Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Helicopter Parenting

Have you ever heard the term "helicopter parenting"? I hadn't until recently, but it seems like everywhere I go now I hear someone use it. On Wikipedia, someone has described helicopter parents as those "who pay extremely close attention to their child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. These parents rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them and will not let them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes." The basic idea is a parent who hovers over a child, not letting them make mistakes, babying them, and staying in their business non-stop.

Part of me understands the negative connotations that go along with such parenting. Much of parenting, from a biblical perspective, is imparting wisdom to our children--wisdom that will help them make their own decision as they mature. Part of this process must be the gradual loosening of parental "control," and entrusting our children with more responsibilities and privileges. We do not want to raise young men and women who still need woken up by us for class when they're in college or who still need us to dress them when they're in middle school. It would be foolish for any parent to release their child into the adult world without slowly teaching them to take responsibility, make decisions independently, etc.

That said I think our culture is probably too quick to label parents as "helicopter parents." It seems like some think it's unacceptable for parents to be actively engaged in much of their children's lives at all. Many have adopted the mindset that once children are middle or high school age or especially college, hands off! Let them be themselves, and don't interfere with them. Don't set curfew very early at all. Don't check their grades on-line. Don't dare monitor their internet activity or post on their Facebook wall. Don't prod too much into the character of the guy/girl they're dating. They'll learn, right? But this goes too far.

As Christian parents, we must be helicopter parents at times. Children are still children. And until we have worked together with them and helped them reach a state of independence when they are ready to be on their own, we need to be there providing oversight and counsel. We need to raise them "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord," being very hands-on. Yet we need to realize that we are raising our children toward independence rather than a perpetual dependence on us that lasts into adulthood.

Sometimes we need to take our helicopters and fly away for a little while as our children try new responsibilities--and maybe even fail. But let's not be too far away or completely out of sight.

In fact, what would be even better would be to let our children climb into the "helicopter" with us so we can teach them how to fly themselves. In our homes, let's help them see the decisions we make and why we make them. Show them the ropes of responsible adult living...Let them start to take more responsibility in the home, testing their own flying skills...Then someday, when they marry or move out on their own, enjoy watching them manage their own family--flying fully on their own.

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