Lawnmower parents can make even helicopter parents appear relaxed. Lawnmower parents spend the first 18 years of their child’s life smoothing over every problem their child has and mowing down (hence lawnmower parent) all obstacles in their child’s path. Unlike healthy involved parents who listen to their children and give them the space to make mistakes, suffer consequences and allow their children to solve their own problems, lawnmower parents don’t hesitate to push any obstacle their child faces out of his or way, whether the obstacle is another child, a coach, a teacher or anything else that might impede the success of their own child.
When teens leave for college, parents find it harder to helicopter. Lawnmower parents aren’t stopped by distance or anything else. They believe they have worked too hard to get their teen into the right college that they now can mow down people who are in their teen’s path with phone calls, emails, text messages, or veiled threats. The children of these lawnmower parents are poorly equipped to deal with routine growing experiences-a disliked roommate, a bad grade, a professor they don’t like. These teens have been trained to reach out to mom or dad when a problem occurs and sometimes continue to do so in college. They are generally not as happy or independent as their less supervised peers.
But lawnmowering in college tends to backfire. Professors, while used to dealing with students unhappy about a grade or assignment, tend to get upset and angry when parents try to intervene. Many will simply not respond to parents unless or until the student brings the issue to the professor him or her self. Professors, resident hall assistants, health staff, and anyone else on a college campus who is contacted by a parent in a situation that they believe the student should have addressed tends to rebuff the parent, be less sympathetic to the teen, and lose whatever flexibility they may have had about the situation. Hotheaded lawnmower parents who threaten a professor’s career or threaten a lawsuit or otherwise try to intimidate the people who are obstructing their child’s success frequently embarrass their child and make the child appear immature.
Colleges have had a great deal of experience dealing with teens. They are generally well equipped to help students cope without parental intervention. There are situations in which a parent may have to contact the college on behalf of their child-as in the event of a family emergency or major illness. Healthy parents will first contact the dean of students who will help them determine how best to proceed.