Keeping Your Child Safe VS. Helicopter Parenting
Today more than ever I think parents have the desire to keep their children safe. It’s the perfect storm of access to all of the evil in the world with a few clicks, the over-sexualization in our society, and the pressure that social media has made us feel that we need to be the perfect parent and document every perfect moment. Success as far as a good job, or admired position is also something that is so pushed in our culture and often parents base their child’s success or failure on their parenting.
Now I talked a lot about this topic in episode 39 which is titled raising capable kids, but I wanted to talk a little more about the difference between protecting your child, helicopter parenting and actually keeping your child safe. It is a fine line for sure.
Helicopter parents are parents who pay extremely close attention to their kids’ activities and schoolwork in an effort to not only protect them from pain and disappointment but to help them succeed. Helicopter parents are known to hover over their children and become overly involved in their lives. This definition comes from verywell family.com
The schedule, the budget everything seems to revolve around the child. Often kids who have helicopter parents have demanding schedules because their parents want them to be the best at school or sports or hobbies such as music or dance. They want to do everything to give their child a competitive edge over other children.
Now there is nothing wrong with being involved in your kid’s lives but helicopter parents tend to take it just a little too far. Often even trying to control their friendships and relationships. Helicopter parents don’t usually see the errors in this style of parenting they think they are great parents because they are keeping their children safe and doing everything in their power to make them succeed. Again there is nothing wrong with keeping your kids safe and wanting them to succeed. I think most parents want these two things for their kids but when does all the controlling and helping and keeping safe just become too much? When is it actually a detriment to your child?
The thing with helicopter parenting is it is often rooted in anxiety. We spend a lot of our time second-guessing our parenting skills or wondering if we are screwing them up? I know for myself it is so easy to let my mind automatically think the worst possible situation is going to happen to my children if I am not there to help them. We come hyper-vigilant and this can lead to our need to control getting out of control which leads to us hovering.
The thing is we will look for the worst and when we look for the worst we usually find it. This can have a profoundly negative impact on our children because if they see us worrying then they end up worrying about the same problems. If they are constantly seeking validation in us, as they grow that turns into constantly seeking validation from others. It can destroy their confidence and self-esteem. It can alter their view of who they are versus who God says they are.
Often with the helicopter style of parenting, children can become too dependent on their parents. They lack problem-solving skills because mom and or dad were always there to fix any problem. They can’t speak up for themselves or advocate for what they need again because someone has always done it for them. That is a big way that helicopter parenting actually backfires because in situations where mom and dad aren’t there, they just don’t know what to do.
Setting our kids up for success means setting them up to be healthy capable adults not just having a good job or excelling in a sport or hobby.
I think as Christian parents especially we need to look at what we define as successful parenting. My goal is that my kids love God and follow Jesus. Of course, I want them to be safe from the evil in this world and have good jobs and ya it would be super cool if one of them was a piano prodigy or a sports star but worldly matters are not my definition of success, and if I am stifling who God wants them to become by overly shielding them and not allowing them to experience life making their own decisions (guided by the wisdom He has given us as parents) what good am I doing?
We cannot answer every question for them without stopping to allow them to answer on their own. Allow hesitations and discomforts and struggles.
Don’t project your worries about their shyness or their quirks into what that is going to mean for their adult life. Don’t become the interrogator when they seem to have an off day. If you have created an open, safe, and loving space for them to talk, they will talk when they want to talk.
Don’t take things personally. As your child grows they may have different opinions and ideas than you. You need to allow your child is discover who God has made them to be. It is not wrong that they think differently than you. You may be stifling gifts that God has given and is developing in them. Your child may seem like the center of the universe because that is what a parent’s love is like but they are not the center of the universe. God is. Keep your kids in their rightful place. Instruct them in the ways of the Lord, let go of the control and allow God to do the rest. We have to trust Him in our kid’s lives.
I also want to touch on the topic of neglecting your own lives for the sake of your childs. This is not healthy. THis is not whole. Yes we should love our children in a sacrificial way but if we are so stressed about watering our own kids grass while ours is dry and browned up what example does that set for our kids? What will that mean for them in their own adult life?
Get to know your kids, spend time with them doing what they love to do. Notice their strengths and weaknesses and allow them to live. Your job is to shoot those arrows in Christ’s directions not to bubblewrap them.
So I want this episode to encourage you to helicopter and hover over the important things. Most importantly their spiritual life. Make it a priority as their parent to see their relationship with God develop and pray about this often. Expose them to church and the Bible and Sunday school and other Christian families. Pray together as a family. Help them develop Biblical character.
I would also say it’s important to hover over their education. But don’t forget to back off every now and then. Keep on top of their grades and their character-building in school. Offer them the best you can and stay involved but let them fail and problem solve and pivot and refocus. Let them explore their own talents and interests even if you don’t understand them. Be involved in their school if they go to school outside of the home.
Hover over health issues and stay on top of these things.
Hover over internet safety because you need to be aware of the tech evil that exists and grows with every generation. Set strong limits and boundaries.
But stop hovering over every little scratch and fall, and upset with a friend. Let them figure it out. Be a guide but don’t try to control them, and trust that God loves them more than you ever could. Your child’s success does not solely rely on your parenting. You of course are their biggest influence but point them to Christ in all you do. Give them space to figure things out and always be there for them to fall back on when they screw up, but you have to allow them to screw up.
We can’t hold our child’s hand through every little thing. We need to be close and a support but they will face life on their own one day and the best thing we can do for them is point them to the Lord and trust that God has them.