“All the fear in the world does not prevent death – it prevents life.”
Author of The Blessings of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel calls kids who are raised by today’s helicopter parents “handicapped royalty.” She says it’s about “good parenting gone bad.”
She encourages parents to broaden the definition of what they consider an “emergency.”
It’s not a bad mood or small pangs of hunger; nor a bit of sadness, disappointment or anxiety. All these things develop the muscle kids need to face the challenges of life. Parents may be trying to protect their kids from the world’s perils and from failure but when kids aren’t given space and time to struggle through things on their own, they experience life-long consequences. Failing to learn problem-solving skills, they fail to gain confidence in their own abilities to navigate life. Kids need lots of practice at using good judgment when the stakes are low – while they are still kids – so that when they enter the adult world they have adult skills of their own to stand on.
Dr. Mogel travels around the country lecturing parents about “good suffering.” She tells parents that it’s good for kids to be bored, unhappy, disappointed and confused, to feel deprived, to tolerate longing, and to be cold, wet, or hungry for more than one and a half seconds before they graduate from high school. Parents who “do-it-all” shield their kids from failures, speak for them, settle disputes for them, negotiate and intervene in perceived frightening situations and even make phone calls on their behalf. Some even do their kid’s homework or re-do assignments they worry will be substandard. Do-it-all parents disable their kids. Tim Elmore says that “just like muscles atrophy inside of a cast due to disuse, their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can shrink because they are not exercised.”
Is there a safe way to teach children to take risks? Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise, Safe, Self-Reliant Children Without Going Nuts With Worry, says that “risk and risky are not the same thing, but our culture is determined not to see the difference.” Every time a child gets on a bike, he could fall and break a leg or an arm. That is taking a risk. Riding a bike at night without a helmet or at night without reflectors is risky. While we can eliminate risky we can never eliminate risk. But when parents don’t see the difference, they try to eliminate both.
This parenting phenomenon is fear driven.
Considering it the parent’s primary responsibility to protect a child from hardship, fear driven parents then feel compelled to navigate any hardships for the child as well. These parents essentially take on the role of God for their children who come to expect this and continue to require it. They don’t see their need for Jesus – they just need mom (or dad) who they turn to first for help, comfort, support and solutions even when they reach adult age. After all she (he) is in charge of navigating their lives, and responsible to make them successful and take care of their failures.
College officials call these over protected kids “teacups” because they are not prepared to handle college life and shatter when they fall.
They are the students who never filled out a form or an application in their life. They enter college as a non-independent. Their do-it-all hovering moms and dads have become a campus phenomenon. They consider it reasonable to contact professors insisting that a test be re-graded. These parents are known to call about everything from “who will do my son’s laundry” to “can I sit in the class and take notes for her if she has to miss class?” Many serve as alarm clocks, calling their kids until they wake up each morning. (What anxiety they must feel when their child does not answer!) Others continue their full-service parenting, making regular visits to the dorm room to clean, pick up, do laundry, run errands, pay the bills, etc. They consider this do-it-all mentality as necessary in order for their child to be successful.
Through the years I have personally worked with many pf these well meaning do-it-all moms. They are anxiety ridden: there is always, always a new issue to be consumed with regarding one child or another. They are discouraged: their mommy role is excessively heavy and exhausting. They feel like failures: each time their child faces any form of discomfort, they feel as they have not fulfilled their duties.
Anxious, discouraged, failures.
It need not be so. God has a different agenda in mind for parents and a different agenda in mind for our kids. And His agenda gives life and vitality (not only to our kids but also to us) and prepares our children for a purposeful future. Rather than fear-driven parents, He desires us to be trust-driven; placing our kids in His hands, seeing Him as their strong tower as they face the challenges of growing up. When we parent from a trust-driven perspective, we are able to actually enjoy our roles as parents and not grow anxious or discouraged in the process.
Tomorrow’s Christian leaders won’t be the tea cups- the handicapped royalty. Instead, they will be the ones who have personally experienced life in the arena, outside the castle walls, on their own two feet. Seasoned by trials and failures, they will have grown confident and courageous. Having faced and learned to solve their own problems, they will possess sound judgment and wisdom for decision-making. Because they will have engaged in the ups and downs of life themselves, they will be resilient. Know that a loving, faithful, sovereign God holds them in their hands (and not mom or dad), they will be vivacious and not afraid.
“Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Let’s not allow our well intended hovering to “steal, kill and destroy” the vitality of life Jesus has in mind for our children. As a trustworthy God who loves them and watcher over them, He is their strong tower. And they are His future leaders in the making – not ours.