Passionate About Pittsburgh
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The Rise of the Lawnmower Parent

It happened again this week. Several times, in fact.

I’m a professor at a well-known local university, and my office is located directly across from the elevators. Because I maintain a literal “open-door” policy for my students, visitors often mistake me for the department secretary, as I am the first person they see when the elevator doors open. At this time of year, the same scenario happens repeatedly:

I’m concentrating on something, but out of the corner of my eye I see the elevator doors slide open. It’s a teenage girl and a middle-aged woman, presumably her mother. The parent walks into my office, with the girl trailing sheepishly behind. The mother says, “My daughter will be starting here in the fall. We’ve got a problem with her class schedule.” I try to make eye contact and address the girl as I politely give them directions to the Office of Student Services down the hall, but it’s the mother who apologizes for interrupting me. They leave my office, Mom leading the way with the class schedule in her hand.

Do you see the problem here? The child has been accepted into a major university and is weeks away from starting a difficult area of study, but it’s her parent who is doing all of the talking to get her problem corrected, while she says nothing and appears to be dragged along against her will.

You’re probably familiar with the term “Helicopter Parents,” where parents hover over their children and swoop in to rescue them at the first sign of trouble. At the college level, the physical presence required to hover may be limited, so we are now observing a different parenting style: “Lawnmower Parents.” These are the parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort.

 

Lawnmower parenting: rushing ahead to remove all obstacles so your child has a smooth path.

Lawnmower parenting: rushing ahead to remove perceived obstacles so your child doesn’t have to deal with them herself.

 

Other variations of this style of parenting include “Snowplow Parents,” “Bulldozer Parents,” and my personal favorite: “Curling Parents,” given the similarity to the Olympic athletes who scurry ahead of the gently thrown stone, frantically brushing a smooth path and guiding the stone towards an exact pre-determined location.

 

Olympic hopefuls or over-involved parents? Image from Vancouver Sun (available at http://www.vancouversun.com)

Olympic hopefuls or over-involved parents? Image from Vancouver Sun (available at http://www.vancouversun.com)

 

All humor aside, this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on your child. Some of these include:

  • She becomes poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences. This includes everything from asking for directions and dealing with an annoying roommate to much broader skills like communicating with superiors, negotiating for something she wants and coping with disappointment.
  • She doesn’t develop a sense of personal motivation or drive, since she only knows how to follow the path that the Lawnmower Parent has already prepared.
  • She can’t make a decision, big or small, without the guidance of others.
  • She constantly receives the message that she isn’t good enough to do this herself. In essence, the Lawnmower Parent is repeatedly demonstrating to the child that she cannot be trusted to accomplish things on her own.

Please consider these additional thoughts from a college faculty perspective:

  • As a result of blatantly abusive behavior of some parents, many universities maintain a policy that all contact from a parent is referred to the administration office. A parent’s request to “just keep this conversation between us” or “don’t tell my daughter that I called you” isn’t likely to be honored, and may actually single your child out to administration for an unflattering reason.
  • There is some information that we legally cannot reveal to you if your child is over 18 and hasn’t granted us permission. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), there are scenarios in which the university cannot release the student’s academic record to the parents, regardless of who is paying the tuition. And guess how I find out what I am permitted to reveal to a parent? I need to contact the school administration (see the previous bullet point).
  • Faculty members are professionals, but if your behavior is threatening, outlandish, repetitive or otherwise inappropriate, there’s a good chance that we’re going to discuss it among ourselves. Your child may quickly gain a reputation within the faculty that is the exact opposite of how you are hoping that she will be received.
  • Faculty are heavily involved in job searches, writing recommendations, making referrals, and so forth. If a parent has been contacting me to “help” her child through my class, how can I honestly rate that student highly on communication, motivation and maturity to a future employer when I haven’t ever seen the student demonstrate those skills?

How can you avoid becoming a Lawnmower Parent?

  • School age kids: start practicing now! Let your kid do the talking as often as possible: ordering at restaurants, asking for directions, or calling a friend on the phone to ask for a playdate instead of arranging it yourself via text message.
  • High school kids: while there is still room for parental involvement at this age, insist that your child attempt all communication 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.
  • Kids of all ages: TRUST your kid to do well, and tell her repeatedly that you believe that she can make good decisions on her own. Give her room to make mistakes, even major ones sometimes, and learn from them together.

As parents, we will inevitably watch our kids struggle, feel uncomfortable and even fail.  As painful as that can be, you aren’t doing your child any favors by trying to shield her from this part of life or solve her problems for her.  Instead, give her opportunities to learn strength and self-confidence, so she can handle future challenges with grace.

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111 Responses to The Rise of the Lawnmower Parent

  1. Anne June 27, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    Fantastic advice!!!! As a parent of 4 grown children..I can look back and see times when I was that “lawnmower parent!” Thankfully they all turned out well. They are all parents now and I want to make sure they all read this post! Thank you..

    • Karen
      Karen June 27, 2016 at 9:59 am #

      Thank you for the kind words, Anne!

  2. Earnestine June 29, 2016 at 2:02 am #

    Awesome job! I’m amazed you have time to do this. This gave me a lot to think about. Keep up the excellent work!

  3. Karen
    Karen June 29, 2016 at 7:10 am #

    Thanks Earnestine!! 🙂

  4. Amy Onifer July 1, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    This is a great post and something I will definitely keep in mind if I get too close to becoming a “lawnmower parent”.

    • Karen
      Karen July 2, 2016 at 6:59 am #

      Thanks Amy!

  5. Char July 1, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    This is all fine and dandy until you end up paying for an extra semester or year of school because the guidance counselor forgot to mention something or didn’t notice this or that class had to be taken in a certain sequence or wasn’t offered. It happened to me as a student and two of my children. Parents should help their kids. If I’m paying the bill I’m going to act like a paying customer.

    • Karen
      Karen July 2, 2016 at 6:59 am #

      Char, I agree that students may need guidance and assistance with complex situations like those that you describe – I’m advocating for students to have even basic problem-solving and social skills. And I would also argue that at the college level, the student is the real customer, not the parents.

      • Christal July 12, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

        Here is where I will totally disagree, yes colleges like to bill it this way, but let’s face it behind every student there is a parent flipping the bill. Yes it is true they want you to leave the kids alone but this is not because they want your kids to grow up, it’s because it’s so much easier to take advantage of young adults who doesn’t know the facts when there are no parents involved. We have 10 kids and our third is entering college. I Definately don’t have time to helicopter mom but we have suffered majorly as a result. And our peers who aren’t helicopter parenting are experiencing the same thing. Whether you are a parent who pays for college or are simply there to be a life vest, these mistakes will ultimately hurt you. Colleges encourage kids to take loans they don’t need behind our backs, graduate dates are delayed simply to get one more semester of tuition, Financial aid is denied because kids don’t know how to dispute it, insurance companies take advantage of young adults. Meanwhile we found out the hard way 18 makes them an adult until something goes wrong, people can still sue you as a parent till your kids are 21. As a society standards have changed. We aren’t raising kids to be adults at 18,we are encouraging college not marriage, these kids aren’t equipped to handle the big world. Maybe as a ba becomes the norm and a masters is the need we need to address “adulthood”

        • Karen Fancher
          Karen Fancher July 12, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

          Christal, you made a lot of accusations about colleges, insurance companies and others in your post. It’s unfortunate that you feel that way, and I truly feel sorry for your children if you are raising them to have those same misgivings about others.

        • SteveM July 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm #

          Char, I Completely agree with you, there is simply too much money as stake not to turn on the lawnmower when needed. Would you gamble with $25,000? That is what an extra year can cost if things go wrong. The more we give kids for loans, the more schools raise tuition and build luxury things students don’t need.

          • Pam Blevins August 6, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

            Sometimes a parent may have to be a lawnmower parent; but they must let the child try first. then step in if necessary. Yes, as a freshman parent, I made my son sign the paper letting me have access to his files. I never had to use it; but it was there. I also taught him how to deal with ‘deals’ and ‘scams” ahead of time. When he got his car, he had to go to the insurance company and get his own insurance. Was I there, yes; but he did it. Now he handles everything on his own and only asks us for advice but not doing it for him. Parents must TEACH their children these things so they can act on their own.

    • Lou July 6, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

      Char, totally agree! Especially for a new freshman college student

    • Leo July 14, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

      I am a college professor and advisor for freshman students. Almost ALL degree programs have a recommended course sequence that is intended as a road map for students with their scheduling. The main problem is students changing majors, failing a class etc…… And that WILL throw off a four year degree. One of the major problems freshmen have is that they don’t know how to take charge of their future by making decisions for themselves. Why? Because their parents don’t allow them the chance to do this.

  6. Michelle July 2, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    Amen to Char!!! my daughter is going through that right now!! My daughter now will be taking an extra full load next year because the counselor messed her up and yes I was the one that noticed. We could have found out next May when she went to graduated and couldn’t. Sorry and yes I do put thousands of dollars into that school for tuition and help pay the salary of that teacher or counselor that doesn’t want to be bothered with a parent asking questions! I do have my daughter take control of everything. She brought the paperwork home and this is when I noticed the counselors big error.

    • Angela July 8, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

      I think the point is that parents need to coach their children and not be the one that is always intervening. They need to learn to stand on their own two feet. One day you won’t be there and they need to become confident in themselves to make things happen.

  7. Karen
    Karen July 3, 2016 at 5:38 am #

    Michelle and Char, while I understand both of your frustrations, I think you both may be missing the point of my post. I randomly chose a scheduling problem as an example of many college students’ inability to even start a conversation with an adult without their parent helping out. I am not by any means suggesting that parents shouldn’t be involved in their children’s struggles – I am merely saying that if there are questions, the STUDENT should be asking them FIRST.

    • Lisa July 5, 2016 at 10:16 am #

      I have been idyll-time faculty at a major state university in CA. I agree whole-heartedly with this observation.

      I think also something that many may have missed in this article is that the author is suggesting is that we teach kids early on how to be responsible for and how to deal with these kinds of situations well before they reach the college/university level.

      Parenting isn’t an easy job and it is not easy to watch your kids “fail.” However, if you consider something as learning a lesson rather than failing, it is much easier to swallow.

      I see this with so many of my students and my heart breaks for those that are so scared to disappoint their parents. Not all kids today are made for college. We are lucky that education is open to everyone however, some kids lack the skills (and I’m not saying academically) and/or desire to be away from home in a college or university environment.

      Also, if your child has some unseen different-ability status and is at a university or college getting connected with Student Services and whatever the equivalent of Disabled Student Services (this is what my University calls it) is key. One of the first stops should be here and get registered and take advantage of the services that are offered.

      My apologies for the long post, I so appreciated your words and hear the concerns of the opposing viewpoints I just wanted to lend another perspective.

      • Lisa July 5, 2016 at 10:17 am #

        Sorry, first line correction: long-time faculty

      • Karen
        Karen July 5, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

        Thank you so much, Lisa.

  8. Kelly July 4, 2016 at 7:49 am #

    That would be “him” or “her” right? *big wink*

  9. Dominique July 4, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    I homeschooled my oldest til highschool. She took a lot of outside courses and has always been independent and a self starter. I involved her in curriculum selection from 5th on and mapping her work, first daily, then weekly etc in stages. She had a very easy and direct report to adults. Two years of public high school have put a dent in that approach. She is now actively avoiding most her teachers. We push kids to take ownership but when they do, what a push back they get!!! or they are simply ignored. She’s gotten to see her counselor when things go wrong bc that’s the only adult she still trusts. When I talk to her peers, they are very dismissive and blasé about their instructors.
    So as much as I completely agree with you, I have come to realize that most teachers do not take kids input seriously unless a parent is behind. It drives me insane. How do we expect kids to own their work if we as adults are so dismissive when they come to us?

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

      Dominique, I am so sorry that the adults involved your daughter’s education are not taking her concerns seriously. There are plenty of us who care, believe me!

  10. Annoyed Parent July 4, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    On paper, this looks like great advice. However, our experience at an expensive private university where our daughter just completed her freshman year did not (unfortunately for me, who would like to pay the tuition bills and stay out of everything else) support the idea that allowing your children to work things out on their own will teach them to advocate on their own behalf, in a system that is skewed towards ignoring all but the squeakiest wheels. Our daughter had successfully negotiated a year at an out of state boarding school and extensive international travel on her own prior to leaving for college, and is no stranger to negotiating on her own behalf.

    During her freshman year, until I finally intervened right at the end of the year, she was subjected to the following experiences at the school we are paying (out of pocket) $65,000/year for her to attend:

    A useless academic advisor who failed to appropriately recommend that she drop a class she was clearly not doing well in right from the start.

    A professor who was polite and professional when my daughter approached him for extra help, but disinterested and ultimately unhelpful. From this she learned that even if you take a class just because the professor is supposed to be great at explaining the subject material, it can hurt your GPA and your chances to get into selective programs on campus.

    A performing arts department that allowed casting for their spring performance to be exclusively based on relationships with the student choreographers rather than ability.

    A student housing system that appeared to be rigged to advantage student athletes and sorority/fraternity members so that, even with an excellent lottery number for second year housing, my daughter was told the night before her draw that there was no on-campus housing left.

    A roommate who got blackout drunk every weekend, and was physically aggressive to my daughter when intoxicated. In spite of the school knowing that the roommate had been arrested twice and required ER treatment three times during the year, there was no administrative intervention. The RA on the hall did not reach out to my daughter to suggest that she request a new roommate and my daughter spent her freshman year babysitting her roommate to make sure she did not come to physical harm while intoxicated, rather than spending the time making friendships with healthier people. After watching her roommate be “passed through” student counseling, my daughter understandably had no faith that seeking counseling for herself would be productive and so could not be convinced to see if that would help her.

    Fascinatingly, after I gave in at the end of the year, and called the housing department and the Dean of Parents to inform them of our displeasure about the value obtained for dollar paid for our daughter’s college experience, additional housing was magically “released” the next day and our daughter ended up with at least decent housing for next year.

    My advice to all of you in academia, who are enjoying nice salaries and a fairly low-stress work environment at the expense of full-tuition-paying parents: we are starting to wise up and notice that it’s not worth paying a quarter of a million dollars a year to educate a child in a system that does not hold itself accountable for delivering a quarter of a million dollar experience. Letting our children advocate for themselves only works in a system that is responsive to teenagers who advocate for themselves. If the system only responds to adults who are engaged and/or annoyed, then that’s what you will get. The alternative is for us to send our children to state universities where they can have the same experience for a fraction of the price.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 4, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

      Your daughter’s experience was very unfortunate, but not typical of a private university (or any university, for that matter). If you don’t feel that school is an ideal environment for her, no one would fault you for going elsewhere. Hoping for better experiences for her in the upcoming year.

      • lesa August 9, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

        actually it’s extremely typical–

    • Sean July 6, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

      “My advice to all of you in academia, who are enjoying nice salaries and a fairly low-stress work environment at the expense of full-tuition-paying parents”… Who are you talking about? I have been a full-time tenured professor at a state college for 25 years and I do not make a living wage because of the anti-intellectual climate in my state. “Low-stress”?? Have you had a student come careening into your office with a gun lately? Or have you had students threaten you because you didn’t overlook their missing most of the class? Have you had a student collapse in your arms saying that she was raped and has no one to call? Have you prepared a seminar based on the idea that your students have actually done the reading, to discover that none of them have? Have you had parents call you once a day to check in on their darlings? I wouldn’t DREAM of calling my daughter’s professors. They are professionals and have jobs to do.

      • Karen Fancher
        Karen Fancher July 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

        Sean, you hit the nail on the head here. Faculty do so much more than sit in our offices with the door closed writing true and false questions…. but because we respect our students’ privacy, our job looks cushy. Thanks!

      • Sreve July 7, 2016 at 2:38 am #

        Well said Sean, 22 years in education 12 as an administrator,, I up and retired to help build a vineyard and winery from the ground up. REASON, I finally grew tired of perfect students as described by even more perfect parents that were coincidently experts in education. Three degrees and state funding cuts in a state ranked 48 in education spending & pay /18th on nationally normed test (mentioned to point out high quality educators, in my state, like most educators, we care greatly) ) because those perfect parents don’t value quality education, correction, paying for quality education and I still make as much in the private sector having no experience other than a willingness to work in the heat and cold and my ability to solve problems and make decisions most based on skills that most likely began at home making those training decisions and lthe earning mistakes, suffering the consequences good and bad. Thank you Mom and Dad.

        • Karen
          Karen July 7, 2016 at 10:44 am #

          Sreve, please let me know where I can find your wine… if I continue in academia, I may need to start drinking more of it! Thanks for your opinions, and good luck in your new venture.

        • Stephanie September 2, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

          Well said.

          People are awfully quick to blame teachers/professors. And the comment about low-stress and good pay–I’d sure like to know where those jobs are!

          As a parent, teacher, and researcher, I know there are both exceptional and crummy people on all sides. Often a civil conversation – one without accusations or assumptions – will resolve most issues.

          (And frankly, it you’re paying $65K for college expecting some sort of magical experience, you may be part of the problem.)

    • Kyle July 13, 2016 at 6:17 am #

      Annoyed Parent, You chose to send your child to a ridiculously expensive school. You had much less expensive alternatives. Considering how you are refusing to take responsibility for your decision, I can see how your child struggles with this as well.

  11. Zoe July 4, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    I have noticed that it is becoming increasingly popular for folks in academia to deplore the fact that parents are involved in their college-aged children’s daily lives. In theory, I agree that such involvement seems to carry a risk of stifling an adolescent’s initiative and engagement in their own college careers.

    But have any of you considered this?

    Private colleges and university tuition has skyrocketed in the last decade and is now at levels where it is comfortably affordable only for the very wealthy. The “student aid” which colleges like to refer to is, in the vast majority of cases, not aid, but non-dischargeable debt which the parents must jointly take on with their child. It is no longer possible for teenagers to work their way through private college in any meaningful way.

    Parents like me must work extremely hard in order to afford to send our children to such schools. In many cases, we are too busy, and the stakes are too high, to allow our children to make a mistake on a class schedule, which then can take hours for the parent to undo, or will have significant impact on the student’s ability to graduate or successfully apply to graduate or professional school.

    It is much more efficient for us to be involved from the beginning, whether we want to or not. Believe me, most of us don’t want to be involved, and we are frustrated and angry about having to be, since for the prices we are paying, we should be able to expect the school to provide a reasonable level of service to the typical teenager who is inexperienced and a little disorganized.

    In my opinion, the basic problem (in addition to the shockingly high price of college these days), is that colleges and employers are expecting our late-teen, early twenties children to function like seasoned professionals when it comes to managing their college experiences. The neuroscience shows that their brains are just not ready to perform at that level, but the educational world seems to expect them to, so unfortunately, we need to get involved to ensure that catastrophic mistakes don’t get made.

    Believe me, I would love to pay a quarter of a million dollars for college and know that I could leave everything up to my child and her private school. But experience has shown that I can’t. We are seriously considering state university for our youngest, since it’s a fraction of the price and we see no discernible difference right now in the product that our daughter is getting compared to our oldest child’s experience at the state university.

    My advice: college professors and administrators need to step up their own game and have some accountability for their product, and spend less time telling tuition-paying parents to butt out. When busy parents feel the need to intervene, the college should be asking itself why that is, and what’s wrong with the value they are offering for tuition dollar paid.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 4, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

      Zoe, I agree with all of your statements about the price of a college education these days. But as I stated in an earlier comment, my choice to write about a scheduling problem was completely random. Parents should certainly be involved (in conjunction with the student) for major problems such as scheduling mistakes, etc. But I would still argue that when the parent of a junior in college calls a professor to complain about the delay in the arrival or her daughter’s sorority sweatpants, that parent is not doing her child any favors (true story from this past semester!).

      • Karen
        Karen July 5, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

        Sorry, I made a typo: when the parent of a junior in college calls a professor to complain about the delay in the arrival of her daughter’s sorority sweatpants, that parent is not doing her child any favors (true story from this past semester!).

    • Mel July 15, 2016 at 8:08 am #

      I am completely in agreement with your assessment and just left my own similar commentary – I’m not even in “the system” yet – two years away – but I find it fascinating that so many people have responded to this article in the same way – don’t you dare tell us we’re a pain in your neck when you’re charging the prices you do.

      • Karen Fancher
        Karen Fancher July 18, 2016 at 8:05 am #

        “don’t you dare tell us we’re a pain in your neck when you’re charging the prices you do.”

        Excuse me, Mel, but this article said nothing of the sort. Please re-read the article in the spirit that it was intended: suggestions for both children and their parents to boost a child’s self-confidence, ease the transition into college and hopefully be more prepared for adulthood.

  12. Nancy July 4, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    What professors may not realize is that many kids today have hidden disabilities and hidden mental illness. A parent isn’t going to go in and say, “My daughter’s bipolar, has ADHD, and extreme executive function deficits, and she wants to try college but I had to push her hard to get out of the house because of her severe anxiety. I’m her partner here, just like Annie Sullivan was Helen Keller’s partner. You can’t see the disability but it’s there.” How is a person supposed to convey this? And if the 18 year old is not ready, but gets more depressed being at home, without the structure of school, what should a parent do?
    This is a genuine question for university professors. There is SO much stigma around mental illness and hidden disabilities. What LOOKS like bad parenting that you want to slap a label on could be incredibly good parenting that involves emotional boundaries and pushing that young person toward greater independence. Compassion and understanding would help.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 4, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

      Nancy, any student with a learning disability, mental illness or physical illness can (and should) meet with the Office of Student Services and have his or her needs documented. Any student with a confirmed diagnosis will have their needs accommodated, often in partnership with the faculty. I get a letter from the office every semester for each student who has confirmed learning disabilities, health issues or other problems, as well as instructions for how I am legally required to meet the needs of these students. If you have such a student, I would strongly encourage you and your child to look into these services.

    • Sean July 6, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

      Every term I receive several letters from our Office of Student Services. We are accustomed to this, and we absolutely recognize the importance of accommodation. We don’t stigmatize a student with an obvious or hidden disability (including in private conversations amongst ourselves); if we did, we shouldn’t be working as professors! I have written glowing and genuine letters of recommendation for my former students with both obvious and hidden disabilities. We understand how it important it is.

      • Karen Fancher
        Karen Fancher July 6, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

        Agreed. I have had several students with documented learning disabilities who went on to be more successful and professional than their counterparts. The key is that these disabilities were recognized, properly documented, and the students were given the services they are entitled to. However, if no one tells me about their hidden disability, I’m not likely to properly identify or accommodate it.

    • Nightshade1972 July 8, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

      I was born with neurological difficulties, and I’ve had multiple brain surgeries. I had to get special permission to graduate both HS and math without the “right” math requirements. When I started college, my parents (particularly my mother) constantly helicoptered, begging to be involved in the “how to excuse my child from college math” process from the get-go. Handicapped Student Services continually recommended courses that were of little to no help, and I had documentation from multiple professors to prove it. When I finally got tired of dealing with it on my own, I gave in and let my parents help. I gave them a thick folder containing all the courses that had been recommended to me, the courses I’d tried, the letters from the professors explaining why those courses weren’t a good fit for me, etc. My mother flatly told me that they weren’t going to “waste their time” helping me, a complete 180 from her previous attitude. When I asked her why, she said it was because I’d “refused” the courses I’d been offered, and if I didn’t care enough to take my advisor’s advice, why should she knock herself out when she had her own full-time job to deal with? I said “What about all the letters from those professors, clearly stating why their course wasn’t a good fit for me?” She said “Oh, I didn’t read those.” I did finally manage to convince my university to let me graduate without the “right” math coursework, but I had to do it all on my own.

      • Nightshade1972 July 8, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

        That should be “special permission to graduate HS and college,” not “special permission to graduate both HS and math.” D’oh!

  13. Al July 4, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    Great article. I have always felt that the primary role of a parent is to send an eighteen year old off to college (hopefully), to the military, or to the working world with the ability to think critically, make sound decisions, and to generally be self sufficient. To achieve this, my wife and I have let our children make age appropriate decisions, communicate for themselves, and have input on the family decision making process. Sometimes this means that we let them suffer negative consequences of a poor decision, but mostly we have been amazed with how they will make the right choice most of the time. We will always be there to intervene if they get over their heads, but our primary role is to guide them to adulthood not drag them to it.. If we lead from the front instead of support from the rear, it makes their personal growth process more difficult.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 4, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

      Thank you!

    • Lucida July 8, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

      @ Al. Bravo! Beautiful statement on how to raise kids. Especially “We will always be there to intervene IF they get over their heads. But our primary role is to guide them to adulthood.”

    • Stephanie September 2, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

      Brilliant.

  14. HLM July 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Great article. I have also needed to address issues of parents over mowing for this kids. I am concerned that you express a view that paints the student/child of this parent in an unflattering way. If the student is laying back letting mommy do all the work I can see how it should reflect badly on her, but that a mom is over stepping bounds should not reflect and be projected on the student. It is possible that mom is calling because said student is tired of having a hovering parent, ignoring them, and parent is desperately trying to gain a semblance of control again.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 4, 2016 at 7:46 pm #

      Yes, agreed! But it is often hard to determine which of the scenarios you described is happening. I hope I could distinguish between the two, but many faculty members wouldn’t want to get involved in a difficult parent-child relationship.

    • Nightshade1972 July 8, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

      This. If my parents are behaving like jerks, but A, I’m not a primadonna and B, I’m frankly embarrassed by their behavior, the professors should hold my parents in disdain, not me. At least most of my professors were willing to look at me as an individual, and not hold my parents’ behavior against me.

      • Lucida July 10, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

        Well stated, NIghtshade. In high school many kids need parental advocacy. But at some point don’t “young adults” (AKA college students) need to distance themselves from direct parental intervention?

  15. Carol July 4, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    My son experienced a scheduling nightmare as a freshman. He didn’t want to talk to anyone about initially. I did convince him to call, helped him write down what he needed to say and he made the call and held the conversation. It was an important step that helped him gain confidence as he headed into college. I find I am his biggest advocate as others have mentioned. He brings his question to us and often we guide on the side. His freshman orientation when they talked to the parents they said our role is changing to being a “coach”. I think that is a great description of how we are supporting him in college – he has to do the talking but sometimes he needs some coaching on who or where to go for the information. It is great advice to start having the kids od the talking – we did gradual release during high school, freshman year it was you talk first then we will call, each year we held back a little more and senior year it was his job to talk and take care of things. While I didn’t always agree with his decisions I felt if it was not going to harm him he had to start learning how to make decisions and accept the consequences.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 4, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

      Carol, both you and your son should be very proud of how you handled this situation. You are providing him with opportunities to learn confidence and problem-solving skills. I absolutely LOVE the concept of the parent as a “coach” – I will be suggesting this concept to my own university! Thanks!

  16. Nancy Morgan July 5, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    When my daughter was in college, PENN STATE, she had a roommate problem. Her roommate allowed a boy to live in the room, take showers in their shower, walk around naked, have sex with the girl, etc. They was the first weekend. He never left the dorm. When I complained, they told me to butt out. My daughter ended up dropping out of school because she couldn’t live that way. So after three weeks of this she dropped out and we were out three thousand dollars! I wasn’t allowed to be a parent and this was back in the 80’s. Now she would like to teach, but never got her degree. She is going back to college now, and she is facing the same thing with her college kids. They, however, suffer from depression, which makes life difficult for success. Both of her girls needed help and did not get it. Now they attended graduation, but did not get their degrees because of administrative problems. I wish she had been more of a helicopter parent. I hope they manage to somehow get it all straightened to and actually receive their diplomas. You would think when one is paying $40,000 for an education they would somehow make sure the kid graduates and doesn’t just attend the ceremony. They both slipped through the cracks. Colleges are way too liberal and their faculty is not doing their job if they allow this to happen. What a lousy advisor they both had. Two different advisors. That’s $80,000 down the drain!

  17. Lauren July 5, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    I find it hilarious/sad/enlightening that many of these comments are from defensive parents who see themselves in the examples you offered. They want to offer personal anecdotes to excuse their behavior and rationalize their lawnmowing. If you found yourself saying “But my kid…but I had to…but…” while reading this article, you are part of the problem. We know you love your kid, but newsflash: kids must grow up, and if they can’t self-advocate make adult decisions, your 18 to 22 year-old should not be in college.

    • Karen
      Karen July 5, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

      Yes Lauren, it has definitely been interesting to hear all of the different perspectives offered here. Thank you for your insight.

    • Laurie July 6, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

      Agreed. The reality presented in the article is how this type of parenting behavior is perceived, whether these parents or others think it is justified or not. Real world talk. I was fortunate to have parents who were hands off unless they could see a serious need for intervention. They may have not gotten it right all the time but I was able to figure out the basics of being an adult quickly compared to a lot of young adults I see these days.

      • Karen Fancher
        Karen Fancher July 6, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

        Thanks Laurie!

  18. Parenttoo! July 6, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    So when our parents generation turned 18 they were 100% on their own either working, in the military, or in college. With our generation when we turned 18 most of us had little help during college from our parents. I know I went to a private college, worked 2 jobs to pay for it, was top of my class, and didn’t need my parents at all for help. When I needed extra help in a class, I got a tutor, scheduling issue, registrar! Anyway, I’m not that old even only 33 and all my friends were the same, our parents didn’t hold our hands and fix our problems. And now all the sudden kids at 18 years old are ill-equipped to navigate the potential problems of college all by themselves? Come on! Some 18 year Olds are fighting wars, some are working 12 hour days living on their own or already supporting their own children. An 18 can handle their own life, offer support and guidance yes but as parents we should not be fixing their problems for them. When will it end? Will you be calling their employer in 5 years to explain that they’re ill and can’t come into work? I am a parent too and I know it’s hard but it’s our job to make sure our children can solve their own problems and be productive citizens without us!

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 6, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

      YES. Two generations ago, 18 year old boys were being drafted and sent to war in Europe or Russia. When (and if) they came home, they married, worked jobs and had children all before they turned 25. And now suddenly, an 18 year old can’t be expected to ask for directions on a college campus. How did we let this become acceptable?

  19. Ann July 6, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    It’s definitely a fine line between being a lawn mower parent and an edger, as sitting on the edge ready to cut in when necessary!! I think that there are some things that kids need to learn and that I’m even still learning into my fifties and that is how to handle people and situations where some worker’s or administrator’s incompetence can end up causing major problem and $$$. being able to anticipate ahead of time how to handle the potential problems and costs involved may require guidance from a seasoned adult. college is just one small example where a so-called guidance counselor gave very erroneous information and ended up costing potentially 8 to $9,000 in one semester so in terms of being able to handle a situation like that it’s difficult. After sending 3 kids thru college i was disappointed to see 2 out of 3 admissions process as being totally a nightmare with many mistakes that took hours on the phone between us. We had to play tag team. I was sitting in a chair nearby when a lady in the bursars office belittled a student i didn’t even know, and i could see where that was going so i stepped in to help her. She made a comment to the student look I’m 43 you’re 18 I think I know what I’m talking about, but she ended up being wrong. I think that helping the kids learn how to handle complicated situations is important these days due to so many people who do just enough to get by and could careless about their jobs, same goes for handling health insurance claims. Kids aren’t likely going to run into those kinds of complicated costly problems till they are a little bit older. I still seek advice and help from my parent who is 83!

  20. Susanne July 6, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    Some commenters have deliberately missed the point. Even in most High Schools, and even in many Middle Schools, classes are offered in sequence. If parents help their children to self–advocate(sometimes with a script, as described, or literally holding hands, as I have done with my girl), they learn about CATALOGUES, prerequistes, and finding out about limited offerings. You can prepare your soon to be legally liable adult how to work though theoretical situations like CRAZY roommates, professors who are jerks, to get involved with a service organization where they can meet upperclassmen who know the school. You can teach them to document a complaint chain and how to find out what the next level of authority is to take it further. You can teach them to break problems down into steps, and demonstrate yourself how to step back and breath to think better, and very importantly, you can demonstrate that you need to ask for help, it is okay to ASK, and ask early, and search for other solutions if the obvious place for help is a dead end. I condemn no one, but truly believe that this professor has a valid point.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 6, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

      Thank you for helping to articulate my point, Susanne! Kudos for you for parenting your daughter in this manner.

    • Meg July 8, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

      Absolutely, Susanne. The summer before my freshman year of college, I sat down with the school catalogue and picked out the courses I’d need. It outlined everything I needed to know about the required classes I needed both within my majors as well as the core courses required by all students to graduate. My parents didn’t help me. If I didn’t get into a class, I figured out what to take in its place also by using the catalogue. This was before registering online was an option; we had go around collecting signatures from professors in order to be registered for their classes. I also attended an expensive private school, and because I understood that it was expensive and that screwing up might my jeopardize my scholarship/grant money, I made it my business to know what I needed to take to graduate.

      I also find it hard to believe that counselors/advisors at the college level are so inept. My advisors knew what I needed to take and made suggestions about my schedule as needed. It sounds to me like there is something going on with the student– perhaps the student isn’t paying attention, asking questions, or listening to the advice? I’ve certainly dealt with students who hear only what they wish to hear and then go on doing whatever they wish despite my suggestions/warnings as their teacher.

      As a former student, I don’t understand why any self-respecting young adult would want his/her parents involved to such an extreme degree, and I also don’t get it in my current position as a high school teacher. I would have been mortified if my parents had gotten involved with my schooling by talking to my teachers, and I was not a student with As in every subject. I wanted to work things out for myself, and I’ve always been grateful that my parents raised me to be independent and to take care of myself. I appreciated that they let me figure things out on my own. I fail to see how depending on one’s parents as a young adult has any appeal; that was considered embarrassing “in my day” (Gen X).

    • Lucida July 8, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

      Beautiful post, Susanne. Parents need to make their kids aware of “the territory” before they get there. Help them know what they need to avoid, who they should talk to, etc. Teaching kids to be “street smart” (even if they’re on bucolic university campus).

  21. Deedee July 6, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    So… I’m perusing thru the comments on here.

    Listen, parents… you better teach your kids to deal with real life issues now because you’re not going to be around forever.

    As a parent of a special needs kid? I WANT her to be independent. She is in therapy so she can learn to live a productive life, and take care of herself. So, when I see parents who are not encouraging life skills or general independence? It’s perplexing to me. I don’t get it.

    You cripple your children if you don’t allow them to deal with situations and make mistakes.

    That doesn’t mean you don’t help them or protect them if they need help. It means that you let them make their own mistakes. You let them suffer the consequences of their own actions. You allow them to make choices and decisions independently of you.

    At least teach them to interact with others.

    An 18-year-old kid should be able to walk into a college and speak to admissions or a professor without your help, generally speaking.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 6, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

      Thank you so much, Deedee. Blessings to both you and your daughter.

  22. Nora Kelly July 6, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    Great advice! We were not helicopter parents, for the most part. Things were not perfect, but in the end all my kids are very productive, law abiding, employed and medically insured citizens! Can’t ask for anything more.

    My-the way, I’m a Duquesne grad – Nursing ’77.

    • Nora Kelly July 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

      Ooops – By-the-way…

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 6, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

      Nora, congratulations on raising successful and healthy kids, and thank you for the feedback. Look me up the next time you are on campus! 🙂

  23. April July 6, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    This is so encouraging! It is so hard to not be this parent. I try and let my 3 year old do as much as he can by himself. We let him order at restaurants. You never know what they can do by themselves until you let them do it! He is only 3 I know, but he is seeking independence right now and I am working really hard to cultivate it. This parenting thing is hard stuff!

    • Karen
      Karen July 7, 2016 at 10:45 am #

      Keep up the good work, April! 🙂

  24. April July 7, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    I think this is an excellent post. I read through many of the comments (but not all) and what I find disheartening is that for those who disagreed with this article – among those I read, of course – the main opposition came down to cost.

    A university education is expensive, but there are lower cost alternatives. Moreover – while it may be difficult to foot the bill, which is more important? Saving money or preparing your child for a lifetime and a future in which you may not always be present? Also, I question the priorities of sending your child to a more expensive institution yet simultaneously setting her or him up to fail. Why not just decrease your costs – by sending them to a less expensive program, having them get a job to chip in on expenses, etc. – and setting them up to take ownership of their own lives?

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 9, 2016 at 7:19 am #

      Thanks April! The cost of college education is a topic in itself… but I agree that paying more may not always be necessary or preferable. I’m simply advocating for college students to be prepared to handle their own problems, no matter which school the student attends or who pays for it.

  25. J Whitehorn July 7, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    I’ve been that obnoxious parent before, as well as the frustrated administrator. I didn’t enjoy either position.
    But here’s the deal.
    From the moment our children begin to feed, dress, and clean themselves, we have to determine how much autonomy is appropriate for any given situation. We are constantly balancing our own needs with theirs, and if we’re lucky, we have positive role models, ones who taught us how to project outcomes, adapt to circumstances, and find compassionate, mutually-respectful compromises. If we’re REALLY lucky, we have a support group that complements our skills, kicks in childcare, and grants us space occasionally for self-reflection, creative expression, and intellectual exploration.
    But the vast majority of us are not so lucky.
    We’re raising our kids solo or in nuclear families (what anthropologists have called the biggest experiment in human history). We’re time-stressed. We’re insecure in myriad ways, made anxious by a 24/7 media focus on threat — local and global, personal inadequacy, and the not-coincidental removal of unions, pensions, and other economic safeguards, plus the fact that we are living longer in a society that abandons its elderly.
    We’re dependent on sick-making fuels and foods, we’re medicating our dissatisfaction with anti-depressants, drugs, and shopping, and even those employed with benefits (fewer and fewer of us) are not using all their allotted vacation time. If we do occasionally hear the deep, atavistic call for meaning, we’re only a click away from a lightning sale or one more billable hour.
    Is it any wonder children are staying children longer, and parents afraid to cut the strings?
    But we don’t have to settle for this mess.
    We CAN get more time and security back in our lives, and do the best thing for our kids by making it a better country to grow up and old in.
    Let’s start with paid parental leave and free college education, for example. If Sweden can do it, so can we.
    But first, we need to stop hating the player, and focus on the game.

  26. Lori July 7, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    Hi Karen.

    Really appreciated your article.

    The solution you have outlined here is contained in the Leadership principle “Decentralization of Command”. I learned of it in the book “Extreme Ownership…” written my Navy SEAL officers Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Their book was targeted to businesses but I’m looking to re-write it targeting parents.

    If you would be interested in collaborating, please let me know, and I will go into more detail.

    (P.S. I’m also a big Sting fan! ?)

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 9, 2016 at 7:09 am #

      Thanks Lori!

  27. JC July 7, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

    Just FYI, FERPA applies to all students, not just those older than 18. If a professor has a student who is a legal minor, the professor still is not supposed to interact with parents unless a waiver has been signed. (With esp. young students, administrations will often strongly encourage the student to sign a FERPA waiver, even though legally it’s a strange kind of permission, given that the student isn’t really legally authorized to sign on his/her own behalf. But that is how I’ve seen it handled in the past.) A student being 17, which many are, doesn’t necessarily mean a professor must interact with mom and dad. (Let’s not just stigmatize mothers, here.)

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 9, 2016 at 7:06 am #

      Thanks for the clarification, JC!

  28. Lucida July 8, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    Great article, Karen!

    One of our sons went to an Ivy, the other to a prestigious art school. Yes, we shelled out big bucks for their education.

    BUT our role was to keep abreast of what was happening by talking with them. And offer advice if needed. So that THEY could advocate for themselves with their schools and professors. (Which made them appear “adult when talking to adults.”

    Absolutely: “Parents of “school age kids: start practicing now!” 1) We always deferred to our sons when a “grown-up” would ignore them and address me. 2) Recently my 11 yr old neighbor held her ground with the person who was trying to coerce her into buying a particular brand of ballet shoes. Her mom just stood back and let her daughter take over the conversation. Because the girl had both earned the money to buy her shoes and knew more about shoes than her mom. So proud of them!

    I recall, back in the ’80s the word was “empowerment.” Guess that shaped my parenting.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 9, 2016 at 7:07 am #

      Thank you so much, Lucida. Yes, “empowerment” is definitely a term I was going for with this post!

  29. Jimmy July 8, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

    Good article – thanks! Wish there were more like this and, obviously, more people with their head on straight.

    You’ve been very diplomatic in your article and your advice / replies to comments. That’s also the right way to go about it, but it’s clear some people need more help. (Ha… Yes, help.)

    Put simple: It’s okay to ask your children (let’s call them that since that’s how parents are treating them) how things are going or what’s going on; but it’s not okay to go do things for them that they so obviously should be doing on their own. It’s totally embarrassing. Then these parents wonder why their kids have issues down the road.

    Even high school — let your kids figure it out. Their old enough to drive cars, have sex and drink booze (illegally, but still do) and yet they can’t figure out what course to take AND obviously can’t even make the schedule changes on their own once they do know?

    Let’s be honest here, it’s just pathetic.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 9, 2016 at 7:09 am #

      Thank you, Jimmy.

  30. Chris 'Bird' T. July 9, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

    This is nice for parents to know, but what if you were a child of such a parent, as I can relate to. How can you recover from this?

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 10, 2016 at 7:20 am #

      Chris, if you are asking how a child of a lawnmower parent can recover his confidence, my advice would be to practice, practice, practice. Being able to speak for yourself and handle your own problems is not a skill that can be learned overnight (nor should it be). Take every opportunity to practice conversation and confidence, and give yourself plenty of forgiveness if it is awkward or unsuccessful at first.

      Also, faculty and others who work at universities completely understand what a challenging time this is in a young adult’s life. I would suggest that you think about the adults you’ve interacted with at your school and identify a few that you like and trust as a person. It doesn’t have to be a professor, it could be an organization advisor, upperclassmen, etc. Whoever you identify, consider approaching them as a mentor (there is a big difference between the advisor you have been assigned and a mentor). Explain your concerns and what you want to accomplish to this trusted person. Over time, the mentor can help you identify your own areas of weakness and how to address them, as well as give you honest feedback about your progress.

      Kudos to you for wanting to improve yourself and your confidence! I wish I had more students like you. Best of luck!

      • Lucida July 10, 2016 at 9:11 am #

        Beautifully stated, Karen. Focus on the solution, not just the problem.

        • Karen
          Karen July 11, 2016 at 7:05 am #

          Thank you so much, Lucida!

  31. Michele July 10, 2016 at 3:04 am #

    Yes, our son had to take extra courses because of bad advice and having had three advisors…this seems to happen pretty often. Or maybe it is just a common excuse, since every course needed for each major is in the course book we were given freshman year…either way, the deal with our son was we would pay for four years except for classes with grades below a B. That’s a lot better deal than his dad and I got. So he paid for his fifth year and his classes that he got below a B. He dealt with issues from the admin and registrars office each semester. He had good professors, was mostly taught by grad students in actuality, and had many adjunct instructors who didn’t even have an advanced degree. He came out ahead in some of these dealings and seemed unfairly treated in others, but he handled it all himself. He learned a lot about the way life works. We paid $80,000. We knew going in that’s what it would be, so we didn’t worry about advocating for our money. We did give advice when asked, and we listened a lot…even when we had a lot to do, even when it was past our bedtimes. (Why did he always start deep conversations at 11pm for the love of God??) The one thing we didn’t give him an excuse to do was quit when the going got rough. We told him it wouldn’t change our love for him if he quit, but we wouldn’t be supporting him either, so he’d have to look into whether he could live the way he wanted without a degree. He graduated this spring, found his own job which starts this fall, signed his own lease. He asked for more money to move, we told him to get a summer job. He did. We love him with all of our hearts and are so proud of him, but we never wanted to raise him to be dependent on us. No amount of money would have been worth that cost. So saying you are advocating for your money at the cost of your child’s ability to navigate in this unfair and complex world just falls flat as an argument with me.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 10, 2016 at 7:08 am #

      Michele, kudos to you for so many things here: sticking to the deal you had made about your son’s grades, not giving him excuses, letting him work his problems out on his own, and most of all loving him no matter what.

      Your final sentence gets it exactly right: “saying you are advocating for your money at the cost of your child’s ability to navigate in this unfair and complex world just falls flat as an argument.” Thank you!!

      • Michele July 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

        Thanks for your reply!

    • Lucida July 10, 2016 at 8:58 am #

      @ Michele. Wisdom from your note.

      !) “(Why did he always start deep conversations at 11pm for the love of God??”)

      I know… They didn’t teach us this in Parenting 101.

      2) “He graduated this spring, found his own job which starts this fall, signed his own lease. He asked for more money to move, we told him to get a summer job. He did.”

      I’m laughing. He should have expected this from you. (Or, maybe he thought it would be a loan he would repay?)

      We “floated” interest-free loans for our kids for college. We paid “then”, but they had to pay us back. No free ride, sweetie. Q: Why do parents assume they have to re-mortgage their home and they end up paying the bank? No, honey. You need to pay us back, so we can pay the bank back.

      PS: Ironically, we didn’t want our sons to work during college. College WAS their work. Lose your scholarship b/c you work at Kinko’s and are too tired write a paper? No. No. No again. (These are the kind of conversations we’d have at 11 PM. We actually calculated how their tuition cost per hour vs. how much they’d earn at Kinko’s per hour. Darlin’ you can’t earn enough at Kinko’s to risk losing your scholarship. Write that paper!)

      3) “We love him with all of our hearts and are so proud of him, but we never wanted to raise him to be dependent on us.”

      Wholeheartedly agree. We raised our sons to be “inter-dependent” with us.

      We are here in a heartbeat. Talk to us when you need us. Career change? Talk to us. Buying a house? Talk to us.

      But after college would a Lawnmower parent demand to talk to their child’s boss about a salary raise? Or to their landlord about a rent increase? How embarrassing and demeaning would THAT be to your child?

      4) No amount of money would have been worth that cost.”

      Good distinction: Money vs. Cost. Well said. 🙂

      5) “Saying you are advocating for your money at the cost of your child’s ability to navigate in this unfair and complex world just falls flat as an argument with me.”

      Repeat after me: “Money vs. Cost. Money vs. Cost. Money vs. Cost.”

      Well said, Michele. 🙂

      • Michele July 11, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

        Thanks Lucinda! Nice to know others have been there too. I hope he keeps talking to us…but a little earlier in the day would be nice! 🙂

  32. Tina July 10, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    There are parents now who will call my place of work, wanting us to interview their child for a job, with the parent(s) present at the interview. No. Sir or Ma’am, if your child cannot handle a basic job interview alone, they won’t be able to handle the basic job alone. You can’t do either for them.

    • Karen
      Karen July 11, 2016 at 7:07 am #

      Thanks Tina, I have heard that this style of parenting occasionally carries on even after college. Wow.

  33. bfwebster July 10, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

    Back in 1971, my parents drove me up to college (about 700 miles from our house) the start of my freshman year, let me drag my stuff into the dorms, took me out to dinner one last time, and drove home the next morning, God bless them. I was on a full scholarship, so it fell to me to go to the admissions office to see about my tuition and living expenses. My tuition was automatically credited, but the office gave me the balance in cash — which was to pay for my dorm for the whole semester. It was only $450 (roughly equivalent to $2700 today — which is still incredibly cheap for a semester of room and board), but it was more cash than I had even held in my life. I was slightly nervous walking across campus (at Brigham Young University — yeah, big risk) with that much cash in my pocket, but I felt like an adult for the first time in my life.

  34. Karen
    Karen July 11, 2016 at 7:08 am #

    Yes, times sure have changed! Thanks for the insight 🙂

  35. Reed July 11, 2016 at 7:20 am #

    Dear Karen,
    You have written an excellent post. I have encouraged my children to do things WAY outside of their comfort zone (You have a fear of marketing? Let’s go knock on some doors. I will be on one side of the street, you can be on the other.) I have encouraged them to try things that they will fail at…initially. The only way that you can get better, is to learn how to do things after you have failed, and constantly keep improving.

    I don’t believe that making it, “easy” for children teaches them anything. I am reminded of the chicken egg. If a chicken egg is close to hatching, and it starts to peck on the shell, and you try to, “help” the chick by breaking it open…that chick will soon die. It is by the effort of cracking open its own shell and literally fighting for its life that the chick develops the muscles to live.

    Keep on reminding students that they are responsible for their own lives. They have one life to live, live abundantly, fearlessly, and with zest (just not on their credit cards.)

    Brilliant!

    • Karen
      Karen July 12, 2016 at 7:54 am #

      Thank you so much, Reed! Great job in raising your own children to be confident and self-sufficient.

  36. Paul July 14, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    One more for your list from my genius wife. Starting in middle school she established the policy of our daughter having to complete all admin paperwork and only present it to us for signatures. Great preparation

    • Karen
      Karen July 14, 2016 at 11:01 am #

      Paul, this is brilliant! Please let your wife know that I am very impressed with her 🙂

  37. Barbara Delia July 14, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    Great information that provides analysis of our childrens’ lives, with our guidance, (past), challenges of the present with independence, mobility, and advocacy, (spinal cord injury, wheelchair rider), and now our vision of parenting styles our children’s parenting on our Grands (future). Personality had a great reaction to our guidance. Independence was primary for our children, with one standing on their own two feet and addressing issues in an adult way through high school, college and beyond. Our other child took advantage of independence by making wrong choices from junior high through the present (38 yrs. old). Family counseling with our child with difficulties, made clear that teaching right from wrong, providing a positive example and loving environment doesn’t ensure that the “right” choices will be made. Consequences that aren’t good due to choices made are difficult to watch your child live through, but living your child’s life isn’t possible. We learned to appreciate the efforts of parents, without good results, as we always would question why didn’t their parents teach them better? One child bloomed beautifully and the other chooses to repeat choices that affects life negatively. Not all children/adults learn from their bad choices, even when facing the consequences they don’t like. We learned that many parents are teaching the right things, so I never assume “It’s the parents’ fault when bad behavior is witnessed.
    Out of 4 Grands only one I’m concerned with the “lawnmower” parenting style. The stifling of verbal independence is a concern. Not knowing how to order the food, that he will eat even fast food. Then refusing to eat any food since even taking stuff off burgers won’t make a difference.
    Somehow there’s comfort in “Mom always takes care of Everything”? He has anger responses to teachers’ requests to get the pencil out to do some work and refuses. I’m worried that not promoting his independent decisions in simple things at home, creates this anger even though he appears to be enjoying being under control with Mom? Where he should have simple input, he doesn’t stand up for himself, and where he Shouldn’t have any input he stands firm.
    Thanks for providing good information to help children grow up knowledgeable with confidence and independently tackle issues.

  38. Tosha July 14, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    Such good perspective and advice, but why all the exclusively female pronouns? Do you not see the same with boys? I feel like I do…

    • Karen
      Karen July 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

      Tosha, this definitely happens with boys, but much more often with girls in my experiences at the college level. And purely from a writing perspective, it was a lot more straightforward to just say one pronoun instead of switching back and forth 🙂

  39. Dana S July 14, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

    Awesome post Karen! Great things to keep in mind as I try to master the art of parenting.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 15, 2016 at 7:21 am #

      Thank you, Dana!

  40. Mel July 15, 2016 at 8:03 am #

    While I wholeheartedly join in the chorus opposing helicopter and/or snowplow and/or lawn mower parenting generally, I think institutions of higher education need to, frankly, stuff it already with criticizing their students’ parents in public like this and here’s why: college education has gotten so utterly ridiculously expensive that it’s now a “luxury product” – even for rich people, though rich people can afford it more easily than most. Anyone buying a luxury product expects luxury level service and customer appreciation. Telling the person who is writing you and your employer $70k checks every year for four years that they’re a pain in the neck and should back off hardly is luxury service. I would NEVER put a luxury product in my 18-21 year old’s hands without a hell of a lot of strings attached.

    I think every college student has an obligation to take primary responsibility for getting the most out of their education, but I am hearing from a lot of parents, who have sent their kids to a variety of high priced private colleges, that they’re anywhere from disappointed to disgusted with the level of responsiveness they’re getting from the administration at those school. Are their expectations/demand reasonable? I think the answer to that depends on how much they’re paying for that education.

    So, I feel myself firing up to be perceived as a “parent from hell” when my kids get to college because I’ll be expecting return phone calls and frankly, a fair amount of sucking up from the schools happy to take my money, but failing to take responsibility for making sure my kid gets the classes she needs to graduate in four years, or for informing her – at least once – about key deadlines coming up, or ensuring she gets the housing she’s eligible for (and ENOUGH with the luxury buildings, please!) etc., etc.

    I think it’s fascinating that so many other responses to this article express similar sentiments to mine. Higher Education better get the message ASAP: force us to pay ridiculous prices for an education, and expect very high expectations from the parents in return. And, we’re willing and able to be “squeaky wheels” about it because it’s not enough to be an academic in an ivory tower when you’re charging that much for your services. Sorry, it’s just not.

    • Karen Fancher
      Karen Fancher July 18, 2016 at 8:07 am #

      Mel, I think it’s fascinating that despite being two years away from having a child in college, you are already planning and making excuses for your behavior as a “parent from hell” (your words). As a parent myself, my heart breaks for your child. I sincerely hope you will consider teaching him or her the confidence and problem-solving skills he or she will need to succeed as an adult, regardless of how much his or her education costs.

  41. JD July 16, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

    My child has a disability. The disability mostly effects her social skills & ability to communicate. She also had social anxiety. She see 3 therapists who are trying to teach her these skills – which I thought the school would have done since this was mostly the only thing on he IEP. [She’s bright. Was in the school’s gifted program.]

    If I’m not involved when things come up that she doesn’t have the skills to handle… Well, give me an idea that doesn’t involve being a lawnmower parent. Should I say no when she musters up the courage to ask me to intervene on her behalf? She signed an educational power of attorney at 18 because she knows she needs help.

    BTW, we are working with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation so she can have a professional job coach when she graduates and starts interviewing. I would love a resource that’s not me.

  42. Karen Fancher
    Karen Fancher July 18, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    JD, this post was not aimed at college students with disabilities – I was referring to students without disabilities who have not been given a chance to develop these skills, but it sounds like your child is in a different situation entirely. Please review some of the prior comments regarding working with your child’s college to make sure she gets the services she is entitled to. And please have faith that in a situation such as you describe, faculty are more than willing to work with parents to get the student the services they need. Blessings to both you and your daughter.

  43. Shannon R. July 21, 2016 at 6:59 am #

    Last year my son in 8th grade was told ion parent/student night. If they have a problem, question, need help etc. to come to her directly; don’t send a parent in to do what you are capable of doing yourself. If we can’t settle it, then we can both ask the parent to join the conversation. I wanted to stand up and applaud her as a mom and former educator. Too many parents are coddling their children now a days. We have kids who won’t take responsibility, who won’t read a syllabus themselves, who expect mom and dad to rescue them, and even parents who will lie to excuse why an assignment isn’t turned in on time. This is real life. Time to let them grow up and experience it before a job when their financial lively hood doesn’t depend on it. Some parents will say well the teacher is moody and not approachable, well guess what maybe their future boss won’t be either or a colleague that they have to work with and complete a project. I’ve taught my son now 13 that he is responsible to know the syllabus for a project. That he is responsible to ask for clarification that might affect his grade. That he needs to recognize when a group member is slacking and either address it with his peer, bring the issue before his teacher, or be willing to pick up the slack even if it isn’t his responsibility. You may be thinking, your kid is only in 8th grade you have no reality of paying another semester of college. You are correct I haven’t, but also I won’t. My child will pay that extra semester weather their fault for not asking or someone else’s fault for not informing. It is life. It is a lesson that they will be stronger after going through it. It’s not harsh parenting. It is preparing my kids that life isn’t always fair and their own decisions aren’t always the best, but it is how you come through it that really matters.

    • Karen
      Karen July 21, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      Shannon, I’d like to stand up and applaud both you and your child’s teacher. Your son is very fortunate to have both of you and your sensible approach to teaching him problem-solving skills. Keep up the great work!