I started being a therapist at the end of the Millennium and I am astonished by the change between parenting the Millennial Generation and parenting the present iGeneration. Parents have gone from being Helicopter Parents to being Lawn Mower Parents. For those who aren’t familiar with the term Lawn Mower Parents, they are parents who mow a path ahead of their children so that their teens won’t experience any bumps, bruises, or hiccups along their path to adulthood.
Some of life’s best lessons come in the form of learning from mistakes. We have forgotten that we grew more from our discomforts and mistakes than we did from our successes. As parents we want to shield our kids from discomfort, forgetting the importance of letting them learn to adjust to life’s ups and downs. As a result, some “Lawnmowered” teens don’t get the opportunity to develop the resiliency and coping skills they will need for adulthood. Every day I read about and see first hand how depression and anxiety are on the rise and the suicide rate among teens is increasing every year. At what point do we recognize that Lawn mowing parenting plays a role in this trend?
As parents, we are taking away from our kids the opportunity to experience some of the empowerment and self pride we enjoyed. Teens today are handed new cars and expensive technology. I remember my first car, a Nissan Pulsar (I know you will have to Google to even know what I am referring to). It was several years old, cost $3,000, and had many bumps, scratches and dents, but it was all mine. I loved every ounce of it. My first new car didn’t come until I was almost finished with my Master’s program after nearly 5 years of blood, sweat and tears finishing my undergraduate degree and most of my Master’s. The sense of pride at purchasing my first car was empowering. I had worked hard. I was in graduate school full time, working full time at a foster care agency, and finally able to smell the amazing aroma of a new car. I loved that car even though I had to hand crank the windows down because I couldn’t afford the power window option. It was once again a stepping stone to remind me that if I worked hard, I could afford more. That has always been my mindset and my work ethic reflects it.
These days kids are driving better cars than their teachers. Parents of teens are posting on Facebook how they are purchasing new cars for them. Teens are no longer experiencing the pride of buying their first new vehicle because it is handed to them. They are losing the sense of pride, empowerment, or achievement that comes with hard earned goals. We are no longer allowing our kids to experience the joys of perseverance and accomplishment and it is reflected in the way they treat items they didn’t acquire by hard work. Kids are reckless with their cars and always dropping, breaking and losing their $800 cell phones because they didn’t earn them and therefore they have no sense of pride in ownership.
We, as parents, need to stop rescuing our kids before they experience a mistake or discomfort. We need to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their decisions and to learn from them. As parents we need to stop intervening first and allow the iGeneration to advocate and speak up for their own needs. It is time we give back the pride and accomplishment of having them earn their costly items through hard work, dedication and perseverance. Through all of this our children will develop resiliency, strong will, and independence that will help them cope throughout life. This is how GRIT is made; this is how we empower our kids. Just like fashion trends are always coming back into style, it’s time for the 1980’s parenting to make a comeback too.
Rebekah dePeo-Christner, LPC-S, LCDC, NCC counsels youth and their parents in our Lewisville office.