Lawnmower Parents Are Setting Children Up for Failure

Forget Helicopter Parents - Lawnmower Parents Are A Teacher's Worst Nightmare cover image

We’ve all heard of helicopter parents. These moms and dads hover obsessively over their children, watch their every move, and intervene on behalf of the child whenever a problem arises. To a teacher, these are the adults that a teacher seems to interact with more so, than the child who they spend 8 hours a day with. As exhausting as these headache-inducing parents are (another email about grades, Mrs. Smith, REALLY?!), I’m here to tell you that the real nightmare is a new breed of adults called lawnmower parents.

Lawnmower parents are, without a doubt, oppositional forces to everything educators are trying to teach their students. You see, dear reader, helicopter parents only intervene when they sniff out something wrong that has upset their amazing child. Lawnmower parents completely erase any and all obstacles for their child so that their precious pumpkin can navigate smooth waters instead of learning how to correct course on choppy seas. As a teacher, this is the absolute worst. I can deal with parents being upset about their child suffering. It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children from any and all harm. However, I cannot deal with parents bulldozing the ground so children have nothing to be upset about.

If parents, our greatest assets, don’t teach their children valuable coping skills, how will our next generation deal when these problems befall them?

Any good teacher will tell you that their goals for their students have little to do with content matter. As a teacher, my biggest concern is not if my students can leave my class reciting Shakespeare. Rather, I care that they learn valuable skills like teamwork, resiliency, and discipline that they can carry over into whatever career they choose later in life. With lawnmower parents, these important skills become a wistful dream – not a tangible reality.

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If all challenges are erased, how will these students gain the grit needed when things don’t go their way?

Lawnmower parents are creating a false land of delusion that is sure to set our students up for failure. The next generation will surely endure relationship woes, financial issues, and work troubles. If parents, our greatest assets (and, at times, our biggest nemesis), don’t teach their children valuable coping skills, how will our next generation deal when these problems befall them? Lawnmower parents are creating a crop of children who will be out of luck when life gives them lemons. And that, my friend, is a tough pill to swallow.

I have witnessed firsthand the effects of lawnmower parents and let me tell you… it is not pretty. I’ve had students cry over having to wait 5 minutes to eat lunch, having a ball lightly skim their knee, and seeing the playground with their eyes, but not being able to play on it yet. With each of these students, I have a long talk about resiliency and each time, they look up at me with large, terror-filled eyes. The concept of being a buoyant human being is lost on them, and it is clear that this is the first time they are hearing how to cope with something. And each time, I think the same thing: Thanks lawnmower parents. I need you to work with me, NOT against me.

While this epidemic may seem comical to some, I can assure you that it is very real and very frightening. We need to let our kids fall, fail, and figure out how to stand back up. We can give them the tools to get back up, but we also need to let them practice this important skill. As educators, it is our duty to equip our students with traits that will get them far in life. So stand aside, lawnmower parents. I’m not letting you raise a wave of children who will be paralyzed by insurmountable hurdles. You can try to knock us down, but us teachers are extremely used to trudging up mountains.


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Veteran Legend

Abigail Courter is a fifth year music teacher at a K-8 private school in California.  She has taught general music, band, music technology, and performing arts.

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