I recently stumbled across an article about Lawnmower Parenting and I have to admit I was surprised. I’m very familiar with the term Helicopter Parent, but I’d missed this new term. As with most things these days Lawnmower Parenting is a more extreme version of Helicopter parenting.
“In the world of education, the term Helicopter Parent has become quite well known. In essence, these parents hover over their children, constantly pressuring them to accomplish tasks to perfection. A newer, and in my opinion, more damaging parenting style has developed over the past decade and become kindly known as Lawnmower Parenting. These are parents who constantly clear all obstacles from their children’s paths so they never have to deal with problems for themselves. ” Read the whole article here.
Teachers acknowledge the impact Lawnmower parenting is making in the classroom and their concerns are valid. The WeAreTeachersStaff published an article recently that highlights how damaging a student’s response to an obstacle is:
From We Are Teachers:
A child who has never had to deal with conflict on their own will not approach the first test they bomb in college and say, “Yikes. I really need to study harder. I’ll reach out to the graduate assistant and see if they know of study groups I can join or other materials I can read to do better on the next one.” Instead, they will very likely respond in one or more of the following ways:
- Blame the professor
- Call home and beg their parents to intervene
- Have a mental breakdown or make themselves miserable
- Write nasty reviews online about the professor and their class
- Begin planning for the inevitable destruction of their college career/future
- Assume they failed because they’re stupid
- Collapse in on themselves and give up completely and stop trying
We have to accept that what is happening in the classroom is also a common occurrence on the athletic field. Here are a few common examples coaches’ wives listed when asked about their lawnmower parent observations:
- A team starts to lose and they give up
- A player makes a mistake on a big play and falls down acting as if they are physically injured
- Players yell at each other when a mistake is made instead of encouraging each other
- A player gets angry at a coach when a teammate’s performance is praised over theirs
- A parent calls a coach to discuss playing time even though the athlete has not talked to their coach
- A parent suggests to a coach that they allow their child to play in a game even though they have not attended practice all week
- Whenever something doesn’t go the way a player or parent expects they scream “it’s not fair”.
- Conversations are replaced with immediate emails and calls to the principal, superintendent, and AD
Parents listen up!! If you have ANY hopes of your child receiving a college scholarship you need to consider how YOUR ACTIONS RIGHT NOW are impacting their chances. Yes, talent matters, but there are thousands of players competing for the same scholarships and many of them are equally talented.
Those that rise to the top are the athletes who understand how to fight through adversity.
Coaches are expected to be the tutor, grade monitor, motivator, and still coach a winning team. And while I agree they can have a big impact on an athlete’s performance in the classroom you parent 24-hours a day for 14-18 years. No coach is going to teach an athlete how to fight through adversity in a few months.
You cannot change 18 years of taught behavior in a season
The best way you can help your child earn a position on a college athletic team is by breaking the mold of Lawnmower parenting today. It doesn’t matter how many private camps or personal training sessions you pay for, an athlete without mental stamina will always be overlooked for one who understands how to respond in a hard situation.
Lawnmower parenting is a prime example of a reverse in authority between child and parent. Consider the example from the article of the father who brings his daughter a water bottle. It may seem like a great idea for the parent to show their child is more important than work, but consider the other side of the example.
When a child receives every request upon command even when it means prioritizing their needs over a parent’s livelihood what message does that send? It says that the child is the authority and decision maker in the relationship. Further, it can lead a child to expect that their needs are more important than every adult in their lives, including teachers and coaches.
Athetes who expect coaches will meet their every demand are not coachable. They are unwilling to see the world from any viewpoint from their own. How do I know? I see it play out predictably every year.
Does Lawnmower Parenting impact athletic performance? Yes, to the detriment of every athlete.