'Lawnmower parents' are doing too much for their kids, experts say

The recent college admissions scandal is shining a light on the issue of parents going above and beyond for their children.

But that's not always a good thing.

Most have heard of the term “helicopter parents,” but parenting experts are saying “lawnmower parents” are now taking over, stifling the growth of their own kids.

“I think helicopter parenting is more of a micromanaging. ...Lawnmower parenting is literally just removing the obstacles,” said Emily Miller, a therapist at the Center for Integrative Counseling and Wellness in Hingham.

Miller said the college admissions scandal is an exaggerated example of this type of parenting, but she said it happens on all levels.

“I think it’s competition. I think it’s: 'I need to be the best, and my child needs to be the best, and I’m an adult, so I have more resources and more skills than them so I’m going to help them be the best.' ”

A local mom agreed, saying “It’s hard as a parent because you do get wrapped up in that conflict of wanting to give kids everything and give them all the opportunities…but how much is too much?”

Actress Felicity Huffman admitted to scheming to help her daughter get into college. In a letter to the judge, she said she thought she was giving her daughter a fair shot at the world. But she now realizes she was sending her daughter the wrong message.

Huffman wrote: “When my daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face ‘Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?’”

Miller said that no one sets out to be a lawnmower parent but rather it happens over time. A parent helps their kid with a science project, cookie-selling duties for a scout task or paying a grown child’s rent.

“The stakes get higher as kids get older and so it becomes harder to step back,” Miller said.

According to the Pew Research Center, for the first time in more than 100 years, Americans up to age 34 are more likely to still live with their parents. Millennials have even stayed long enough to have spouses and children there without establishing their own home.

Miller said this failure to launch is because the kids never had to overcome setbacks by themselves, which teach responsibility, confidence and self-sufficiency.

“Those are the skills they need to move out of the home, to have a family of their own…and it’s not just those skills,” Miller said. “It’s the belief they can do those things and the belief that they have those skills.”

“In the end we’re really not teaching them anything about life and about how to care for themselves,” a local mom said. “And about how to be a good person and how to be righteous and truthful if we’re trying to control everything for them.”

Miller said that there’s a tie to anxiety and depression. She added that it’s important for parents to ask themselves if they trust their child to be able to achieve on their own.

Educators are trying to fight the “lawnmowing” trend.

In New Hampshire, Bedford High School’s principal is proposing an amendment to the student handbook designed to keep parents from overstepping boundaries involving their kids. He said it’s a fine line of balance that can be difficult to find, something Miller agreed with.

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