Trackers vs Bulldozer Parenting

By Michell McCann, Editor-in-Chief

Have you heard the term “bulldozer parent”? It refers to an overprotective, overly involved parent who tries to clear all obstacles and challenges from their child’s life. Like a bulldozer.

Sound familiar? Maybe you know a few. Maybe you even have some bulldozer tendencies yourself. I definitely do. That’s because bulldozer parenting comes from a place of love. We parents are trying to give our kids the easiest, most obstacle-free path we can find. We often jump in at the first sign of difficulty to help resolve friend conflicts, get homework finished, and give them our opinions on any and all problems. Bulldozer parents believe that by protecting children from hardship, we are helping them be happy and successful.

But the truth is that bulldozer parenting has serious down sides, immediately and down the road. By always clearing the way, parents hurt their child’s ability to develop essential life skills like:

Problem-Solving – When challenges are always removed, kids don’t learn to problem-solve and overcome obstacles on their own. This can lead to a sense of helplessness when faced with challenges later in life.

Self-Esteem – When parents take over, kids internalize the message that they’re not able to handle challenges on their own. This can lead to low self-esteem, making it harder to meet life’s challenges.

Grit – Grit is built by overcoming adversity and learning from failures. Bulldozer parenting takes these grit opportunities away, leaving kids less able to bounce back from setbacks.

Adaptability – Adapting to our ever-changing world is the essence of survival. By not allowing children to experience and learn from challenges, bulldozer parenting hurts their ability to adapt to new situations and environments.

Parent-Child Relationships – Kids raised with bulldozer parenting may feel smothered and resentful of constant parent interference. This can create less honest communication and more emotional distance between parents and kids.

While it may at times seem like we are ignoring kid complaints, there is a deeper, sneakier ethos at work. Here are some typical kid complaints and how we train our staff to respond, by encouraging kids to care for themselves, adapt and be gritty. Feel free to try these at home.

Kid complaint: I left my coat inside! I’m cold! I want to go home.
Bulldozer response: Oh no! You poor thing. Here, take my coat while I go get yours.
Trackers response: Hmm. That’s interesting. What can you do to get warm?

Kid complaint: Those ants are scary! I hate bugs! I want to go home.
Bulldozer response: Oh no! You poor thing. I hate bugs too. Let’s go home.
Trackers response: Hmm. That’s interesting. Tell me more about these ants. What are they doing? Why do you think it’s doing that? Did you know that ants…

Kid complaint: That kid won’t play with me! They’re mean! I want to go home.
Bulldozer response: Oh no! You poor thing. I’ll go make them include you.
Trackers response: Hmm. That’s interesting. Do you see these ants over here? Robin and I are checking out these ants. What do you and Robin think these ants are doing?

Our Mission at Trackers is to train kids to survive the apocalypse. Metaphorically, but also maybe for real. Will the kids of bulldozer parents survive? Probably not. By teaching real-world outdoor skills and the Trackers Compass, we build and strengthen kids’ problem-solving skills, adaptability, and grit. When those abilities are strong, kids naturally develop higher self-esteem and connect in a more positive way with peers and the adults in their lives, parents included.