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Mowing down any potential obstacle in their child's path, the lawnmower parent takes protective parenting to new lows, writes Erin Stewart.

We’ve all heard of helicopter parents. You know, the moms and dads who circle around their little ones and swoop in to save them whenever life gets tough.

But I recently learned about another breed of parent that is just (if not more) debilitating to the children parents are trying so hard to protect: the lawnmower parent.

This newly labeled style of parenting means walking two steps ahead of your beloved child, knocking down any possible roadblocks/hardships/discomfort before he or she even gets them or has a chance to holler for help from good ol’ helicopter mom.

Basically, mowing down any potential obstacle in their child's path, the lawnmower parent takes protective parenting to new lows.

This account pennedby a teacher details a few run-ins with such lawnmower parents, telling how one dad brought in special bottled water for his child, who had been texting her dad saying she couldn’t drink the school water. A mom called to ask for a homework extension for her child, telling the teacher that the boy didn’t ask for himself because she usually handles “this kind of thing for him.”

Stories like that always make me sad for both the parents and the kids in that situation. Sad for the parents because they will probably end up being the scapegoat for all of their child’s inevitable woes in life. For the kids, this makes me sad because through no choice or fault of their own, they are learning three things:

  • Someone else is responsible for their happiness in life.
  • Trials should be avoided at all costs.
  • Life should be easy.

Those kids are in for quite a wake-up call when mom and dad aren’t around to chop down any roadblocks. Unfortunately, by the time that happens, these kids will already be in the habit of blaming everyone but themselves for failures while also believing they are completely incapable of handling such failures. Talk about a recipe for a meltdown.

I’ve seen the pattern in my own family with one of our children who is chronically forgetful. For a long time, I compensated for it. I brought her things she forgot or made sure she got to activities. I reminded her a million times about what chores she had to do or pestered her about her homework.

And for all my love and work, she started to hate me. I was the timekeeper, the reminder, the nag. Worse, she started to blame me, or her sister, or the clock, or her teacher for any problem she created for herself.

This was before I even knew the term lawnmower parent, but now that I know it, I recognize that is exactly what I was doing. I was trying to head off any hardship for my daughter, and in the process, I was becoming the enemy and robbing her of the chance to figure out how to handle her life.

So, I stopped running lunches or homework or folders up to the school. I stopped giving up my evenings to help with last-minute projects. Basically, I stopped rescuing her from life before she even had a chance to help herself.

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But I also found a way to help her without mowing down the obstacles that would help her grow. We made checklists to help her take responsibility for her chores and homework. We put a whiteboard in her room so she could make to-do lists. I bought a cubby where she can lay out all her stuff for the next day. She started keeping track of her activities on her own calendar.

She still forgets things. A lot of things. A lot of the time.

But when she does, she learns from it. She doesn’t blame me, and she also doesn’t blame herself because there is no blame. There’s just life — messy, difficult and full of failures and lessons that no parent in their right mind would want to stop their kids from learning.