This week, I heard a new term: Lawnmower Parents. The latest evolution of the Helicopter Parent (who hovers and hovers in case their child needs them) and the counter to the Tiger Parent (who directs each and every action and behaviour with “hyper disciplinary” engagement). The Lawnmower Parent clears the way for their child – ensuring that she walks only on smooth groomed ground, without obstacles. Leading the way so the child never has to interact with the world or confront an impediment to his desires. The commonality between each of these parenting styles – which are really just exagerations of actual parenting, is the absolute take over by the parent of the child’s autonomy, responsibility, and authentic emotional life. Can we really believe that this is a valuable way to parent? What can be gained by never allowing for obstacle, or conflict, or challenge, or failure? At what age do you think your child should experience disappointment? Frustration? Sadness? Anger?
It can be so challenging to see our children experience negative emotion. It can raise questions and doubts about our parenting. It can raise old traumas from our own childhood. But avoidance of emotion results in unreasonable expectations for all: can you ALWAYS keep your child from experiencing negative emotion? Can you ALWAYS ensure that he will be successful? How powerful and responsible do you think you are in terms of your child’s development? This quick article describes 5 steps to take to help you step back a little from your children if you find that you might be helping a little too much: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/01/05/overparenting-5-recovery-steps-from-a-former-stanford-dean/
In our Toronto Montessori Schools, we encourage children towards autonomy, personal responsibility, and respect for their own interests and strengths. More than 100 years ago, Maria Montessori recognized that confidence and competence in children develops by providing them with opportunities to engage in real life work – washing their own tables, pouring their own water, lacing their own shoes. Children as young as 15months develop pride and satisfaction that they can make a difference in their world.
Take this week to observe your parenting – how often do you step in when you could step back? Yes, it might take longer, make a mess, result in a tantrum, but the longer term benefit is worth it.