The New York Times ran an article a while back titled “How parents are robbing their children of Adulthood.” My first thought was “wow” this has to be a fun read. And it actually was a pretty good read but more in the sense that, though it was a completely secular article, I couldn’t separate Christian parents or myself from what was said.
The gist of the article was that the term “helicopter parent,” meaning a parent who hovers over their child, has become outdated and the new term of “snowplow parent” has taken its place.
Though they actually have a slightly different meaning originally, in essence what the article is saying is that parents have moved from bad (as in “helicopter parents”) to worse (as in “snow plowing parents.”) From the NYT article: “Helicopter Parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s child or children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th Century. Some affluent mothers and fathers are now more like snow plows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.” It goes on to give examples like – “making sure your toddlers are never compelled to do anything that may frustrate them or running a forgotten assignment to school or calling a coach to request that their child will make the team which later turns into providing excuses if they procrastinate on schoolwork.”
I am fairly certain that there are many of us who probably stopped reading this blog already after that last paragraph. Me too. Stacey and I have made these very mistakes over the years in our parenting endeavors. So, I choose to share this with those of you who are still in the child rearing stage as a hope and encouragement not to make the same mistakes many, if not all of us, have made.
I must warn you as well that these mis-steps in parenting do come with consequences. We like to think they don’t or they didn’t but, in all fairness and transparency, they do.
When your son or daughter lives an adolescent life that never really experiences the full impact of wrong decisions and/or difficult circumstances they run a far greater risk of a life of frustration, depression, anger and arrogance. Either they grow up saying “woe is me, nothing I do works” or they grow up thinking “look at me, everything I do turns to gold.”
Neither one of those adult scenarios end well. You know that and I know that yet we can’t seem to see that we lead them there and/or are still leading them there. One doesn’t have to look far from the most recent headlines of the college entrance scandal. Believe me when I tell you that is one very small tip of the entirety of the iceberg rightly named “snow plowing parent.”
Quickly let me give you food for thought. Paul David Tripp in his book “Parenting” states we are to be ambassador parents and not owner parents. You have to really give this careful thought and a lot of consideration. It comes into play in literally every aspect of your parenting approach and methods and purpose.
God doesn’t take His children out of the fire…. He walks you and I through it and never around it. God in His infinite wisdom and grace never leaves us or forsakes us to go it alone. But He is also clear that our obedience to Him will be our passage through the fire to the other side. Only by coming through the difficulty will we find ourselves one step closer to Christ likeness.
Abraham took his son all they way to the mountain top, collected the wood, stacked the wood, built an altar, tied his son to the altar and lifted the knife before God’s angel said, “Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.” Genesis 22:1-19
God did not stop Abraham in verse three once he saw Abraham get up early and begin to do what He had instructed him to do. No God walked him to it and through it.
You all know the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They told the King our God will rescue us ……but if not! We will still not bow down to you O King. And God again did not rescue them before being thrown into the fiery furnace even though they had obeyed. Remember all things are for His glory and never ours. God’s glory was on full display and better acknowledged when He went into the fire with them and protected them until they were brought out. Look what the King’s response was then. Daniel 3:1-30 verse 28 “Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…..”
Scripture is full of examples for our benefit. And I’m not saying if your son or daughter is about to jump from a cliff don’t try to stop them. That’s not it at all. All I am sharing with you is that all too often we as parents don’t like to see our children suffer setback or loss and that this fear seems to creep into nearly anything and everything in life. We tend to parent from what we fear the most. And if (and we do, it’s not really if) we fear failure then we begin to not influence any longer but to “snow plow” any and all obstacles or opportunity for failure out of the way.
Love them, yes, teach them, yes, force feed them Biblical principles, no! Stand with them during the set back, walk through the fire with them, and teach them Biblical principles through example, yes. Be oh so careful not to stop them from gaining the maturity and wisdom that comes through bad decision making and the consequences of those decisions. This is not an isolated problem within only a certain demographic, it is a national problem that has massively infiltrated the Church and each of our homes. Don’t hover like a helicopter and don’t clear the way like a snow plow. Instead, make yourself fully available to God to be a useful tool in His workshop of sanctification and all other things will take care of themselves.
Until next time, stay in the Word,