“Helicopter parents” are becoming obsolete and replaced by “lawn mower parents”. This new breed of parenting style plows ahead of their children, arranging their lives in an attempt to eliminate sorrow, discomfort, and misfortune. “Lawn mower parents” are not preparing their child for the road, they are preparing the road for their child.
This style of parenting is extremely detrimental for an infinite number of reasons, but my greatest concern is that this deficit of hard-ships will produce a generation of people who have never had the opportunity to become well-rounded. Life is full of mishaps, unmet expectations, and things that go horribly wrong. Parents must stop believing that negative emotions and experiences are unhealthy for their children. In fact, research consistently reveals negative emotions and experiences are a vital part of the growth and development process.
Let’s look at how to help your child handle the “negative emotions” of boredom, disappointment, regret, and discouragement.
1. Boredom is the birthplace of creativity and imagination. Children who are able to accept boredom as a simple prompt to find things to do are forced to fully engage their creativity and imagination. Creativity helps develop innovation, but imagination is the most important building block for problem-solving. We have to be able to imagine a solution before we can learn to create a plan of action.
2. Disappointment is the emotion we experience when do not meet our own expectations or the expectations of others. The ability to handle disappointment well is a skill that must be practiced. Use disappointments as opportunities for connection and communication through the development of expectation management. Help your child learn how to manage expectations by going over all the possible things that will take place and practice appropriate responses. To help your child manage his/her own expectations ask, “What are you imagining this to look like or what are you thinking about this?” You might be surprised to find out exactly how accurate or inaccurate his/her expectations are.
3. Regret is a teaching emotion essential for the learning process. Regret helps us remember to think carefully before acting and to learn from our mistakes. Guilt and regret are important for encouraging positive behavior change, shame is not. As a parent, you eliminate shame by focusing on the behavior. Help your children see that their action was wrong without making them feel like they were wrong.
4. Discouragement takes place when we lose confidence. Help your child use the feeling of discouragement to determine any necessary changes and then help him/her try again. Teach your children this Thomas Edison quote, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”
It is not your job as a parent to eliminate difficulties. However, it is unfair to expect your child to embrace them with a positive attitude. All you can do is sit with them in their heartbreak. When they are ready, give them words to better understand their complex emotions and difficult experiences. If you do this, you will help your child become a resilient adult with the ability to keep going in the face adversity. This is how you prepare your child for the road.