At a recent back to school night for my middle school daughter, one of her teachers explained that it is time for our kids to take responsibility for their grades, and each student needed to be personally accountable. He told the classroom of parents that several kids received a zero on an assignment for not completing it on time, but it was a minimal portion of their grade. “The point is for them to understand from the get-go that deadlines are important, and there will be consequences.”

Several parents, including me, subtly checked phones to see if our kids received an F on their first assignment, and there was a lot of grimacing throughout the room. At the end of the session, I remained at my table to fill out some paperwork, and couldn’t help but overhear a conversation another parent was having with the teacher.

“You see, we were out-of-town this weekend, and I think there must have been a misunderstanding. My son always does his work. I’m sure he has it completed now, so he can get partial credit, right?” she said.

I watched as the teacher shook his head no, and I sheepishly handed in my form and left the room. I was a little shocked that after the accountability speech he just gave that anyone would dare try to get a grade changed. I realized at that moment that I’d just witnessed a lawnmower parent.

Lawnmower parents are to older kids what helicopter parents are to the younger set. Helicopter parents hover over their children and swoop in at the first sign of trouble. Lawnmower parents try to “mow down” any obstacle in their kids’ way that may cause disappointment or adversity, essentially creating a generation of kids who are not resilient and incapable of handling problems on their own.

I get it. I had to sit on my car keys at the end of last year when I saw my daughter’s history report, which she worked on the entire weekend, sitting on my kitchen counter. When she texted me right before school started begging for me to bring it to her, I didn’t respond until I knew her phone was tucked away in her locker for the day.

I knew my daughter sometimes got nervous speaking to her teachers and doesn’t like to admit she made a mistake. She struggles with organization and often waits until the last minute to finish things. Every ounce of my being wanted to take the project to her, email her teacher, fix the situation, but instead I simply replied: “Sorry, I was in the shower! I hope it works out! xoxo”

And then I wallowed in guilt for the remainder of the day.

No parent wants to see his or her children struggle or fail—it’s in our DNA to help our kids. But there is long-term damage that is occurring from this type of parenting.

Because many moms and dads are commandeering their children’s academic careers, students are arriving at high school or sometimes even college without any insight as to how to manage relationships with their teachers, counselors or peers. Since many parents have always bailed their children out when they forget assignments, gym clothes, or even their lunch, many kids have no problem-solving abilities and collapse at the first roadblock. And perhaps worse yet, lawnmower parents are producing kids who can’t make any decisions on their own in a complex, dangerous world.

It is painful to watch your kid struggle or be unhappy, but according to a recent viral Facebook post from WeAreTeachers, by interfering, we’re doing the exact opposite. “In raising children who have experienced minimal struggle, we are not creating a happier generation of kids. We are creating a generation that has no what idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle,” the author writes.

When my daughter returned home from school after not turning in her assignment, I immediately asked her what happened.

“I talked to my teacher at lunch and told him that I left my project at home,” she said. “He told me he was glad I spoke to him before class, and that he believed I finished it and would only deduct five points off. With the extra credit I did last week, it shouldn’t hurt my grade at all, but I’ll never forget again. I was so stressed!”

Huh. How about that.

The good news for those of us who find it hard to step back and let our kids fall? You can take baby steps. Encourage your children to communicate with teachers and coaches on their own, have them coordinate their social calendars, and most importantly, let them make mistakes—and figure out how to solve them.

It’s so hard to remember, but making mistakes is the only way we learn, kids included. You may have to sit on your keys like I did, but the payoff will be a stronger, more resilient and—hopefully—happier child.

 

You might also like:

It’s Lonely Being the Mom Who Says No

You’re Not Failing As a Mom; Sometimes It’s Just This Hard

To My Middle School Son

Dear Daughter As You Move On To Middle School

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here!

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading