- Why do we categorise parenting?
- What are lawnmower parents?
- How to avoid lawnmower parenting?
- Are helicopter parents and lawnmower parents the same?
- Other parenting styles explained
What does a lawnmower, helicopter, bulldozer and a jellyfish have in common?
They are all types of parenting!
Sometimes it may feel like parenting experts pull these names from thin air. We’re going to break down these parenting styles and explain what lawnmower parents are and how you can identify lawnmower parenting.
Why do we categorise parenting?
Labelling parenting with buzz words such as ‘lawnmower parenting’ and ‘helicopter parenting’ probably leave you wondering what these new parenting styles are about. After all, you as parents want to keep on top of parenting trends. Some bandwagons we like to jump on, as we want the best for our kids. Other trends we as parents, let fade from the spotlight. (fidget spinner, anyone?)
Maybe there’s something to be said for the convenience of parenting terminology. By referring to a ‘Tiger Mom’, we envision a strict mother pushing their child to the highest levels of academic achievement.
What are lawnmower parents?
Have you ever completed your child's school project for them? Maybe you’ve called the school to report that your child was upset by another child? Perhaps you’ve pulled your child out of an extracurricular class, because your child found it hard? If you’ve answered yes to all of the above, you may be a lawnmower parent! The good news is that your heart is in the right place. Let’s dive into why lawnmower parents' efforts backfire in the long run.
You may be wondering ‘What is the meaning of a lawnmower parent ?’ The name is based on the image of a lawnmower cutting down that pesky, tall grass. Lawn mower parents remove obstacles from children's lives rather than letting your child figure it out themselves. Lawnmower parents have never been thrust into a brighter spotlight than the College acceptance scandal of 2019. Parents paid bribes in the millions for their children to get into the top colleges.
While bribing a university admissions office is on the more extreme end of lawnmower parenting, there are great advantages to letting your child handle adversity appropriate for their level of development. For example, letting your child manage disagreements among peers, teaches them conflict resolution and also how to work in group projects with students who they may not always get along with. This is great preparation for the world of work too.
Moreover, completing your child's homework or finishing a project for them may be impressive at the time but it also sends a message: Your parent can do it better than you. This is damaging to a child's confidence, not to mention that it robs them of the chance to understand deadlines, time management and workload.
We get it! Lawnmower parenting comes from a place of wanting to be involved, protecting your child and of course love. Your intentions in lawnmower parenting are good, but your child needs to experience obstacles and disappointment to develop their own mental strength. Also, your child may face situations in life that as a parent are simply out of your control, so they need their own supply of resilience to handle that.
How to avoid lawnmower parenting?
- Trust your child to be responsible for their own school work, allow them to grapple with the work if it’s challenging and support them without doing it for them.
- Let your child make mistakes, they are more resilient than you think!
- When setbacks happen, thank the situation for the opportunity for your child to learn and grow.
Are helicopter parents and lawnmower parents the same?
Helicopter parents are probably one of the more well known parenting styles used in the media. The term helicopter describes the parent hovering over their child, like a helicopter hovers. Another way to describe helicopter parenting would be: overprotective and highly involved.
In a sample of 300 university age students, around 10% were identified as having helicopter parents. Students with helicopter parents were also found to be more vulnerable, anxious and self conscious in adulthood. Researcher Neil Montgomery writes that this may be due to overprotective parenting (excessive intervention in childhood), hindering a child's ability to cultivate coping skills of their own to resolve challenges appropriate for their stage of development.
As we know, lawnmower parents like to handle matters themselves instead of their children. Whereas helicopter parents are highly involved by constantly checking in on their child, which can be interpreted as nagging.
The differences in practice might look like this:
A helicopter parent might be constantly checking university league tables and reminding their child of application deadlines when applying for university.
A lawnmower parent might research, write and submit the university application on their child's behalf.
What are some other parenting styles explained?
We’ve discussed in some detail the lawnmower parent meaning and touched on helicopter parenting, but there are lots of other types of parenting that you might be interested to learn more about:
Parents who knock down every obstacle in front of their children. The concept is similar to lawnmower parenting. Whatever the name, it’s been linked to harming children in the long run. Elizabeth Cohen, a clinical psychologist summarises the problem of bulldozer parenting as setting children up with the idea that they cannot handle hard situations, so they anticipate failure rather than success.
If the tiger parent is an authoritarian, then the jellyfish parent is the opposite. They do not set clear expectations for their children, often giving children too much autonomy too early in their lives. Jellyfish parents may not discipline their children as a way to avoid confrontation. However, jellyfish parenting may project high warmth and have open channels of communication with their children. Thomas Armstrong argues that children tend to lack social responsibility along with similar negative consequences as a child of lawnmower parents: Low self-confidence and high anxiety.
This parenting style is based on the image that a parent should be visible from the shoreline as a stable beacon of light for their children. The phrase is used by Kenneth Ginsburg and is widely considered an example of good parenting, with the perfect balance of warmth and rules. Neither overly attached nor too hands-off, ideally resulting in a child who is emotionally stable and more likely to achieve their academic potential.
If you’re a parent who believes that children should be given more freedom to build confidence and independence, then you might be an advocate for free-range parenting. After the pandemic a strong signal was sent to parents to feel ‘safe at home’. Nonetheless some parents are bucking the trend to quieten and put a carefree childhood at the top of the list of priorities as a parent. Lenore Skenazy is an activist for free-range parenting, promoting that we should let our children out on their own and do not need to monitor our child's every move. “Let go and let grow” is the free-range parenting motto.
Now you’ve had an overview of some of the key parenting styles today, you might see hints of your parenting style across a few parenting types, and that’s ok! Think about which parenting type you are! It’s better to be a mix of multiple styles to allow for flexibility in the type of parent that you need to be to meet your child's needs.