What Is Lawnmower Parenting and How Does It Affect Children?

Published May 24, 2022
father helping daughter with playground monkey bars

Every parent hopes that their child grows up to be successful in every possible category imaginable. It's normal for parents to want the best for their children, but sometimes this desire can turn into removing all obstacles in your child's way in order to ensure a positive outcome. This desire to achieve success can have a negative impact on your parenting style as a whole. Reflecting on your style of parenting may help you better understand if you are a lawnmower parent and how to move forward to keep your bond with your child strong.

What Is a Lawnmower Parent?

Lawnmower parenting is also referred to as snowplow or bulldozer parenting. According to Psychology Today, it is a type of dysfunctional parenting that is largely fear-based. Lawnmower parenting occurs when a parent isn't able to trust their child's decision-making skills, which leads parents to constantly intervene in their child's life, such as by making decisions for them and removing obstacles from their path. In addition, a lawnmower parent usually hides their extra efforts and intentions from their child.

Examples of Lawnmower Parenting

Lawnmower parenting can look different depending on a parent's financial status, connections, goals for their child, and other attributes. A lawnmower parent's actions are centered around helping their child reach the objectives the parent has decided are 'best' or 'right' for the child. Some examples of lawnmower parenting are:

  • Constantly calling schools/programs and asking for special treatment for your child
  • Donating large sums of money to a potential college you want your child to attend
  • Solving conflict with teachers, school administration, jobs, etc. for your child
  • Enrolling your child in activities they don't enjoy in order to put them 'on the path to success'
  • Micromanaging your child's school/personal schedule to better align with your goals
  • Paying tutors/other professionals to help construct your child's applications
  • Calling in favors from 'elite' members in order to get your child into activities they didn't earn or qualify for

Effects of Lawnmower Parenting

Lawnmower parenting can have a variety of effects on children. There are both positive and negative consequences to the parenting style, although the negatives seem to be more vast.

Negative Effects on Children

Being a lawnmower parent can have negative effects on both parents, children, and their overall parent-child relationship, according to Psychology Today and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Some negative effects include:

  • Giving children inflated egos
  • Preventing children from making their own decisions or pursuing their own interests
  • Devastating a child when they realize that their accomplishments weren't earned on their own
  • Causing disruption in a child's relationship with their parents, such as a lack of trust
  • Disrupting a child's natural growth by not allowing them to grow on their own
  • Preventing a child from experiencing life and having fun in the present since parental goals are set so far in the future
  • Disrupting a child's ability to function independently

Negative Effects on Parents

Not only does being a lawnmower parent negatively affect children, but it can have a negative impact on parents as well. With all the constant planning, monitoring, and extra efforts included in lawnmower parenting, it's easy to see why parents in this situation might experience high levels of stress. Lawnmower parents have to make several sacrifices in their lives, such as limiting time spent on their own preferred activities, making sacrifices of their own, and impacting their relationships with themselves and their loved ones.

Positive Effects of Lawnmower Parenting

There can be some overall positive aspects to a lawnmower parenting style that revolve around a parent successfully helping their child achieve the dreams/goals they planned. A lawnmower parent may be able to help their child get into a good college, land an important job, or help their child achieve financial security. However, it's important to remember that just because a child has achieved the 'success' label created by parents, it does not mean that the child feels fulfilled, or even happy.

Differences Between Lawnmower and Supportive Parenting

mother and daughter talk about responsibility

After learning more about what a lawnmower parent does, you may be left wondering if you fall into that category of parenting style and how you can change it. Some differences between lawnmower and supportive parenting look like:

  • Lawnmower: Pulling strings for your child to get into an extracurricular activity.
    • Supportive: Encouraging your child to apply to participate, and helping if they ask.
  • Lawnmower: Calling your child's school if they got in trouble, to resolve the issue yourself.
    • Supportive: Letting your child take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes.
  • Lawnmower: Forcing your child to participate in certain clubs/groups because you think it will help with their college applications.
    • Supportive: Allowing your child to pursue their own unique interests and supporting their choices.
  • Lawnmower: Making important decisions for your child because you think you know what is best.
    • Supportive: Allowing your child to make their own decisions and being present to offer support if they need it.
  • Lawnmower: Finishing your child's homework/projects in order to have them completed on time.
    • Supportive: Reminding your child when the projects are due so they can manage their time well.

How to Stop Being a Lawnmower Parent

You may resonate with some aspects of lawnmower parenting and that's okay. After learning about some of the negative aspects associated with the parenting style, you may find yourself wanting to make a change for the betterment of your family. There are ways to change your parenting style to help foster growth in yourself and your child.

Change Family Roles

According to the Psychology Today article previously mentioned, one way to change parenting styles is to work on changing family roles. Oftentimes in families, members find themselves taking on certain roles, such as the mediator or the protector. These roles create rigidity in households, with each person feeling like they must remain in them in order for the family to function. Working on changing family roles, such as giving up your position as protector, will allow other members of the family a chance to give up their roles as well. Changing the dynamic of the family as a whole is one way to change parenting styles.

Encourage Independence

Another way of moving away from a lawnmower parenting style is to encourage and allow your child to be more independent. This may feel strange at first, especially since you have been in control of much of the decision-making, but it will allow your child the freedom to follow their interests, succeed on their own, and learn from their mistakes. This may not be easy for your child either, especially if they are used to you constantly lending a helping hand. Resist the urge to fall back into old patterns, and talk to your family about building independence.

Moving Past Lawnmower Parenting

If you find yourself constantly moving life's obstacles out of your child's way in order to guarantee their success, then you may be a lawnmower parent. It's okay to want what's best for your child, and finding a balance between setting goals and offering support in order for your child to achieve them is important. Parents want to set their children up for success, and one of the best ways to do that is by following your child's interests, allowing them to succeed on their own, and providing encouragment as they learn and grow from mistakes and challenges.

What Is Lawnmower Parenting and How Does It Affect Children?