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Why honing our kids is better than helicopter parenting

Recently I had a perfect opportunity and the justification for being a helicopter mom. Soon after our 15-year-old daughter started her first job as a piano accompanist, it was evident she’d been mismatched with a student beyond her skill level. I considered calling her boss to try and prevent her from losing the job she’d just started. Thankfully, I resisted. Because evidence is mounting that when parents hover over their offspring, the results aren’t good.

An article in the Huffington Post says, “Helicopter parents are raising unemployable children.”  The author, Marcia Sirota, says, “[parents] are hurting their kids' chances at success. In particular, they're ruining their kids' chances of landing a job and keeping it.”

Such parents believe every kid should get a trophy, a passing grade, and a good job, regardless of whether their team won the game, they completed the school assignment, or they were qualified (and willing) to actually do the work. Helicopter parents are raising a generation of kids who are over-protected, over-chauffeured, over-coddled, and under-prepared to take on the responsibilities, challenges, and disappointments of life as adults.

In doing too much for their kids and not requiring enough of them, parents are doing the very opposite of what their kids need. “The most loving thing you can do as a parent” says Sirota, “is take a step back and let your child fall down, flail about and figure things out on her own. Sometimes the best way to ‘be there’ for your kid is not to be there for them.”

Sirota gets it half right. It’s good for kids to have parents who step back and let them feel the consequence of falling. But a child left to figure things out on her own is a child adrift.

Helping our kids depend on the Lord

The goal for Christian parents is not to teach children to do things on their own, but in the strength God supplies.

God gives parents 18 years to teach and train and love and prepare their children for venturing out into adulthood. It’s a honing process that takes time. And the goal for Christian parents is not to teach children to do things on their own, but in the strength God supplies. One of the necessary, and most effective, tools for getting them ready is suffering. The Bible shows us that enduring difficulty has a positive cumulative effect on a person’s character. Romans 5:3-5 says,

“. . . we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

We need help and so do our kids. They need to know that in themselves, they are weak and unable to do anything. But thankfully, they are not left to themselves. Jesus says,

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

Too often, we parents step in and by our actions, say, “Apart from me, (your mom or dad), you can do nothing!” We must resist this urge. As bad as it would be to raise kids who are unemployable for all our hovering like helicopters, that’s nothing compared to raising kids who think they can make it alone.

The primary means God uses for calling children to respond to him in faith is parents who train their children for increasing responsibility. God has given human beings made in his image the ability to respond to him. We are response-able. When we don’t require our children’s obedience, when we overlook their laziness, when we protect them from consequences, we are dulling their ability to respond to God. Though it may feel like compassion, or even sacrificial love, it does not serve them well.

Parents aren’t just tasked with preparing their kids to move out and get an apartment, go to college, or even get married. Parenting is about preparing children for eternity. May we take our cues from Paul and not grow weary in helping our children to grow in “the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood [and womanhood], to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ …” (Eph. 4:13b-14a).

Children are born needing help. Parents have to choose how they will give it. In light of eternity, don’t hover, hone.

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