Written by Bret Loucks, MAT
As if parents don’t have enough to worry about, now there’s a new pitfall –
The Lawnmower Parent.
Even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid being a helicopter, elephant or tiger parent, you’re not out of the woods, yet. Lawnmower parents clear a path for their children,making sure that they don’t experience failure, discomfort or challenges that may cause upset. The problem, of course is that children of lawnmower parents do not learn to be self-reliant. They don’t develop the coping skills to deal with the challenges and obstacles that life throws our way.
How do you know when to intervene and advocate for your children, and when to let them work it out for themselves? Are you being a lawnmower parent if you avoid setting up play dates with a child you think is a bit of a bully? What about rushing about at the last minute to purchase supplies for your kid’s school project, or tossing some ideas to help your teen with an essay for college admission? How do you know if you are merely guiding your children towards a better path or mowing down obstacles that would have been character building experiences for them?
Striking a good balance is difficult.
There is no clear set of rules to tell you when to intervene in behalf of your child. Your child is unique and so are the challenges she faces. But the proper mindset can guide you. Your goal should be to raise children that are not passive in the face of challenges. It is important that whenever possible, they are the ones who take action to solve problems.
Lawnmower parents act out of the mindset of fear, a fear that when their child experiences disappointment or struggles, she will be diminished in some way. But the frequent interventions of lawnmower parents communicate a lack of faith in the child’s abilities. The kid learns to sit back let Mom or Dad take care of it, or she may manipulate parents to intervene by playing the victim in challenging situations. There can be great satisfaction in watching someone go to bat for you.
Children are born with a deep capacity for creative problem solving.
They will fare better when we trust and nurture these creative abilities. Educator and behavioral theorist, Kathy Kolbe has identified striving strengths that people, even young children, utilize when engaged in purposeful action. Kolbe’s approach is simple, straightforward and research based. By identifying the unique problem-solving methods that a child instinctively uses, parents and other caring adults can help her develop skills that will enhance these abilities, and manage these talents effectively, to greater success.
Trust that your children have the tools to overcome challenges and guide them to trust their natural strengths when meeting challenges. Encourage them to take action when unsure how to proceed – to trust their guts, and then evaluate the results. Help them learn to manage their natural talents for getting things done.
Does this mean you should never intervene when your child faces adversity? Of course not. If there is risk of injury, if the stakes are truly high and the deck is stacked against them or if the odds are truly unfair, by all means advocate for your child. But be sure to communicate your belief in your child’s capabilities. By embracing this mindset, that your child is designed to be powerfully creative in the world, you can welcome opportunities and challenges that give you an opportunity to see your child’s creativity in action. You will be impressed by what she can do, and she will be stronger for it.