As parents, it’s hard to watch our kids make mistakes. I’ve watched my kids make plenty. One hates homework and often forgets to hand it in, even after my many reminders. I remind him every single morning before he leaves the house about it. I even tried telling him to put it in his backpack after it’s done so that there’s no chance of it being forgotten.

But yet, I still get emails from teachers that his homework is missing.

I’m clueless on this one.

How does this happen? I’m not sure, but I’m not about to pack his backpack for him, email his teachers daily to make sure they got the homework, etc. This is because he needs to learn a bit of personal responsibility. One day he will get the idea to turn in his homework. It might be his senior year of high school (five years from now) but it will happen. I just don’t have the brain capacity for all the extra things. Don’t take this as not caring- my son has two siblings and they also have homework.

Some moms, however, would have done the homework for him, took it to school and emailed the teacher just to make sure it got turned in, on a daily basis. 

What Is “Lawnmower Parenting”?

It used to be called “helicopter parenting” if you are familiar with that phrase. This is a parenting style in which parents, usually the mother, literally mow down their child’s fears, discomforts and other issues. This can carry on into adulthood and graduate school. Every parent wants to help their child succeed, but these parents take this a bit further than most. Two examples I found were:

  • A parent calling their child’s college to request a make-up exam when clearly the child could have done this on their own
  • A parent calling their child’s school to have a teacher walk their child to class so they would not be late

Let’s just say my mom would have let me be late to class and when my grandmother died in 2002, right before midterms, I rescheduled those midterms.

An Interrupted Path to Adulthood

In some eyes, this is basically blocking your child’s path to adulthood- part of growing up is taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. You have to do the things that you may not want to, like being late, being uncomfortable, etc. It happens. What happens to these kids when their parents tire of this pattern, or if they become unable to continue it due to some unfortunate circumstance? They won’t be able to do anything for themselves. One of my biggest fears as a parent is that my kids won’t be able to take care of themselves, so I encourage self-sufficiency.

I believe the kids that are growing up in this circumstance are missing out on the ability to think critically. Their parents are taking away an important life skill away from them and by the time they may have to use it, they may not want to use it. This can create even bigger problems, as in entitlement, learned helplessness, etc. I understand not wanting to see a child struggle through a challenging time, but these parents may forget that their children can grow through them. That’s what childhood is about, at least partially.

These kids also have no idea how to react to failure. They shut down at the idea of failure because they don’t know how to deal with it- they have never faced it. There hasn’t been a lesson on how to handle it. This is a lesson every child needs to learn, unfortunately. I can’t say I enjoyed teaching my kids how to handle this, but it’s something they need to know about.

How do these kids cope with failure? Some become depressed or anxious, some become angry. In a way, this can be seen as typical, because nobody likes failure. It’s a hard emotion to deal with. You have to look at where you messed up and some people just aren’t great at that. If you’ve always had someone making things easy for you, like a parent, this becomes a lot harder. As a result, I’ve read that some kids get angry at their teachers, professors, or coaches. They turn that anger inwards sometimes and blame themselves. It’s not a pretty way to deal with things.

How to Avoid Mowing Over Your Child

As parents, we don’t always see when we  might be messing up a bit, so here are some tips to stop yourself if you think you may be headed in the direction of lawnmower parenting:

  • Let your child handle their own conflicts. Obviously, if things are out of hand, step in. Smaller issues, like with siblings or friends that aren’t violent or include other major issues can be handled on their own. This teaches your child conflict resolution and other life skills that will be beneficial later in life.
  • Help with homework, but don’t do it. I help my kids with their homework if they need it- but I also tell them to do what they can first and I will help them with the rest. This is so that they do not rely on me to help with the things they can clearly do on their own.
  • Drop off what?? Unless it’s something huge, like a project, don’t drop it off at school if your child forgot it. Chances are, they can live without it. We live three minutes from the two schools my kids attend, and they know better than to ask me to bring anything to them. It is on them to have their supplies, homework and whenever they bring them, lunches. I’ll bring a field trip slip if it’s the last day and they forgot it, but otherwise, that’s what the next day is for.
  • Let them deal with teachers and college applications, and once they go to college, professors. Step in only if they ask, or if it is something major. Otherwise, let them handle negotiations, assignment issues, and all things college application. Those things are a beast and you don’t want the added stress. College is all about learning to live on your own and becoming the adult both of you have waited for, so let them be.

The information for those tips can be found here

In case you have gotten this far and wondered where I am on the idea of lawnmower parenting, I am not even close. I couldn’t do that with three kids if I wanted to. I’m a bit of a slacker. I used to be a perfectionist mom, but even then, I couldn’t pull this off. It’s a bit extreme for me. Every parent and family is different, and so I hope this was a helpful tidbit to have in your parenting arsenal.

Do you know any lawnmower parents? What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments!