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Is the Latest Parenting Trend ‘Mowing Down’ Kids' Futures?

Photograph by Twenty20

Imagine, if you will, a time when parents were allowed to send their kids outside for an entire afternoon—with no idea where they might be going—until Mom rang a bell and they came back home for dinner. Believe or not, that's exactly how things were before society arguably made it too scary (and virtually illegal) for kids to be kids.

Helicopter parents weren't born paranoid, they were made that way over time, and now, they're about to get run over by a metaphorical lawnmower.

So-called "lawnmower parents" are the latest group of hyper-attentive moms and dads who are, according to a recent article posted on WeTheTeachers, mowing down obstacles for their kids so they "won’t experience them in the first place."

The anonymous author/teacher says parents need to take a step back and let their child learn how to struggle on their own so they can deal with obstacles in the future.

"Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle or failure," the teacher writes. "If we eliminate all struggle in children’s younger years, they will not arrive at adulthood magically equipped to deal with failure."

Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle or failure.

The essay recalls a story about a father who was “clearly headed to work (or something work-like)" and showed up at school with a water bottle after his child kept texting him that she needed it: "I texted back, 'Don’t they have water fountains at your school?' But I guess she just had to have it out of the bottle." The teacher wrote that the dad then "laughed, as if to say, 'Teenagers, am I right?'"

The teacher goes on to say, "Any of us—even non-parents—can empathize with the motivations of a person not wanting to see their child struggle," but a child "who has never had to deal with conflict on their own" will have no idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle.

"A generation for whom failure is far too painful, leaving them with coping mechanisms like addiction, blame and internalization," the teacher adds.

Though every child and situation is different—for example, some kids suffer from anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness—the author says working through the discomfort of anxiety head-on can help prepare them to handle whatever challenges they encounter in the future.

“If we want our children to be successful, healthy adults, we must teach them how to process through their own challenges, respond to adversity and advocate for themselves,” writes the teacher. The best way to avoid becoming a lawnmower parent may be to learn what it can do to your kid.

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