The term “helicopter parent” is familiar to most of us to describe the parent who constantly hovers over their child to watch their every move. A more recent version of this is gaining attention – the “lawn mower”parent.

A lawn mower parent is described as one who mows down all possible obstacle in their child’s path. On the surface, it sounds harmless enough – as parents we want to help our children in any way we can. Many of us would argue that one of our primary jobs as a parent is to help our children navigate life. Where things start to get complicated is when parents take that to the level of trying to eliminate all challenges, tough decisions and disappointments for our children.

One of the greatest traits our children can have is resilience. Life is full of hurdles and highs and lows. Children who have learned that some days will be challenging, that life will have problems to solve, and that they are capable people who can work their way through difficult times will ultimately be happier adults. The ability to brainstorm solutions and tap into available resources will serve children well all through life.

How do we set our children on the right path and avoid the lawn mower urge? Starting early is critical.

A few tips to get started:

  • Encourage and praise independence with self-help skills. (“You zipped your coat all by yourself!”)
  • Take time to show and teach before you perform simple life skills. (“I’m sorting my light colors and dark colors before they go in the washing machine. Let me show you how the machine works.”)
  • Teach your children to name and express their emotions. (“You seem worried. Let’s talk about it and see if we can figure something out.”)
  • Share your own disappointments when appropriate and model good coping skills. (“I really wanted to go on this trip, but it got cancelled. I hope I can reschedule it sometime soon.”)
  • Teach children to be accountable and accept responsibility. (“Your grade is low because you didn’t hand in all of your assignments. How can you do a better job of that this next quarter?”)
  • Problem solve with your child at first, so they can use the techniques on their own later. (“Let’s look at the problem. Is it a big problem or a smaller one? What could we try? Who could help us?”)

When we give our children a solid foundation in handling whatever life throws at them, we are giving them the best gift we can – the confidence to live their best lives.