You’ve probably heard the term “helicopter parent,” a name used to describe parents who hover over their kids and oversee every aspect of their kid’s experiences and problems. The goal of the helicopter parent is to watch out for potential problems, and to quickly step in with parental assistance when problems arise. While these types of parents are generally coming from a good place in their heart, helicopter parents can, ironically, stunt growth and development by never allowing their kids to learn, make mistakes, and mature on their own.
Today, the helicopter parent may actually take a backseat to the newest type of parent — the lawnmower parent. These types of parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity or failure. The “lawnmower,” metaphorically speaking, mows down anyone and anything in the way of the child, thereby creating a supposed clear path to success. Critics have already shared their concerns about the dangers of helicopter parents, and are even more worried about the growing number of lawnmower parents and the potential harm they are about to cause the next generation of kids.
Lawnmower Parents in Sports
While I would hesitate to suggest that we are in the throes of a “lawnmower parent syndrome” in youth sports, there is a definite trend I have witnessed where increasingly more parents have attempted to resolve their kid’s youth sport issues by attempting to remove the coach and/or league operator/athletic director. Rather than assuming a supportive role and allowing the coach to do his or her job, some of these parents have gone to great lengths to ensure the coach is fired from his or her position. A few of the ways in which lawnmower parents operate include:
- Reporting directly to a higher school official (i.e. principal, school board and/or superintendent) that a coach needs to be dismissed. Often in these examples the charges brought against the coach are exaggerated and hyperbolic, with specific instructions (and sometimes threats) that immediate action needs to occur.
- Social media campaigns. Some parents create specific Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages with the intention of gaining community support to remove the coach. This “strength in numbers” approach can quickly turn viral (and ugly).
- Video vigilantes. When parents don’t feel they have quite enough evidence to get a coach fired there have been cases where secret recordings have taken place, with videos edited to remove appropriate context and instead reveal a misleading set of circumstances.
- Threatening the coach directly. Some parents have gone directly to the coach with threats that the coach should resign — or else.
Find a healthy balance
The most effective style of parenting is assisting your child through challenges and problems, but not actually solving every problem he or she will face in life. It’s also not recommended to “mow down” coaches who may have a different leadership style than you, and this includes campaigning for coaches to be fired, creating social media blitzes, or actually threatening the coach directly. Instead, parents are encouraged to get involved in healthy, supportive ways, and when problems arise look for respectful ways to discuss the situation. Additionally, it’s always a good move to help teach your child the basics of conflict resolution, including learning active listening skills and effective stress-coping. Remember, when kids learn about integrity, character, fairness, and resiliency through sports, they can parlay these skills into the classroom, social situations, and even their future careers.
“Mowing down” people who get in your way can lead to a host of future problems and circumstances, and certainly doesn’t role model for kids how to handle tough life situations. Finding a healthy parenting balance includes standing up for your child in some instances, but also allowing your child to learn how to stand up for him- or herself in other situations.
The metamorphosis from helicopter parent to lawnmower parent is a disturbing trend that is rarely seen as a healthy and effective way to resolve problems. While it is true that some coaches are poor at coaching, and some may even be guilty of “politics,” learning to work through difficult experiences in life is almost always more valuable than simply working to get people fired. Remember, just because your child isn’t starting doesn’t mean the coach doesn’t know what he or she is doing, nor does it warrant doing whatever is necessary to have the coach removed from the job.