Recently, I was asked to write about “helicopter parents.” As I researched the topic, I thought that surely being an overprotective parent, always hovering around their children, wasn’t God’s plan for us.
While He instructs parents to guide their children to live a good Christian life, He wants parents to enable kids to learn how to think and respond to situations independently. Children need to feel confident enough to make decisions without always asking their parents.
This means children will make mistakes. Yet, they’ll develop a valuable life skill – resilience – to bounce back after life’s many disappointments.
God gave mothers their children to love and to guide, not to follow and to control.
According to experts, by parents hanging on too tightly, children have a greater chance to display these negative behaviors:
- Less confidence in their own ability to take care of themselves at school or other social times;
- More fearful and withdraws from novel activities;
- More anxieties and school phobias;
- Less interested in things, unless their parents take an interest.
Are you a helicopter parent?
It starts with good intentions; of course, no one wants to see their children suffer an emotional hurt or fail on a project. This is where a great dose of strong faith can give mothers the strength to let God work in their children’s lives, even knowing failure and pain is imminent.
Here’s the No. 1 clue that you’re a helicopter parent: You help before your child needs it.
Other clues, experts say, that you are a helicopter mom include:
- Your children are the entire focus of your life, dominating every conversation and thought.
- You go to great lengths to ensure your children are “perfect” in every way – grades, friends, clothes, hobbies, sports, and more.
- You discourage their independence, believing that you know what’s best for them.
- You’re highly involved in all aspects of your children’s lives – school, sports, friends, and later on, college, jobs and romantic relationships. There’s no end to the helicopter ride.
Advice to stop hovering
If you’re a helicopter parent, don’t despair. There’s hope. I’ve read that among things parents want for their children is to not suffer and to have hope. As Christians, we strive to understand that suffering and hope are closely related. And then we live it out and pass it on to our children.
“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:2-5)
As a mom of two daughters, ages 15 and 11, they’ve had their share of troubles, and I suffer right along with them. My heart breaks when their friends are mean and when they don’t make the sports team. I’m learning to bear it and to stay out of God’s work. These are the very situations that God uses in their young lives to build perseverance and character.
Of course, protect them when it makes the most sense, but allow God to prepare them for the trials of adulthood. As a mom, you can feel proud that your kids grow more resilient and what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. They will learn that God is always there for them, even when you cannot be. They will learn to trust and to pray through their struggles. Honestly, what more could we want for our children – suffering to perseverance to character to hope.
Following are ways to replace overprotective behaviors and to allow God to work more fully in your child’s life:
- Rather than solve a problem for your children, guide them to think through the situation to find their own solution. Teach them to pray about their problems, and to listen for God’s guidance. Along with the power of prayer, this teaches insight, accountability and responsibility.
- Make mistakes a “good thing” for your children. Research has shown that kids growing up anticipating mistakes, take more risks, are less fearful and feel more confident. They learn to trust in God and not the world.
- Talk to your children about how God works through all problems for good, and that He loves them, wants the best for them, and has great plans for them, even when they can’t see it right now. One of my favorite verses to share with my daughters: “For I know the plans I have for you…Plans to give you hope and a future.” (There’s that word “hope” again!)
- Enjoy your own life, interests and relationships, separate from your children. It’s wonderful for your children to see that you find joy in hobbies and friendships. As a mom, you’re role modeling that God wants you to live, laugh, love, dance and play – and your kids will learn to enjoy their own lives too. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Enjoy your own flight and fly high!
Copyright 2013 Kim Seidel