Do you anticipate and mow down every inconvenience or obstacle your child might face? That’s ‘lawnmower parenting’ in action. The term which has been around for years, resurfaced during the US college admission scandal where parents used nefarious means to get their kids into prestigious educational institutions. An extreme example perhaps, but it shows the extent to which many of us can go to help our children. It’s how we are wired!
Child development experts say mums and dads who attempt to clear or smoothen the path are robbing kids of valuable opportunities to learn how to deal with problems. In fact, they are putting them at a disadvantage rather than helping them succeed. However well-intentioned, it doesn’t justify the disastrous consequences of wrapping your child in a bubble— such as entitlement, lack of confidence, poor problem solving abilities and the mental health issues that can result from them all.
Helicopter parents, who hover around waiting to swoop up their kids in case they fall, had a bad rap for years, but the overanxious lawnmower group makes them look good! At least helicopter parents wait for the problem to occur before stepping in. The bulldozers (another name for the lawnmowers) , on the other hand, cut down every stumbling block in advance creating an unreal world.
Neither a bulldozer nor a hoverer? A bit of introspection might yield unsavoury results. I’m not happy to say that I’ve been a bit of both on occasion. Taking in forgotten library books, projects and water bottles to school, and calling out coaches being the most common parenting offences I committed. But I drew the line at arguing with the teacher when it was my child’s fault or sending in sick notes for forgotten homework!!!
Since I’m coming clean, I’ll admit that we mums are probably inclined to be the lawnmowers. Dads are a bit more willing to let the kids go through the school of hard knocks and more like the helicopters. All this is crystal clear now as I see others parenting their young ones. At the time my husband called out my overprotectiveness, I just thought he was heartless. My younger son probably had the worst experience in this regard with his older brother joining the lawnmower-helicopter squad.
In reality, resilience comes from experiencing disappointments, problem-solving and picking one’s self up after a fall. Our parents let us learn this critical life lesson on our own and we owe it to our kids to show them the same respect. Unfortunately, we don’t see the bigger picture. Mistakenly believing that removing obstacles from their path will give them a leg up and worse still, not trusting them to make it on their own.
A friend pointed out that our parents rarely knew our school and extra-curricular schedules or shepherded us to and from them. We on the other hand rearrange our calendars to make ourselves available, whether it is necessary or not. I remember frequently arguing with my son because he insisted on finding his way home in his first year of undergrad.
Why do we do this? As one expert pointed out, we could be trying to live out our dreams through our kids or lacking a personal sense of balance. That’s why we’re so heavily involved in their lives and transposing our anxieties onto them in the process. A reason many marriages experience turbulence when the kids leave home is because the focus has been on them at the cost of spousal relationships. And the big one, most of us South Asian parents are guilty of, is trying to outdo family and friends.
Researchers also say we’re a risk averse generation that seems to thrive on worry, but in reality, the world may be much safer now than it was when we were kids.
Letting our children go out and explore the world on their own while teaching them to be safe helps them become resilient, self-sufficient and confident. It’ll make them more adept at risk assessment and decision making. So, it’s in their best interest (and ours) to take several steps back and let them experience and live their own lives. -CINEWS