Several parents have sent me links to the stories coming out this past week about “Lawnmower Parents”. It seems we have a new entry into our lexicon replacing the well-known “Helicopter Parents”. Apparently the difference between the two is that a “helicopter parent” hovers around everything their child does, questioning purpose and intent and trying to push things in the favor of their child. For a helicopter parent, if their child gets in trouble at school they first ask what the teacher did wrong to put their child in that spot. Accountability tends to lie elsewhere with the helicopter parent.
Now we apparently have lawnmower parents. These parents try to remove obstacles and opportunities for missteps from their child’s path. Rather than questioning the teacher after an event has occurred they try to preemptively let the teacher know that their precious one is infallible and therefore will not be taking missteps. Then they take the extra step of removing roadblocks and obstacles and this includes everything from doing the child’s homework, pampering every whim, and trying to make sure everyone else around their child continues the pampering so that their self-esteem is never tested.
Please know that both of these parenting styles are harmful to the growth and maturity of children. I don’t know how to say it any more bluntly. Removing accountability and then going a step further and removing obstacles is poor parenting and it is actually harmful to the development and maturation of kids. Jean Piaget is one of the learning theorists upon which developmental stages is founded and his contention is that children develop to the point of conflict and then will mature beyond that conflict point based upon their ability to interact with, discern solutions to, and progress beyond the conflict.
So what happens when the conflict is redefined as someone else’s problem? What happens when the conflict does not happen because it has been preemptively removed? The simple answer is that the child does not mature from the experience, including the consequences of, the conflict. By casting accountability elsewhere and removing obstacles you are actually impeding your child’s social and emotional development and making them less socially acceptable and more emotionally vulnerable.
Still not convinced? Then listen to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:3-5, “but we rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Could it be more clear? Still not convinced”. How about Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” How is hope achieved? Please recall that it is achieved through the endurance of tribulations that develops character that then creates hope. How is patience achieved? Patience is gained through the experience of trials and if all obstacles are removed, experience does not occur. Without the obstacles we do not grow to understand hope! Without sorrow how do we know joy? Without pain how do we know happiness? Without trials how do we achieve the patience that develops our character that gives us the ability to understand the hope that is God? Hope is not a quick fix and there is no immediacy in its gratification. That is why it is called hope.
But some day, the fulfillment of that hope will make every trial and every obstacle and every tribulation trivial. Some day when we receive the grace of our Lord and we see the face of Christ and we can say that we have actively fought the fight and kept the faith then we will have fully gained from the lessons that life gives. We have worked through the obstacles rather than avoiding them. We have loved our children enough to allow them to sometimes fail and even hurt so that they can learn the gift of patience and endurance, then we will have given our children the greatest gift of all – the ability to hope in our Lord because that hope will not fail.
Please accept this writing as a challenge. The next time your child gets in trouble at school, and it will happen – they are kids, rather than wondering what the teacher or the school did, hold your child accountable first. In that accountability find the opportunity for them to learn and then use that accountability as a teacher. Then when they have learned the lesson of accountability praise them for the life lessons they have learned and now hold your expectations even higher.
Helicopter parenting is a great way to raise a child that ducks responsibility and sloughs off the burden of accountability. Lawnmower parenting is a great way to raise an entitled, indulgent child. Neither of these fall within the duties you have as a parent or the auspice of scripture that tells us to neither remove or avoid life’s challenges. Instead we are told to embrace them as Christ did, to grow our character and our countenance through life’s lessons, and then to begin to understand the ultimate hope that can only be understood when we have developed our priorities and our integrity and our work ethic – in other words our character. At the end of the day, what is more important? Is it more important that your precious child never has a bad day or is more important that those bad days prepare them for the real life, in which bad days are assured, and that you have given them the social and emotional tools to understand that temporal pain is so much less than everlasting hope.
God bless the parents of Brentwood Christian School. May the students of Brentwood experience work that is harder than they anticipated. May our teams lose on the field of play so that they can develop the integrity of working through a loss. May our teams win so that they develop the tempered understanding of work. May our students be kind to each other and realize that kindness must be given to be received. May our parents help teach our students the incredibly valuable lesson of accountability by reinforcing the rules and the consequences when rules are broken. May we each have a patience that surpasses understanding that can only be gained in the hope of peace that passes understanding. May we each trust you Lord to understand that each obstacle and each difficulty is neither more than we or our kids can withstand and are, in fact, the lessons that need to be taught and learned. Forgive our society for its focus on immediacy and its ethics of gradualism and let us be the light of work, endurance, patience, and hope.
God bless our school. It is a great day to be a Bear!