By definition, a lawnmower parent is someone who is willing to “mow down” any obstacles their children face so they never actually have to encounter any type of adversity.

This type of parenting is well-intended, of course. No parent wants their child to struggle emotionally or physically. They think that, by being a lawnmower parent, they're protecting their child. After all, if they can benefit from their parent’s experience — and avoid any struggle — why shouldn't we keep them from it?

But is this really what we want to do to best prepare our children to grow up and succeed in this world? I don’t think so. Doing so will mean our kids will lack in problem-solving skills, survival skills and self-preservation skills. Here are some tips.

First, we need to learn to view these obstacles and struggles as opportunities to teach our kids. We can’t always be there to save them, bail them out or rescue them. The goal here is to prepare them ahead of time if they find themselves in a difficult situation. It's also important for parents to remember that, as children develop, many of these challenges and social situations will change, too.

Today's teens face many of the things their parents faced growing up, including conflicts with peers and bullying situations. Maybe they find themselves being followed in the mall or as they leave a store on the way to their ride.  However, they're also dealing with things their parents might not have experienced, including accidentally visiting an inappropriate Internet site or receiving a sext message from a classmate or friend. 

Teach your kids what to do and how to handle this type of situation before they are faced with it. Sit down and talk to your kids about different types of challenges and struggles they might encounter. Let them come up with situations as well. Then, talk to your kids about what to do and why they should do it that way. Maybe it's talking to a trusted adult about something they saw. Or using a phone to call home or finding security somewhere if they feel unsafe. Be sure to give reasons that benefit them — whether it be safety or to succeed in other ways.

So, are we creating a weaker generation? If we continue to solve our kids' problems, the answer is yes.

Parents need to help to create strong, confident and self-assured young people by allowing them to have some life experience that will help them tackle the next obstacle they face. The last thing we want is for our next generation to become overwhelmed with the day-to-day challenges and consider giving up.

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Pat Thomas has more than 30 years of experience working with children and families from many cultures and in many settings around the world. She has worked is various positions at Boys Town as a Family-Teacher, Trainer, and Hotline counselor. Since 2010, Pat has shared her experiences with families who call the Nebraska Family Helpline.

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