Have you read the articles about helicopter parenting, lately? “Too many of us do some combination of overdirecting, overprotecting or over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives. ” says Julie Lythcott-Haims in her Huffington post article, “Helicopter Parenting is a Trap“.
And I get it. I don’t want my children to become wimps. I want them to grow in character. I want them to be skilled and successful.
But I also study statistics of kids who suffered greatly because they needed their parents to offer more affection, love, guidance, and direction.
So what to do? As a mom of four, I tend to straddle the helicopter and the jet plane. I often play the hard-nosed, tough parent, flying high to create the free-range childhood that everyone applauds. And then, I slip them a little overprotective, micro-managed baby care when no one’s looking.
Like every other parent, I want my kids to succeed and have every opportunity possible. I want them to look good and feel good. I want them to be happy and like me.
Sometimes my goals are worldly and short-sighted. I often forget that my parenting should be gospel-centered and my perspective eternal.
As Christian parents, our goal is to raise our kids for Christ. Our purpose is to grow them into the gospel.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
And if my kids are called to be different from the world, shouldn’t my parenting look different, too? My kids’ childhood, whether free-ranged or tight-leashed, should be centered around learning certain counter-cultural lessons:
Lesson #1. You are loved, but love doesn’t always taste sweet. The world uses kids. It also abuses and worships kids. But it does a poor job of loving them. I’m called to love my children with the same honest truth and amazing grace that I’ve been offered in Christ. This love can be hard or soft, loud or quiet, near or far, but it always leads the loved one to an empty cross and grave.
“We love because he first loved us.” John 4:19
Lesson #2. You are fully known, but #1 still applies. Everyone wants to be known, but very few are willing to take the time or the risk to fully commit to others. God calls us to imitate His endless pursuit of His people in our parenting. This can be fun or scary, organic or carefully planned, but if it’s done in love, it always ends in deep intimacy and security.
“Lord, you have examined me and know all about me.” Psalm 139: 1
Lesson # 3. You can’t. You are weak. You need help. The world rewards competence, strength, and independence. But the gospel embraces the sinner who admits he has none of these. If my kids are going to accept the work of Christ, I must teach them that they have nothing of their own to offer. They must learn to resist the world’s economy and know that their idol-pumping hearts can’t be trusted. They must be reminded that their strength lies in weakness, and rest. These lessons can be easy or rough, long or short, but they always result in enough humility to accept grace.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Lesson #4. The world is your oyster, but it’s not what you need. A good shepherd teaches his flock to trust him to lead them to good places. They must also trust him to define what’s good. In order to develop this kind of assurance of God, my kids must learn that He alone is all they need, and that everything (and everyone) else will eventually fail them. This lesson can lead down many paths. It can push away or draw near, but the result is great peace and gratitude.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
Sometimes, these gospel lessons require low-altitude supervision and what seems like over-involvement. Other times, they might call for silent, hands-off parenting.
My kids might rest in the shadow of my hovering a little longer than yours. Or, they might rush ahead of Christian expectations or wander into a forbidden field for a while.
Either way, I must not forget that God’s got my kids. Perfectly. I must also remember that every human parent and pedagogy will ultimately fall short. But, if we help each other keep gospel-centered goals and an eternal perspective, our kids will eventually end up in the right place with the Right One.
By the grace of God, they will.
And we must remember that good shepherds use both their staff and the open space to guide their sheep. So, let’s back off each other’s propellers and parenting platforms.
Let’s remember that God calls us to love our children – and each other – with a truth that’s grounded and a grace that’s bigger than the sky.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” I John 4:19