Every time I scroll through my social media account, I see some type of warning about being a helicopter parent. They say kids these days are too sheltered and are suffering from our fear-laden over-protection. I know that I’m not supposed to obsess over my child’s life. I’m not supposed to solve his problems for him, perfect his resume, or rescue him from natural consequences, but I’m wondering, am I a helicopter parent? Are you? And if we are, what should we do instead?
I’m concerned that as a society we’ll panic and swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. In an effort to avoid over-scheduling, over-indulging, and over-controlling our children’s lives, we’ll simply steer our helicopters away, erring on the side of neglect. In 20 years, we’ll discover that our children have grown up without the much-needed presence, wisdom, affection, and support of their parents. Parents will simply “helicopter” somewhere else, obsessing over careers, self-image, health, pets, or whatever.
Simply “flying away” is not the solution.
God helps helicopter parents by giving us a clear vision of what our relationship with our children should look like in Deuteronomy 6. In verse 7, in particular, he tells parents, “You shall teach [God’s character, ways, and commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
If we want to avoid helicopter parenting, our best alternative is to get out of the helicopter and to put our feet on the ground next to our children.
God’s vision of parenting is intimate and relational. It is ordinary and on-going.
God guides helicopter parents back to earth by establishing Himself as our sovereign God who is able to perfectly oversee our child’s life. He gives us His Word, His Spirit, and His Church to help us disciple our children in the daily stuff of life. He promises that when we live this way, we will all thrive.
Take heart! If you are present in your child’s life, you may not be the helicopter parent you thought you were.
You are not a helicopter parent if your child talks to you about hard things or if you advise your child wisely.
You are not a helicopter parent if you care about his friends and listen to his ideas.
If you enjoy meals with her and invest in her character.
If you play with your child, drive the carpool, and sit by his side on the couch.
If you make boundaries for your child, work on projects together, or laugh at her jokes.
If you cry over his heartbreak and lose sleep over his questions and challenges.
You are not a helicopter parent if you share your faith with your child, talking to her about who God is and what He has done in the world and in your life.
You are not a helicopter parent if you teach him God’s laws, remind him of God’s grace, invite him to worship with you, and cheer him on each day.
You and I were made to dwell on the earth, side by side with our children. Our feet should be walking next to their feet. Our eyes should be looking into their eyes. Our arms should be wrapping around their arms. Our conversation should be with them. Our recreation should include them. Our affection, favor, and blessing should be on them. If we set our relationships within the context of God-given community and fellowship, we will not foster unhealthy co-dependence. God’s type of love and community will not inhibit our children from venturing out into the world. On the contrary, our love, presence, and discipleship will strengthen our children to be healthy adults who return the favor to the next generation.
What might it take for us to stop hovering over our children’s lives and to get into their lives instead? What might it take to welcome them into our lives and into the life of God?
We may have to adjust some of our goals, dreams, and screens.
We may have to surrender our pride, get paid a little less, and noticed less.
We may have to adjust our definition of the good life – for ourselves and our children.
We may have to live in smaller houses, go on fewer vacations, buy fewer toys, or accomplish less, but wouldn’t it be worth it?
I hope I’d give anything to live on the ground by my child’s side, to look in his eyes, to treasure her thoughts, and— most of all — to share the things of God, heart-to-heart and hand-in-hand. Wouldn’t you?
About the Author:
Laura loves to share practical applications of the Bible as she encourages women in their walk with Jesus. She received a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in English Literature from the University of Richmond, an M.A. in English Literature from Penn State University, and a Certificate in Women’s Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. Laura serves as the Coordinator of Women’s Ministry at Oakwood Presbyterian Church in State College, PA. She lives with her husband and 5 (going on 6) children on a beautiful farmette in Pennsylvania where they raise some chickens, host campfire parties, read lots of books, and cheer for the Nittany Lions. Connect with Laura at www.LauraBooz.com.