As a parent, one thing’s for sure: it’s not easy to watch your kid struggle. But to what lengths would you go to protect your child from ever experiencing anything hard?

While no one could blame you for wanting to help your child succeed, you might be unintentionally blocking their path to adulthood if you take that devotion too far.  At least that’s according to one schoolteacher, whose viral post about this so-called “lawnmower” parenting style highlighted the damage caused by parents who refuse to let their kids trudge through the hard stuff on their own.

“Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle or failure,” the anonymous middle school teacher wrote on WeAreTeachers.com. “Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place.”

The teacher cited several experiences she’s had in which lawnmower parenting played a part – a father leaving work to deliver a water bottle that his teen daughter “had to have,” a parent who requested a helper to blow on her child’s cafeteria food when it was too hot, and a parent who called to schedule a makeup test for her daughter when the girl was fully capable of reaching out to the teacher herself.

We’re all guilty of swooping in from time to time. Maybe we know our child is in over his head, or we are trying to be sensitive to her anxieties or stress. But by letting our kids fight their own battles, work through their own disappointments and hold themselves accountable for their responsibilities, we are empowering them with the tools they will need to be successful, contributing adults.

“We don’t want to see our children fail. We want to set them up for success,” WeAreTeachers editorial director Hannah Hudson told All The Moms. “Sometimes we have to think about what that [success] means.”

The blog post received thousands of comments and shares on multiple social media platforms, and as the buzz has grown louder, many experts have added their voices to the topic.

“Growing up is about learning to continuously adapt to new and more challenging situations,” professor Jillian Roberts told Global News Canada. “When parents deprive their children of opportunities to practice these skills, their parenting is actually detrimental to their kids. In fact, what they are communicating is, ‘I don’t think you are capable of handling this on your own.'”

So how do we nurture and protect while still allowing for growth?

The WeAreMoms post referenced a blog post by Professer Karen Fancher fo Duquesne University’s School of Pharmacy, in which she offers tips on how to avoid becoming a lawnmower parent.

  • Elementary School: Let your kid do the talking as often as possible. Let them order at restaurants, ask for directions, call a friend on the phone to ask for a play date – all things we’re often tempted to do for them.
  • High School: Insist that your child attempt all communication with teachers, friends and instructors on her own first.  If she needs to miss a quiz and do a make-up, have her make the arrangements with the teacher, and only intervene after she has made the first attempt on her own. If she has a conflict between track practice and music lessons, have her discuss the possibilities with the involved groups, then have her make the decision and deal with the potential consequences.
  • All Ages: Trust your child to do well, and tell him repeatedly that you believe he can make good decisions on his own. Give him room to make mistakes, even major ones sometimes, and learn from them together.

We want to hear from you. How do you feel about the lawnmower parenting style? Are you guilty? What guidelines have you established to help your children learn from the inevitable challenges that come with growing up?  Sound off in the comment section.