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Lawnmower Parenting: Clearing a Path for Kids Can Lead to a Bumpy Ride

Overprotective ParentWe’re all familiar with the term Helicopter Parent–those parents that hover over their children constantly fussing and worrying. 
”Lawnmower parents” are the newest and most aggressive breed of helicopter parent. The term refers to those who “clear a path” for their kid, smoothing over any rough patches before their kids even encounter them. These are the parents willing to sell the friendly family dog before a kid is even born to prevent the infant from being bit all the way to filling out a student’s college application and essay. Lawnmower parenting is rooted in a parent’s excessive anxiety about their child’s safety, and whether or not they’re developing “normally,” whatever that is. Since anxiety is born from irrational negative thinking it got us at Birmingham Maple Clinic thinking what Lawnmower parenting myths need to be debunked.

  • Your child will benefit from a life without pain.
    • Any fitness minded person will tell you “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” When it comes to physical exercise you must feel the burn to grow stronger. The same is true for emotional pain. While as with physical pain there are some injuries that are harder to recover, simply the act of pushing yourself to overcome challenge is a source of pride for most people.
  • Perfect is preferred.
    • Dave Grohl drummer for Nirvana and Lead Guitarist for Foo Fighters has famously abandoned digital music for the analog format of yesteryear. If you have ever heard the music your kids are listening to and thought “This is such crap,” it is because it has been created digitally in a sound lab to sound “perfect” by some recording company’s definition of the word. In Dave Grohl’s opinion what is missing is the ability to connect and hear yourself in something. He believes the climate of a location, unique experiences of a singer, and the qualities of a community all play a role in creating a sound you can connect to. The ability to connect with something emotionally is by definition, empathy. We live in a world with such little empathy as it is, why take the ability to connect away from your children? Put on Muddy Waters and you’ll know what Dave is talking about.
  • Failure is a bad thing.
    • Teaching your child is not about doing it for them. Give your child some step by step instructions but be flexible to them imparting their own unique gifts or wisdom to a problem. When they achieve a goal congratulate them and when they fail give them encouragement on what they did well and the message that you believe in them and for them to try harder. By prohibiting failure you are communicating that they cannot or should not have to overcome challenges. The former creates a weak, dependent child—the latter creates an entitled child who will ultimately be disappointed by the real world.
  • Your kids would be better bubble wrapped.
    • Just as when you buy something the first thing you do is throw the bubble wrap away. You cannot enjoy a new vase, food processor, picture frame, or piece of jewelry if it is wrapped in that junk. Why even purchase something if you are going to leave it tucked away in its box, protected from use or wear. Your kids are longing to live so let them. As teenagers they may become so resentful of being micromanaged that they eventually become uber rebellious and constantly try to prove to you they can do it “their way”.Hil You also run the risk of them being dishonest with you. If your child feels you cannot handle the truth about their life they will protect you from it, and protect themselves from your judgment. You will be a lot more influential in your child’s decision making if you maintain an open relationship. Allow your child to feel free to tell you the “who”, “what”, and “where” in their life and you will also afford yourself the pleasant opportunity that your child is making some pretty good decisions. You may even hear yourself in their words which will help you to feel pride that they are listening and will give you the opportunity to encourage and congratulate them on healthy decision making. You may even learn you are doing a pretty fantastic job at parenting after all.

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If your constant anxiety about your child is infecting your life and prohibiting you or your child from having healthy experiences or relationships it’s possible you could value from talking to a therapist. Birmingham Maple Clinic therapists are specially trained in the treatment of Anxiety and other mental health problems. To schedule an appointment visit www.birminghammaple.com or call (248) 646-6659.