Helicopter, Lawnmower and Refrigerator Parenting
While Lori Loughlin and Feliciy Huffman currently possess the lion’s share of notoriety for terrible parenting decisions, we have all experienced similar, albeit less public, moments of poor parenting. Full confession, I’ve been a lawnmower, helicopter, and (less often) refrigerator parent. I make this confession to underscore the point that as parents, we are allsometimes requiredto play these roles, but more often, chooseto play these roles when we shouldn’t. If I may borrow from and liberally modify Ecclesiastes 3, there is a season for every parenting style under heaven…it’s the timing and purpose that is crucial.
According to weareteachers.com, Lawnmower Parents “…go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure.Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place.” The idea being, why settle for hovering at a distance like a helicopter parent, which proximity imposes limitations on our control, when we can jump ahead of the struggle and proactively take total control of our children’s lives. Like most parents, when I’ve overstepped my parental boundaries I had plenty of good intentions behind the moves and rational justifications for anyone who dared question me. No one enjoys seeing her child suffer, but as parents we need to examine our personal motives before we mow down the social and emotional barriers causing challenges for our children.
Enter… the refrigerator parent; the mom or dad who knows how to store all the contents unloaded into them and keep cool in the process. Adolescents need time and space to process their emotions. We should let our children retreat to their rooms to calm down and work with them to put together a list of relaxation tools—listening to music, deep regulated breathing, journaling, taking a walk or a run, shooting hoops, meditating with an app, yoga, or watching a funny YouTube video. Equally important, we need to make sure we do the same. We want our kiddos to have the opportunity to settle down before they share their challenges, and we need time to prepare ourselves for what we might hear. Firing off a salty email to our kid’s teacher, storming over to the school to confront a coach, or signing up to head the booster program so my child has a leg up as team captain won’t help my adolescent learn to advocate for himself (just ask Lori and Felicity). Rather, we should ask our children to think of how theymight respond to a teacher or coach. And we may want to gut check our motives for “volunteering” time to our kid’s activities. Our children are more resilient and capable than we often give them credit for. However, if we remove all the obstacles for them or hover close by so we can jump in at any minute, they will never have the opportunity to learn the skills and traits needed to pave their own way, such as perseverance and character.