You’ve heard of Helicopter Parents, right? If not, they are the parents that hover over their children to the point of smothering.
These parents are common in sports. They are in near-constant contact with the coach, they pack and carry their kid’s bag, and they never have to tell their child to remember something because they’ve already taken care of it.
Helicopter moms and dads are well-meaning parents who have decided their child’s success and well-being is completely up to them. Ask a child of a Helicopter parent when their next game is, and they won’t know. Mom or dad will let them know. Watch them try to solve a problem on the field, and they will shut down or look to a teammate for help. They are full of questions, trying to get the coach to solve the problem for them. They typically find a comfort zone, some place safe and easy on the field, and resist leaving it.
These parents will always be around, but now, according to teachers and coaches, there is a new type of protective parent. They’re called “Lawnmower Parents” because when they see a problem for their child on the horizon, they mow it down so their kid will never have to experience it. We can all appreciate a parent who doesn’t want their child to struggle. We can understand where they are coming from. But they aren’t helping.
An organization called “We Are Teachers” posted an article about Lawnmower Parents on its website titled “Lawnmower Parents Are the New Helicopter Parents & We Are Not Here for It. The article points out that, “In raising children who have experienced minimal struggle, we are not creating a happier generation of kids. We are creating a generation that has no idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle. A generation who panics or shuts down at the mere idea of failure. A generation for whom failure is far too painful, leaving them with coping mechanisms like addiction, blame, and internalization. The list goes on.”
In an article titled, “How Not to be a Lawnmower Parent” on a website called Grown and Flown, a college professor describes Lawnmower Parents as “Parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort.”
The author on Grown and Flown, goes on to explain versions of the Lawnmower Parent.
“Other variations of this style of parenting include Snowblower Parents, Bulldozer Parents, and my personal favorite, Curling Parents, given the similarity to the Olympic athletes who scurry ahead of the gently thrown stone, frantically brushing a smooth path and guiding the stone towards an exact pre-determined location.”
In athletics, Lawnmower Parents hamper the growth and development of young players in several ways, including lack of problem-solving skills, never being challenged, fear of failure, and many more.
Tisha Venturini-Hoch, a former US National Soccer team player, Olympic Gold medalist, World Cup winner and four-time NCAA champion, spends part of her summers coaching at soccer camps.
“A lot of parents try so hard to make sure their kids never fail, the kids don’t know how to handle it when they do,” she said. “We’ve had kids break down crying when they can’t perform a skill.”
Helicopter, Lawnmower, Snowblower, Bulldozer. Are you a heavy-machinery parent? Give your child some room to make mistakes, or to fail outright. You might be impressed by how they react.
I once had a soccer player who had never taken a penalty kick before. When our team went into a tie-breaking, penalty-kick shootout in a tournament, I put her in the crucial fifth spot, meaning winning or losing could fall on her shoulders. It did. She missed. We lost. She cried. I felt terrible for putting her in a position for which she was unprepared.
Later that day, I told her I was sorry I put her in that position. She said, “That’s okay. I’d never done that before. Now I know, and I’ll do better next time.”