Lawnmower Mama

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

We've all heard of Helicopter parents, right? The overprotective, excessively interested parent that hovers over their child, and swoops in to save them? Recently it seems like a new term is popping up everywhere: "Lawnmower Parent". I informally polled some of my friends and my husband, and no one knew what I was talking about. So let me share what it is and what the heck it has to do with you!
Lawnmower Moms (or dads, or whomever) are the new Helicopter Mom of 2018.

I am not a fan of labels and I am not a judgmental person. However, the idea behind this label is really important and worth discussion. A Lawnmower Mom mows down all of their child's struggles, discomforts, challenges. One example that has been mentioned is a parent requesting that someone from the cafeteria blow on their child's food if it is too hot. Yes, this really happened. Or a parent scheduling a make-up test for an older child when he/she is clearly old enough to schedule it on their own. Or a parent doing their child's homework (high school...or any grade I suppose, not sure).
Here is the question: what is the balance between shielding a child from pain or harm, and blocking their path to adulthood?

The literature says that children of Lawnmower Parents end up having difficulty making decisions on their own, in addition to communication difficulties, lack of confidence and motivation. But what is the line between legitimately helping your child and completely removing obstacles on their behalf? 
The articles explain when you take care of things for the child, the learn they can't do it on their own. While this seems relevant for older children, say, tweens and teenagers, I thought about this idea with respect to my 18 month old daughter. It gave me pause. I started to look at the tasks I did for my daughter versus the tasks I did with my daughter.

What I quickly found out is that these kids will surprise you! They can do more than you think they can. For example, everyday we try our best to have family dinner and I set the table while M sits in her highchair. I would love, one day, for M to help me set the table and play a more active role. Well guess what? She can help set the table. She can carry spoons and forks (mama handles knives) and place them on the table. She can also put napkins on the table. Yes, I provide supervision and guidance. And honestly, it adds a few minutes and a layer of complexity to a task that is pretty easy. But I see such value in having her help and feeling like she is a part of the whole process at this young age. Of course, every child is different and we need to work with them at a level that is reasonable and safe for them. My story is just an example from my own life.

The takeaway for me is that we need to ask ourselves, are we removing obstacles or are we teaching our children how to work through them? What are the short-term goals versus the long-term goals? We are all busy, stressed, tired, short on time and patience. And as a parent we have an innate desire to help our children and protect them from harm. I don't think the intentions are bad, we all want what's best for our kids. However, I think we need to be openminded and consider that with small tasks, children can start younger than we think with self-care activities, like brushing hair, putting dirty clothes in the hamper. Blowing on our own food to cool it 😆 
'm working on this everyday with a new perspective, I'll be sure to report back. Let me know what you think in the comments below. For more information, I suggest you check out the We Are Teachers article cited below.



  1. This is an interesting post as I think back to what I did with my daughter now 14. I never heard the term lawnmower parent but having read what it means I know of some. I’m sure I’ve done some things at times that could fall into that category but for the most part I’ve not. I’ve been giving Jess responsibilities since she was young (maybe in part because it was just the 2 of us got a long time?). Sometimes it did make a simple task take much longer as you said, but it’s so important to help them grow. Another thought provoking post!!

    1. Thank you for the feedback! :) I would be curious to hear about how you avoid being a lawnmower mom to a 14 year old. The articles talk about teens/tweens much more. I think sometimes we may need to mow the lawn, a little bit, in select situations. Very hard balance. When you start involving teachers, coaches, other parents, etc. It must be hard to let them fight their own battles!


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