Are you sick of parent labels?
Helicopter, free-range, tiger, elephant parents -- the parenting world teems with labels.
One thing about the latest label:
You don't want to be a lawnmower parent. But you probably are.
Lawnmower parenting has made a swift rise in public consciousness thanks to a viral post by a Weareteachers.com member, an online community for teachers.
What type of parent are you? Lawnmower? Helicopter? Attachment? Tiger? Free-range? Parenting labels explained
An anonymous member of the organization wrote in the essay that lawnmower parents mow down all of children's challenges, discomforts and struggles.
The teacher author shared a story of being called to the office, expecting to retrieve a student's forgotten meal money or inhaler. Instead, a sheepish parent in a suit was dropping off an expensive water bottle after repeated texts from a child. Water fountains exist all over the school. The poster's unspoken response: WHAT ON THIS ACTUAL EARTH.
The Facebook post has been shared more than 12,000 times -- by parents and teachers alike -- because everyone has a lawnmower parent moment to share, Hannah Hudson, WeAreTeachers.com Editorial Director told All the Moms.
"I think everybody has been a lawnmower parent at one time," Hudson said. "Even teachers because they're parents, too. It's a natural tendency to want to help kids."
Hudson shared lawnmower parent stories that came from the essay and post:
- The parent of a high-school student who asked a teacher to walk a student to class to assure that the student would not be late.
- An emailed story about a parent who requested someone from the cafeteria blow on their child's too-hot lunch to cool it down.
- A parent who called to schedule a make-up test when the student was clearly old enough to request a time.
Blocking the path to adulthood
The problem is not a parent's willingness to help a child succeed, that's admirable and understandable. The problem comes from a parent's repeated efforts to eliminate any and all struggle so that children are ill-equipped when they grow up and life inevitably goes sideways, Hudson said.
The essay closes by referencing the 2016 post by assistant Duquesne University college professor Karen Fancher who says that lawnmower parenting of younger children leads to college students who can't make decisions.
Fancher writes that as adults or just on the precipice of adulthood, these students have communication difficulties, lack a sense of personal motivation and believe they're not good enough to accomplish things on their own because lawnmower parents have cleared and charted paths and removed obstacles.
Help or lawnmower hindrance?
But how do you tell the difference between legitimate helping or even a necessary parent rescue versus lawnmower parenting?
It's tricky, Hudson said.
When your child has worked for weeks on a report and even set it out where they wouldn't forget it, but it's forgotten on the kitchen counter, do you rush it to school? That's a parent's call.
At least when it comes to rushing things down to the school, Hudson likes a suggestion she heard since the post ran in August. If there were no smartphones, would the child feel his or her request was enough of an emergency to use the school office phone to call the parent about? Then it might be a legitimate rescue scenario.
"We don’t want to see our children fail. We want to set them up for success," she said, adding that might mean parents consider their child's future. "Sometimes we have to think about what that [success] means."