You Don't Want to Be A Lawnmower Parent — Here's Why

School Counseling Team
Are you empowering your children or enabling them?

You may be familiar with the term "helicopter parent", a parent who hovers or has an excessive interest in their child’s life, but a new parenting style has emerged, and not for the better. A viral article written by a teacher explained the newest name for parents who are making every effort to prevent their child from experiencing any adversity — "lawnmower parents".
“Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place,” wrote the teacher. While any parent would agree that they want their children to be happy and successful, are the lengths to which some would go doing more harm than help? Yes, and here's why.
“Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place.”
Professor and leading researcher on character development, Angela Lee Duckworth, gave a TED Talk that explained the characteristic most necessary for achieving one’s goals. It isn’t talent, IQ, emotional intelligence, or beauty. It’s grit. Grit is a passion and tenacity to pursue long-term goals. It requires discipline and a determination to keep trying even after you have a bad a day. There is still a limited amount of research on how to develop grit, but we know two things for sure: 1. Grit is learned. 2. It is born from struggle.

The mark of a mature adult is taking responsibility for one’s actions. When you get in a fight with your spouse, miss an important work deadline, or get a ticket for speeding, you (hopefully) own up to your faults and take steps to change. The building blocks to be able to appropriately handle situations like these and worse — because life happens — are set in childhood. At some point in your adolescence, you made a mistake or had a bad experience and found the strength and grace to move forward. And there is grace!
The mark of a mature adult is taking responsibility for one’s actions.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The only way to learn how to overcome challenges is by facing them head on, trusting that God’s grace is enough. When parents face their child’s challenges for them, they’re robbing their children from gaining a valuable life skill and spiritual lesson.

So what can you do? There are absolutely situations your child will face that call for parental intervention, and your child’s age should of course be considered as well, but there are also many things they can handle on their own. The challenge for parents is to create a boundary between empowering children and enabling them.

Empowerment looks like…
  • Being available to offer support and guidance to your child
  • Encouraging your child to address an issue with their teacher directly
  • Providing opportunities for independence
  • Holding your child accountable to their responsibilities and encouraging them to accept the repercussions of their actions

Enabling looks like…
  • Intervening and speaking on behalf of your child in simple matters
  • Asking for an exception on your child’s behalf despite their lack of responsibility
  • Completing your child’s assignments or college applications for them

Empower your child to struggle gracefully. By doing so you’ll show them they have a voice and that they are capable of overcoming challenges. Without developing this sense of security, children grow to be adults who fall to pieces when things don’t go their way or who avoid challenges altogether. But no parent is perfect! God entrusted you with your child and will give you the wisdom you need to protect and empower your child when you seek Him.
  • Angie St. Pierre
    Great article School Counseling Team. Thank you for continuing to empower us parents with practical applications for raising our children with biblical principles. You are greatly appreciated.
  • Robert Wilkins
    There is great biblical wisdom in this article, and I hope that we support our parent community in this countercultural worldview

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