Free-range, dolphin, attachment, tiger, helicopter – there are plenty of parenting labels out there. Now there is a new one to add to the list: lawnmower parenting.
Lawnmower parenting goes by many other names, such as bulldozing and snowplow, simply because this type of parent tries to remove obstacles, failures and adversity for their kids in hopes of setting them up for success.
Being a parent is a difficult but important job. Like most parents, you want what’s best for your kids, but could your parenting style do more harm than good? We look at the latest parenting style and give you tips to navigate the tricky world of parenting—no matter your style.
What is a Lawnmower/Bulldozing/Snowplow Parent?
Lawnmower parents are similar to helicopter parents in that they both hover over their child and are overly involved. The biggest difference, however, is that while helicopter parents assist when obstacles occur, lawnmower parents bulldoze any challenge or obstacle before it even reaches the child. They plow away – micromanaging and interfering to protect their kids from failure, discomfort and adversity.
“It’s all well-intentioned and done out of love, but parents have no idea how potentially harmful this is to their kids,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “This usually stems from a parent’s fear, insecurity or anxiety over their child’s success. But this approach just makes things harder for their kids in the long run, since these kids will grow up never learning how to handle challenges and developing important life skills.”
Lawnmower parenting came in the spotlight in 2019, when a college acceptance scandal involving high-profile celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman brought to light illegal actions taken to give kids a leg up with college admissions.
Whether it’s as extreme, like rigging your child’s college application, or as simple as leaving work to bring your child their water bottle, homework or band instrument because they left it at home, parents lose sight that dealing with mistakes and failure are just a part of life.
The Potential Consequences of Lawnmower Parenting
- On Kids
- Lack resilience, grit and academic buoyancy (dealing with setbacks and challenges at school).
- Struggle with motivation and drive
- Lack decision-making skills
- Blame others for their mistakes
- On Parents
- Personal identity becomes that of the child
- Little time for passions, friendships and interests
- Become overstressed, anxious and easily overwhelmed
Tips to Mow, Plow and Bulldoze Less
“If this parenting style resonates with you, remember to give yourself some grace and compassion,” Dr. Fox said. “Your intentions came from a good place and it’s not too late to change. By doing so, there will be many long-term benefits for you and your child.”
Here are four ways you can parent a little less:
- Give your child the chance to make decisions for themselves, whether that’s the chores they are interested in doing daily or what sport/after school activity they are interested in pursuing.
- Allow your child to make mistakes and solve their problems. Unpleasant mistakes enable them to learn and grow.
- Support them when they have a challenge – lending guidance and wisdom without giving solutions.
- Be present, listen and let them know you are still there for them.
“The greatest thing you can do is find balance,” Dr. Fox said. “There is nothing wrong with parents assisting kids for success but preventing them from failing can hinder their independence as adults.”
If you find your parenting style is adding undue stress for you and your family, find an experienced Banner Health specialist near you.