Listen, your teeny-tiny, defenseless babies are going to grow up and become adults. Based on my years of mothering experience, I’m going to give you this advice: Be an anti-lawnmower mom.
Play the long game.
If you teach your children that they can do hard things all throughout their childhoods, then you’re providing a foundation of resiliency and confidence that will serve them well in every area of life.
Lawnmower parents bulldoze problems for kids and make the path smooth and comfortable. Be the anti-lawnmower mom or parent.
Be the parents who refuse to give in to a parenting philosophy that can disable your children’s ability to cope with obstacles as a natural part of life. Don’t parent out of a fear that tells you to smooth out all the bumps for your beloveds and make things easy. Teach them that failure and course correcting are part of how we learn.
If you haven’t lived through a hard season yet in your life, you will. And so will your kids. Humility, determination, and perseverance are character traits to practice early.
We can be the moms who equip our kids with lifelong skills when we do simple things, like hold them responsible for their actions and accept consequences as something earned. We invest in their future when we help implement problem solving in the midst of a dilemma, or we access all available resources, such as counseling when needed.
I know the mothering angst. My children have been misunderstood and mistreated, and they’ve failed, struggled, and walked through trials.
As moms, we feel a natural reflex to protect our offspring and to buffer them from pain.
But here’s the thing. When we allow our kids to feel the hard things in life and we coach them through it, we actually are protecting them for the future, instilling important coping skills. It’s a powerful change in thinking to embrace that painful things are opportunities to run toward rather than an evil to avoid.
When your kids are struggling in school, work with them to problem solve. Ask why their folder was signed, and brainstorm how to avoid this. Have them apologize to the teacher and speak with him or her about better strategies. At younger ages, go with them and lead them through it. By middle school, have them do this on their own, unless a circumstance seems to need your intervention. Even then, you might ask how they’d like you to approach it, if they want you involved. This is your way of reinforcing that you see them as growing capable of calling the shots in their own lives.
Let them get a zero on an uncompleted assignment. Remind your kids that someday, their boss will expect them to complete tasks and failing to do so will cause problems.
When your kids are struggling relationally, walk them through how to reconcile or set boundaries. Teach healthy relationship skills, such as choosing carefully whom enters in their intimate sphere of influence and how to graciously build boundaries when necessary.
When your kids don’t make the team, sit and cry with them, talk them through it, and set the precedent for how you want this to look when, in the future, they don’t get the job. Remind them how you believe in them for better things, even though it hurts today.
Park the Lawnmower
At our house, the philosophy is that if it’s something happening to our kids as part of their story, then we don’t hide the information, although we offered only age-appropriate details. For instance, when my kids’ Mamaw was in the hospital, we asked her to let the kids climb up in her bed and tell them what she had told us: “I’ve lived a good long life, and I’m not afraid to go home to heaven. In fact, I’m ready to see Jesus.” Though she lived several more years, I wanted my kids to know how she felt about her death before it happened, by way of equipping their grieving.
Now with my grown-ish kids, when they share a concern, I ask how they’re going to handle it. I also clarify if they just need me to listen or if they want help problem solving. It’s a question I’ve asked since they were little, conveying my belief in them, and reinforcing that I’m their biggest cheerleader.
In hindsight, I’m glad for the times we made them handle their own transactions, ask for help in a store, and do all the “adult” things their senior year in high school, like making doctor appointments, handling car issues, and researching college choices.
Take it from an anti-lawnmower mom whose adult son recently thanked me for teaching him how to handle things on his own.
You, dear mama, can help your kids learn to do hard things.