Avoid Being a “Lawnmower” Parent with Open Communication
Episode #5 of the course Helping your child become a better student by Rebecca Jordan
In yesterday’s lesson, the importance of building number sense through a multitude of experiences with math was addressed. Today, we will cover the definition of a “lawnmower” parent and how this can adversely affect your child’s perception of school and education.
You’ve most likely heard of “helicopter parent,” “boomerang kids,” and the like, but the new term coined from a contributor on We Are Teachers is “lawnmower parent.” It is defined as a parent who “mow(s) down all of the challenges, discomforts, and struggles” in their child’s life. As parents, we all want to keep our children safe, happy, and free from stress. However, in eliminating all the challenges in a child’s life, you are not equipping them for their futures, for adulthood. You are also making it impossible for them to problem-solve in situations where they may face adversity. Now, I am not advocating throwing your children to the proverbial wolves, but you have to allow them to navigate their world and rise above roadblocks that they may face on a given day. Perhaps the biggest step you can take to avoid being a lawnmower parent is to ensure that there is an open line of communication between you and your child. That way, you can see what kind of things they face on a daily basis, and you can advise them on what to do.
Head back to Lesson 1 on Making School a Priority, and reread the section on sitting down with your children and asking them to tell you about their day from start to finish. Use guiding questions to encourage your children to open up. In order to do this, you really have to learn their schedule and what they do each day. Pay attention to newsletters and schedules sent out in the beginning of the year to help you with this. For instance, if you know if your child had gym class that day, ask them what they did specifically. In doing so, you may uncover that for example, they didn’t run as many laps as the other children and were embarrassed. In this situation, do you 1) immediately contact the school’s PE teacher and demand that your child get the opportunity to try again, 2) immediately contact the school’s principal and demand that children no longer do laps in PE because it establishes unhealthy competition and negative self-worth in children, or 3) tell your child that it’s okay not to be the best, but to try their hardest next time? If you chose 1 or 2, you may want to re-evaluate your perspective on this whole parenting thing.
You can’t eliminate every stress in your child’s life, and you will certainly be doing them a disservice if you don’t teach them other coping mechanisms for that stress. Being very type-A myself, this seems easily said and not done. However, there are several scenarios you can start with to help ease your and your child’s anxiety. Making them comfortable with the idea of there being a possibility of something out of the ordinary happening on a given day, e.g., forgetting their lunch, leaving something at school or at home, not writing down a homework assignment, not understanding a homework assignment, feeling uncomfortable with a certain classmate, not understanding a certain topic in class, feeling that they upset their teacher, making a bad grade on a test, etc. These are all things that you can talk to your child about the possibility of happening, and you can come up with different game plans to tackle the issues. Think of yourself as a “snow-shoveling” parent: Prepare your children for things that may happen by giving them the tools they need to cope in certain situations, but it is ultimately up to them not to slip on the ice.
Tomorrow’s lesson will focus on taking this one step further—letting your children fail in order to prepare them to be better students and, let’s face it, well-adjusted people!
The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
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