In the recent reading of an article shared on Facebook, I discovered the newest parenting style coined ‘Lawnmower Parent’. I felt it was appropriate, following on from my last post on ‘Kids, Chores, and Finances’.
What is a ‘Lawnmower Parent’?
A parent that ‘mows’ a clean path for their children - one void of struggles, challenges and discomforts.
The article is punctuated with anecdotes of parents bowing to their children's bombardment of text messages to bring a forgotten water bottle to school (despite access to numerous water fountains) to asking for their children’s hot food to be blown cool by the tuckshop staff (extreme)...
This parent is calling their grown child’s place of employment to discuss issues at the workplace, writing rather than just helping them with tertiary study applications... basically replacing apron strings with handcuffs. Lawnmower parents attempt to engineer as many positive outcomes as possible for their offspring and as a result, compromise their child’s opportunity to experience the trials and tribulations of life and more importantly, the chance to learn and grow from these.
This brings to mind one of my most favourite analogies on the topic of learning from struggle: the emergence of a butterfly from its cocoon. It is quite the task for a butterfly to break free from its tight fitting swaddle, however, if it is helped out by cutting the cocoon open for it, the butterfly’s wings do not grow and develop properly. Thus the creature cannot fly and dies prematurely as a result.
Children (and adults too!), need to face challenges and struggles in order to grow. They need to understand that failure is a positive thing - its a chance to learn a valuable lesson, to reevaluate, to understand that we can recover from it.
What better arena to allow this process to happen than in our own homes with a list of chores!
If reading last week’s blog inspired you to start delegating some of the housework to your mini army (aka the kids), I encourage you to allow them to do it! Of course show your children and teach them how you would do it, then help them as they begin - but avoid stepping in and taking over. It can be the most frustrating thing to watch little arms carry plates from the dishwasher to the cupboard or discover patches of dirt left on a ‘washed’ car. But doing your child’s chores FOR them robs them of their chance to grow through struggle and sends a strong signal to your child that he/she is not capable. Instead, praise your children for trying and keep constructive criticism to a minimum. There is a lot of research out there on the ratios of positive to negative feedback, with some experts arguing that children need more than 10:1! Obviously this is not always realistic, but if you can aim for four or five optimistic statements before you make a ‘suggestion’, you’ll be on the right track. Of even more value is holding your tongue and asking your child to evaluate his/her efforts. Allowing them to make mistakes and giving them the chance to self-correct will help children grow into resilient adults.
Also, if you haven’t dropped me a line yet, please hit reply now. I’d love to hear your opinion on the following, or anything else that’s on your mind:
- What have your children struggled with?
- Have your children learned how to cope? How?
- Do you have a particular task that you don’t know how to support your child in learning without tearing out your hair? (Please tell me - perhaps a member of the tribe could help!)
PS: If you'd like to get your hands on a free downloadable inspired by the weekly blog post, let me know - I'll add you to the newsletter list!