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Tag: Helicopter parents

Hope vs. Fear

“Every decision we make today will be driven by fear or love.  Who we toss the keys to determines a lot about the destination.”  –Bob Goff

Several years ago a good friend of mine gave a talk on parenting out of hope, as opposed to parenting out of fear and it has stuck with me.  I didn’t have kids then, but I knew I needed to remember this message.  At the time, parenting out of fear was easy to dismiss, however I knew enough about parenting to realize fear can be a constant companion.  Now that I’m a parent, I know that a lot of time is spent worrying about the big and meaningful and small and trivial.  It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about our kids.  It’s easy to begin to parent and make decisions based on that worry or fear.

Think about it.  What emotions do you experience when you anticipate any major milestone in your child’s life?  First steps.  First day of school.  Last day of school.  First taste of failure or rejection.  Dating relationships.  Driving.  College.

You get the idea.  There can be a lot of worry, anxiety, and fear in these situations.  Do these emotions drive your response?  Do you quickly rush in to build fences of protection?  Are your actions motivated by fear above all else?

Helicopters and Lawnmowers

In our culture today, there’s a reason many parents are described as “helicopter parents” who monitor and watch over their child’s every move (“How helicopter parents are ruining college students”).  Or, even worse, “lawnmower parents” who mow over any obstacle in their kids path (“Don’t Be a Helicopter Or Lawnmower Parent”).

But, what if we didn’t let fear rule the day?  What if we decided to adopt a posture of hope for our kids?  Instead of spending anxious energy worrying about possibilities that may exist “out there”, what if we began to pray our hopes and our dreams for our kids in these situations?

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a trip with a small group of people.  It was incredible opportunity to spend a week with my youth pastor, the director of a large Christian summer camp, and other men and women who would have a huge impact on my life.  It was a chance to do something significant that would change my worldview.  It was a chance to have a formative experience in the this great big world we live in.

The problem for my parents was that it was in a third-world country where my safety could not be guaranteed.  A country where our car might be surrounded by a large crowd at the airport (which it was) or where I would find my self in the presence of automatic weapons often (which I did) or where we would be taking a picture of the beautiful countryside and then get rushed into the bus because we were no longer safe there and needed to leave quickly (which happened).

My parents had a lot to be afraid of and plenty of fear and worry, but they allowed me to go.  They chose to adopt a posture of hope.  They chose to hope that this trip would expand my heart for God.  They hoped it would be a trip where I rubbed shoulders with adult men and women who were following Jesus with all they had.  They hoped I would see poverty up close and understand more about God’s heart for the orphan and the oppressed.  They hoped I would go on a great adventure and it would plant a seed to continue to follow God into the tough places and be a light to those in need.

It was their hope, not their fear, that came true and that trip remains a significant part of who I am and my faith journey.  If fear ruled the day, my parents would have been seen as reasonable and responsible parents.  No one would have faulted them.  But I wouldn’t have experienced the growth and transformation that trip allowed.  This trip shaped my high school years and ultimately my future.  I’m thankful for their courage.

Echoing Jesus’ Prayer

Recently, I came across Jesus prayer in John 17 and decided to adopt it for my own kids.  As Jesus’ time on earth is coming to an end, he prays for those he will be leaving behind.  Jesus knows what is out there and what they will be up against.  He knows the dangers of the world and desires to protect those he loves.  Knowing this he prays:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…my prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”  John 17: 11, 15

For my kids, my prayer is that they will engage the world and be a light of God’s love to those they meet.  In order to grow into the strong, courageous person that requires, I have to let go of control.  I have to take risks.  I have to allow them to fail.  I need to give them space to grow and explore.  Is that going to be easy?  It’s not proving to be.  But when I step back and imagine the end (my little girls as adults living in the world), I know the answer lies in hope not in fear.  God, give us the courage to trust you, cultivate hope and smother fear.

What does it look like for you to echo Jesus prayer for you kids?  What protections do you need to trust God for?  What ways do you need to allow them to stay in the world and engage?  In what ways are you doing God’s job of protecting and need to take a step back?

There will be a part two to this post coming soon with some practical thoughts on this can play out, but until then:

Who are you giving the keys to –  fear or hope?

Now What?

There’s a lot of talk about helicopter (or insert your other favorite adjective lawnmower/hovering/bulldozer) parents these days.  But it is tempting to want to play that role in our kid’s lives.  Especially when it comes to protecting our kids from pain.

Few moments are harder for a parent than watching your son or daughter experience a disappointment. Whether it’s being cut from the team, failing the test, or not getting the part in the school play, teenage disappointments can feel devastating. Even if the situation doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, it can cause a teen to nosedive!

 

A Lack of Perspective

I remember when I was being interviewed for a high school newspaper as a new youth pastor in town.  I was asked,

“What is one thing you want teens to know?”

My answer was simple.

“So many things in a teen’s life feel like they carry the weight of the world.  If it doesn’t happen now, don’t worry, you have a lot of life left to live.”

I’m not sure they found this answer very profound.  In fact I’m not sure they even gave it much thought.  For a teen, there’s a lot of pressure to have the right friends, get the right grades, date the right person, make your name in sports, and the list goes on.  In the middle all of this, students don’t always have a lot of perspective.  They can’t always see past the here and now.

No one wants to see their kid crumble under this pressure.  That’s why it’s so tempting to help students avoid disappointment instead of learning to deal with it. In our minds we know that let-downs are a part of life and teaching our students to manage them is healthy, but there is a difference between “preparing the path for the child and preparing the child for the path”. 

Does that mean we have to be completely hands-off when our son or daughter is going through a tough time? Not necessarily.

In his blog post, Helping Students Handle Disappointment and Pain, Dr. Tim Elmore gives parents four tips for helping their students walk through a disappointing time without bailing them out of it.

  1. Talk to students about disappointment and pain. Let them know it is a part of life and a big part of growing up into healthy adults.
  2. Share some of your own stories of past hurt or disappointments, and how you learned to deal with them.
  3. Give your students perspective — big picture perspective — one that really matters. Help them separate the eternal issues from the temporal ones.
  4. Do something together that may introduce sacrifice or hurt, and reflect on the experience along the way.

 See more at: http://growingleaders.com/blog/tag/helping-students-handle-disappointment-and-pain/#sthash.3I5Om8P8.dpuf

These seem like simple conversations or suggestions, but I can’t encourage you enough to carve out time to sit, be present, and talk it through.  Even if it drives you crazy how irrational it seems!  You attention and presence is much more impactful than you know!

Try This

One of the greatest things we can do for our children is give them the tools to navigate disappointment. Sharing stories is a great way to model both the how-to and the how-not-to when it comes to handling tough circumstances.

Choose one of the options below as a conversation starter sometime this week.

 Option 1: Talk about one person who has inspired you in the way they have handled disappointment.

Option 2: Share a story of a time you were disappointed (by a situation that does not involve your family) and how you could have handled that disappointment in a healthier way.

 

 

Now What? is also a series we are teaching students this month developed by our good friends at Orange.  Get connected to a wider community of parents at www.orangeparents.org.

 

Fighting your Instincts

Of course we need to protect our kids, but Dr. Kelly Flanagan shows us the main thing we need to protect our kids from is ourselves!  In a recent article he asks,

“What if the thing we really need to protect our children from is our own protectiveness?”

As a youth pastor, I often have a front row seat to well-meaning parents going to the extremes to make sure their kids are “ok”.  I understand every situation is different and perceptions can be misleading, but if we are not careful our protective instincts can actually hinder our child’s growth.

Our goal as parents, simply put, is to prepare our kids for adulthood.  Sometimes that means that we have to withhold our protective instincts for the sake of their growth as a person.  If you look around and pay attention to what’s being written, you will notice we might have a problem.  This is highlighted by a quick Google search of “college students and parents” –

“How Helicopter Parents are Ruining College Students” – Washington Post

“Snowplow Parents Overly Involved in College Student Lives” – Boston Globe

“College Students and Their Helicopter Parents:  A Recipe for Stress” – Huffington Post

These articles were sandwiched in between articles written by universities offering “Tips to Parents” to help them let go.  Essentially, these articles are begging parents to let their kids be responsible for their own life, grades, time, etc.  In other words, let them be adults, make mistakes, take responsibility…grow!

It Will Not Produce the Results You Desire

As parents we need to protect our young kids from the danger of an ill-advised jump off the coffee table.  As they grow older though, there are some things that we can’t protect them from and that’s where we get into trouble.  Providing physical safety as a parent is necessary.  The instinct to want to protect our kids is as natural as waking up.  However, there comes a point where we have to fight this instinct.  Dr. Flanagan writes,

“We’ve got their physical safety on lockdown.

So what do we do next with our protective instinct?

We try to perfect our children because, deep down, we believe perfection is protection…If we are flawless, we leave no chinks in the armor. The more perfect we are, the more likely we are to come out on top in the game of social comparison. If our kids are perfect, we hope it will protect them from peer rejection, poor self-esteem, disappointments in life, and the pain of being human.”

We know the realities of this world.  We know what is out there waiting for them.  But as a follower of Jesus, I also trust the words found in the book of Philippians.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Part of that completion is the journey through successes, failures, pain, joy, bad decisions, and making the right, hard decisions.  Here’s what I know for sure:  my protection cannot produce the results I ultimately desire.  At some point, I have to trust the Author of this life, my child’s life, to do his work.  During that time, I have to fight my instincts.

 

To read Dr. Flanagan’s full article click here (the last section might be worth printing out and putting on your fridge!):  Why We Need to Protect Our Kids From Us

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