We all want the best for our kids. The careful balance begins with the provision of support and encouragement versus the provision of enabling and entitling them. To watch our kids hurt either physically or emotionally is painful. It can be tempting to swoop in and save the day. One of the best ways to empower our kids and foster the growth of a health young person is to know how to avoid lawnmower parenting. Seriously.
When we ‘DO’ life for our kids it sets them up for failure….
Maybe we had it rough growing up. Or maybe we want to avoid our kids from enduring any form of discomfort in life. Whatever reason it is that can be the catalyst for us swooping in to save the day…we have to stop. There’s a line between protecting vs. enabling. It’s us taking a step back at different stages of our kid’s lives and asking ourselves, “is this empowering or enabling my child?”
How to avoid lawnmower parenting
When we raise kids it’s like we’re going into battle. We want to protect them from all the elements of life that cause them hurt and pain. It is important to have a game plan, expectations and gather insight and wisdom from others. What isn’t ok is to give that battle plan to our kids. When we do that we allow our kids to see us as equals. We aren’t. If our kids see us as equals there’s a diminishment in respect.
We are not intended to be friends with our kids
It is important to have someone in our lives to that we can bounce thoughts and ideas off of. That person should have the ability to be somewhat objective. When we have that wingman it can put us in check when we may be veering towards the realm of lawnmower parenting.
So what the heck does lawnmower parenting look like?
I’ll provide a few examples to give a sense of what it means to ‘do’ life for our kids. This isn’t placing judgement, just pointing out what it looks like. It can be hard, at times, to avoid the temptation to get involved when we shouldn’t be.
- Do you hover when it comes to reaching out to teachers / coaches about a grade or call before giving your child an opportunity to address it?
- Email or Call to teacher / coach raising your voice, using all caps, or using profanity about a situation they may not have even been aware of?
- Constant dropping off of forgotten lunches, homework, athletic gear, etc. without addressing the importance for personal responsibility?
- Completing assignments / projects for your child
- Doing (over and over again) chores or responsibilities around home or work for them?
- Lied for them if they did not feel like going to school or work because they did not feel like going?
- Make calls / text for them concerning issues with friends, coaches, ordering from a restaurant or dealing with an issue at work
Please step away from ….
No matter how difficult it may be we have to remind ourselves that to ‘do’ life for our kids is to make more life more difficult for them in the long run. It impacts their relationships in knowing how to communicate with their superiors, friends and classmates. There’s the fact that they will always think there is a net to scoop them up and save the day no matter how severe their actions are. This removes accountability and responsibility that can foster entitlement and bratty behaviors.
When we teach them that mom or dad will get involved in situations that call for that. Meaning after they have a conversation with a coach or an employer. Chat with what they spoke about and what was productive and what was not. We HAVE to prep our kids for life, big time.
I had situations as an addictions counselor where I knew the young person was heavily substance involved. My role was nothing other than pleading for support services. There was nothing punitive involved. Time and time again, parents would refuse to allow me to get involved or they would minimize their child’s issues dismissing them as normal high school behavior. They would clean upafter their partying, citations for underage use and the list would go on. Bottom line their kid needed help. What they didn’t realize is that the ‘clean up’ actually messed up their kid even more in the long run.
Taking that step…
It can be SO stinking hard to step away when we want to swoop in. But this is where a wing man in our lives is so critical. We must remind ourselves we need to allow our kids to DO life for themselves. It’s ok to get involved in certain situations, but a great way to know what those situations are is chatting with those around you who have kids a bit older than yours. Ask what the good, the bad and the in between. Parenting is a growing and learning process. If we stay an island, we get lonely and detached from reality. That’s a no no.
Take a deep breath and know, although parenting is the craziest job in the world it’s also the most beautiful. Don’t go at it alone and know, when we let our kids do life in the long run it’s the best gift you can give them!
Peace, love and goodness!