In Defense of the Helicopter Parent

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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

Linked up with Purposeful FaithTestimony TuesdayCoffee For Your Heart, and Grace and Truth

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18 thoughts on “In Defense of the Helicopter Parent

  1. Michele Morin June 16, 2015 / 5:58 am

    Helicopter and jet plane! Yup, zooming and hovering right there with you! We do have to work hard in our day at finding a scriptural approach to parenting that affirms our children’s wonderful “can-do” spirit, but also reminds them that they are under authority — as are their parents! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Michele Morin June 16, 2015 / 11:22 am

        Was just remembering how much I liked your post on Sunday School Lessons. It would be a good idea to re-run that in the fall because it was so helpful!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. samanthalandrus June 16, 2015 / 6:12 am

    Parenting platforms are interchangeable- even among my own kids. It really is meeting them right where they are and pointing to God. Thank you for your insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown June 16, 2015 / 9:24 am

      Samantha- Yes! Gospel centered parenting is being willing to adjust to the individuality of each of your children. Thanks so much!

      Like

  3. Mary Geisen June 16, 2015 / 6:28 am

    You hit the nail on the head perfectly with this post. Each of your 4 points beautifully points us to Jesus as our center and how it is through Him that we will live the best life we can live. I didn’t always feel my parenting was as God-focused as it needed to be, but have since found with both of my sons in their 20s, that I must have been doing something right. I am praying for all parents today that through their gentle leading they are ultimately leading their children to lead a life in Christ. Thank you for the blessing of your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown June 16, 2015 / 9:24 am

      Mary- Thank you. Praise God for His grace in our parenting! I truly appreciate your comment.

      Like

  4. betsydecruz June 16, 2015 / 9:45 am

    Karen, this is really good. Such wisdom. You could submit this for publication! It’s reassuring to remember our job is to raise our kids for Christ. He’ll lead us on how to do that.

    Like

  5. Lauren English June 16, 2015 / 9:49 am

    This is beautiful! We don’t have any kiddos yet, but I love reading things like this that remind me what an honor and responsibility it will be to mold and grow tiny humans. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  6. Anita Ojeda June 17, 2015 / 9:42 pm

    Bravo, my friend! You speak truth here. Our ultimate goal is to raise them to love Jesus–not excel in sports or win awards or have fantastic careers (but it’s oh, so easy to get caught up in all of that!).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. sarahgirl3 June 18, 2015 / 4:44 pm

    Yes, I am both at times too! Great post as it is good to know I am not the only one 🙂

    Like

  8. The Fundamental Mom June 19, 2015 / 10:16 am

    I REALLY love #4. The world is so tempting, but decidedly NOT what children need. Great post!

    Like

  9. Jennifer @ A Divine Encounter June 23, 2015 / 1:44 pm

    I found your article interesting, because I just wrote a post about the importance of building kids’ thinking skills, and how helicopter parents impede that process. I do believe, however, that I define “helicopter parent” differently from how you’re using the term. I tend to think of a helicopter parent as one who shields her children from the natural consequences of his actions, or one who solves problems for him that he could solve for himself.

    I agree with each of your points, and I appreciate your devotion to raising your children to think in a way that’s counter-cultural. It will be increasingly necessary as our children grow into adulthood. Thank you for linking up with us at Grace & Truth!

    Like

  10. Lize Dumon July 27, 2015 / 11:08 am

    Hi Karen, it has been a long time since I have visited and it was lovely to pop in again. Great article for us moms to read! My boys are almost 17, 14 and 10. Thank you and lots of love to you! As always you touch our hearts with your honest writing :-).

    Like

    • Karen Brown July 29, 2015 / 6:34 am

      Lize! So great to see you here! Thank you so much for stopping by! Blessings, friend~

      Like

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