What’s This Obsession with Parent-Shaming Labels?


I thought the movement was to lessen the labeling and parenting-style name calling, but here we go again. Another rotary-blade based moniker has entered the mix, and I’m over it. I’m tired of all these mechanical pigeonholes of parenting practices. Every parent has their own style and brings their own recipe to the mix. Current culture has this whole mind your own business when it comes to what others do attitude, and then a rabid attack mode occurs when someone steps outside of the in-the-moment popular opinion. Just follow most comment threads on social media and you’ll see this point proven again and again. 

So the most recent shame-calling choice has been the unveiling of the lawnmower parent. I’m sure all moms and dads who have encountered this new label took a glance to see if they carried the qualities of the latest plague that leaves children unable to form into positively functioning adults. You know what, I’m tired of it. 

I don’t need some newfound term leaving me questioning my parenting decisions. Doesn’t every positive parenting boon come from going with your gut? Why are we letting label filter stand in our way?

Shortly after the unveiling of the latest blade-based branding, my instincts were put on pause. 

As I hobbled my surgery booted foot up to the bus stop while sporting a flu-induced fever (because the world doesn’t stop just because Mama is down for the count), my kindergartner comes flying off the bus barely holding it together, beelines into my awkward cane-crouched squat of a hug, and breaks into an indiscernibly sobbing mess. 

His seatmate was purposefully blocking him from moving into the aisle to exit. Sounds like a petty incident, right? Well, to the 5-year-old who’s only ridden a school bus for all of 3 or 4 weeks, it was terrifying. If he can’t get into the aisle, he can’t get off the bus. If he can’t get off the bus, he can’t get to his mom. If he can’t get to his mom… And the anxiety-building list goes on and on until said seatmate ends what I hope was a light-hearted joke that surely only lasted seconds but felt like an eternity to a tired kindergartner who was just ready for a hug from Mama and an afternoon snack. 

Once I was able to piece together this incident over said snack, I had to determine what to do with it. Trust me, mind like a steel trap, this one. Lots of Mama Bear options ran through my flu-ravaged mind, but we talked about kind ways to ask someone to move, how funny to one person doesn’t always mean funny to another, and when our words and actions don’t work, asking for help.

Then I started the debate, is there another step? Do I say something to the bus driver who knew he was upset because I heard her ask if he was okay as he tore down the bus stairs? Do I put it on the teacher’s radar in case an incident occurs on the way to school that sets a negative tone for the entire day? Does touching base with either of these people make me “that” parent? Am I setting the blades of labeling in motion?

I was setting my instincts aside to determine whether reaching out would cause me to be viewed as a helicopter or a lawnmower or some other parent-shaming rotor. Then I realized, I’m pretty sure I’m just an old-school colander.

Since school has started, we’ve talked through other challenging pieces that have happened with hurt feelings on the playground or asking for direction as school routines are learned, but this felt bigger. This was fear; not hurt feelings or uncertainty. You see, I get that there is a lot in this world he’s got to navigate on his own. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that he’s a pretty go with the flow kind of kid, but it’s these early years and the big lessons and strategies where I want him to feel supported.

My husband and I let the small things trickle through, but we help our kids work through the big stuff. Not a helicopter or a lawnmower, but more of a colander. No mechanics needed, just a stable foundation to help develop a positive inner voice and toolkit for navigating the big hurdles. We don’t want our kids’ inner voices to be formed by watching the bully get his way on the playground or by watching fictional scenes play out on screens. We want kindness and communication to pave the way when it comes to problem-solving. 

So I sent a quick email because as a former teacher, I would’ve wanted to know. It was appreciatively received. And I thanked the bus driver for noticing he was upset the day before as I told her what had happened, and she thanked me for sharing because she had been concerned. No big hoops, just simple communication. 

So if you spot a mom at the next costume party wearing a colander for a hat with a few feathers or pipe cleaners stuck in it, that’s likely me or one of my fellow partners in parenting crime. There’s no motor required. Just a steadfast love for our kids, and a hope that we can be there to help them develop the tools and strategies for positively navigating the big stuff. 

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Lani is relatively new to Cincinnati, and after living in Columbus for nearly three decades, she’s glad to be back in the Buckeye State! Keeping all wheels turning with her family of five serves as her full-time job, but she stays active with her teaching background by blogging and freelance writing for several education companies. When she’s not stealing some time at the keyboard, she enjoys exploring all Cincinnati has to offer through the eyes of her five-year-old. Cooking, traveling, and binge-watching a good drama series round out her favorites, but some of those happen much more often than others!


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