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The Dangers of Lawnmower Parenting

Lori+Loughlin+is+only+one+example+of+a+lawnmower+parent%2C+known+for+using+illegal+means+to+get+her+children+into+college.+%28Courtesy+of+Flickr%29
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The Dangers of Lawnmower Parenting

Lori Loughlin is only one example of a lawnmower parent, known for using illegal means to get her children into college. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Lori Loughlin is only one example of a lawnmower parent, known for using illegal means to get her children into college. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Lori Loughlin is only one example of a lawnmower parent, known for using illegal means to get her children into college. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Lori Loughlin is only one example of a lawnmower parent, known for using illegal means to get her children into college. (Courtesy of Flickr)


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By Dane Salmon

Parenting: it’s a hot topic. From participation trophies to homeschooling to vaccines, everyone has an opinion on the relationship between parent and child.

In light of the recent college admissions scandal, in which over 750 families of prospective students paid a total of more than $25 million to two college admissions firms to artificially inflate students’ grades, help them cheat on entrance exams and create false sports accolades, I will be focusing on the phenomenon known as lawnmower parenting.

Lawnmower parenting is what it sounds like: parents remove all obstacles in their child’s path. The practice is different from simply being an infamous “helicopter parent” because it doesn’t just involve keeping children out of potentially dangerous situations, monitoring all their activities and trying to control their life, but also actively trying to remove all hardship of any sort from a child’s life.

As an anonymous middle school teacher who has written an essay on the subject puts it: “Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle or failure,” whether it be asking a teacher for an extension on an assignment in lieu of their child or paying exorbitant amounts of money to help their child get in to the college they want.

This is obviously problematic in a number of ways, but the core of the issue is avoidance of struggle. It may be a platitude, but as Yoda said, “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

Tough obstacles and disappointment can be the same. We learn from times when we’re disappointed: we assess ourselves and try again.

Finals are hard, 20-page research papers are hard, but we learn from them — not just what we’re being taught in class, but how to deal with them.

Whether it’s conscious or not, we develop strategies and methods for dealing with adversity every time we’re faced with it.

If during a child’s most critical developmental years they are not allowed to face struggles they would have otherwise faced (within reason, of course), they will not be equipped to deal with the inevitable failures and adversity they will face in their college and adult years, rendering them not only stunted developmentally in this category, but also will impact their success in college and in employment.

School and jobs aren’t the only problem when it comes to the fallout of lawnmower parenting. Though we’ve heard the idea thrown around, millennials have the highest rates of depression diagnoses and anxiety disorder diagnoses of all age groups in the United States.

I think this is in no part due to the rise of lawnmower parenting.

Rates of depression diagnosis are highest in the 12 to 17-year-old age bracket, which are those who feel the brunt of lawnmower parents.

When difficult situations relating to mental health are mowed down by a wayward parent a child will end up bereft of weapons in their fight against their mental health issues; when adversity in the form of depression or anxiety is taught to be feared and not struggled against and taken on as directly as one can, the sufferer will be hard-pressed to find respite from their struggles.

While parents can certainly take a constructive role in their child’s mental health, lawn mowing is not the way to go — help them deal with issues as they arise and let them learn for themselves how best to deal with their struggles themselves, while providing adequate support when it is needed.

If I could sum up my position in a few words, I would tell parents that it’s fine to tell your kids “tough luck, do better next time.”

Parents undoubtedly want their children to succeed, but success without earning it is no success at all.

 

Dane Salmon, FCRH ’22, is a philosophy and economics major from Coppell, Texas.

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