How Lawn Mower Parenting Can Affect Your Kid

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‘She really struggles sitting in that angle in class. The board is not conveniently visible to her. Can something please be done about it?’ complains a parent of a 13-year-old to the class teacher, while the daughter sits beside her, seemingly unconcerned.

Sounds familiar? Is that your own voice?

Well, a 13-year-old is capable of voicing an opinion, especially when it is as simple as this. For example, most schools make seating arrangements depending on the height, medical issues (visual abilities), social interaction abilities etc. of the children. It is but a simple talk with a teacher to get this accommodation done, if it concerns the child. But the problem arises when the child doesn’t seem concerned, but the parent is. Now, why is this a problem?

Research suggests that over-parenting contributes to the development of a cognitive style (in a child) in which a child starts to believe that personal success or failure are largely determined by external factors, as opposed to being within one’s control.

Spokas, & Heimberg, 2009

A parenting style that comes in the way of raising a well-balanced kid “lawn mower parenting” is a parenting phenomenon in which parents step in almost invariably in every situation to wipe out all possible obstacles from their child’s path. This parenting style is even worse than Helicopter parenting, where parents remain extremely watchful on every move their children make and dive in, to save them, the moment they see the first sign of trouble. Here even the tiniest possibility of the child to experience the feeling of pain, disappointment, stress, or failure is making parents concerned enough to take actions, which is, removing that very possibility from the kid’s life. According to Munnich and Munnich (2009), the high expectations associated with contemporary standards of achievement and academic and economic success have driven parents to over-structure and micromanage the lives of their children.

How lawn mower parenting affects your kid

Many a time I find parents wanting to eliminate stress areas for their children so as to bring out the best in them. However right the intent might be, this parenting style is flawed. In various researches, experts have found that over-involvement in parenting, as obvious in lawn mower parenting, is associated with a number of negative outcomes like maladjustment (Segrin, et al., 2012; 2013), poor stress regulation, and anxiety (Sideridis, & Kafetsios, 2008). In this parenting style, we are sending out a message that :

  • It is you and not the child who makes decisions and only you can face challenges for her.
  • You have her back no matter what, even if she doesn’t need the support. This eventually leaves a long lasting impact on your child – An under developed skill set to deal with routine growing and learning, a constant feeling that she is not good enough to do things by herself, lack of decision making skills, a low sense of motivation are a few of the results of this parenting strategy.
  • But the most terrible consequence of such parenting style is – no matter how much you protect your child, things will eventually be out of your control at some point in your kid’s life. At that time, having no skills in coping with trouble, the kid may fail to deal with the situation, act aggressively and finally harbour all possible negative emotions only to put her mental health as well as her future at stake.

What can you as a parent do?

It would be wrong to say that this type of parenting has emerged recently. How often do we notice incidents like a parent dropping off his kid’s lunch/ water bottle that she forgot to pack? Or, finishing kid’s homework on regular basis without checking , if the child can finish it by herself? I’m sure you’ll find such example more often and recollect such memories from long past. So it would be wise of you to keep an eye on your attitude regarding your kid’s actions or situations.
Allow your child to take responsibilities in minor concerns as per her age. The common patterns that are found in all sorts of over-involved parenting styles, including lawn mower parenting, are : high levels of parental support, behavioural control, and anxiety, but low levels of autonomy granting.
You can get your eight years old to ask for directions and your teenage child to choose between two interest areas. If mistakes are made, small or big, the key becomes to learn from them.

In order to elaborate what type of parenting style can ensure child wellbeing in terms of psycho-social development, problem behaviour, or academic performance, Hart, et al., (2003) proposed three effective parenting emotions, including:

  1. warmth and support shown to a child to facilitate an emotional connection (e.g., acceptance, affection, involvement, nurturance),
  2. behavioral control of the child to foster mature behavior (e.g., limit setting, supervision, reasoning about consequences), and
  3. autonomy granting (e.g., independence, self-governance) to promote emotional and psychological self-reliance.
1. Eustress and distress: know the difference

There’s always a good amount of stress that works in benefit for your child. It cultivates a discipline that enables her to do her best. Look out for that. Allow your child to face and solve her own problems and assist her only when needed.

2. Move out of the way

Sometimes children don’t develop physically, mentally, or emotionally because of the hand holding the parent does. Parents eventually become a crutch, leaving the child dependant. When she is going to have some new experience, allow her to explore it herself and refrain from giving advices or explaining all possible consequences.

To turn our children into happy, confident and successful adults, we must encourage them to learn from their mistakes and develop the right attitude to approach any adverse situation. Children should learn to face their problems with a positive attitude and make their own decisions.

3. Hands-on activities

Engage your child in age and skills related activities that equip her with responsibility and discipline. Remember, discipline and responsibility don’t grow on their own. They need to be practiced.

It is said ‘Be a gardener for you child, not a sculptor.’ A wise thought indeed since the ultimate goal of a parent should be to develop the child into a self-reliant adult who is capable of dealing with the challenges of life.

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