to mow down every single moment of adversity for their children, and when those instances do appear, kids will likely panic or shut down.
"We are creating a generation that has no idea what to do when they actually encounter conflict," the teacher wrote.
One more devastating risk is that without knowing and using proper methods for dealing with stress or failure, these kids will end up developing more destructive coping mechanisms. They may blame others, they may over-internalize, or they may face addiction.
Does Lawnmower Parenting Really Hurt Kids Into Adulthood?
"If we eliminate all struggle in children's younger years, they will not arrive at adulthood magically equipped to deal with failure," she wrote.
The teacher then gave an example about what happens when a child, who never learned these skills, fails a test in college for the first time.
The student won't be able to say, "Oh, I really need to study harder," nor will that student think to reach out to the professor for advice or join a study group. Instead, they will likely respond in one of the following ways:
- Blame the professor
- Call home and beg their parents to intervene
- Have a mental breakdown or make themselves miserable
- Write nasty reviews online about the professor and their class
- Begin planning for the inevitable destruction of their college career
- Assume they failed because they're stupid
- Collapse in on themselves, give up completely, and stop trying
Is It OK to Be a Lawnmower Parent to Kids With Mental Illness?
For those parents who have children who suffer from anxiety or depression, it might seem more prudent to help remove as many challenges as possible, particularly if they've seen the way their child has responded negatively in the past.
"While I fully acknowledge every child and situation is different — for example, [special needs] students absolutely need certain struggles eliminated to be on a level playing field with their peers — I'm not sure that the solution for every sensitive child is to remove as much struggle as possible," the teacher, who has clinical anxiety, wrote. "I can't imagine how much worse my anxiety would be if my parents had taught me that my anxiety was something to be feared and avoided."
What Should Parents Do to Avoid Lawnmowing?
The solution is clear, the teacher wrote: "If we want our children to be successful, healthy adults, we must teach them how to process through their own challenges, respond to adversity, and advocate for themselves."