The Case Against Over-Parenting

OverparentingOkay, I'll be the first to admit it.  I'm an overprotective parent.  I have a tendency to overdo it and obsess over the little things that don't really matter.  I guess that's why I was intrigued by this week's cover of TIME magazine entitled: The Case Against Over-Parenting: Why Mom and Dad Need to Cut the Strings. Nancy Gibbs begins her article with these provocative words:

The insanity crept up on us slowly: we just wanted the best for our kids. 

Ironically, a good desire has led many parents to become obsessed with their kids' safety and success.  Gibbs calls them "helicopter parents" as they hover over their children's lives from the classroom to the ball field protecting them and pushing them to succeed. 

The result?  By worrying about the wrong things, Gibbs says, "we do actual damage to our children, raising them to be anxious and unadventurous."  (Pediatricians have also found that this hurried lifestyle of constant pressure and stress can contribute to health problems like childhood obesity and depression).

So what's the solution?  Well, if the problem was simply hovering over our children's lives, the solution would be to simply back off and lighten up.  And there's some truth to that!  But the problem goes much deeper. 

The problem is that we are afraid.  If our greatest aim as parents is to protect our children and prepare them to receive some kind of academic or athletic recognition, than most likely we are parenting out of fear.  Why?  Because deep down we're scared if they don't succeed.  We feel like we've failed as parents.  So we work hard to prepare our children to make the grade or make the team so we would look good.  It's like our children are little trophies that we, as Paul Tripp says, "secretly want to display on the mantels of our lives as visible testimonies to a job well done" (Age of Opportunity, p. 35). 

If we were honest we would admit that much of our parenting is motivated by fear.  That's what keeps us from lightening up and letting go of the reins.  And what's more, as Christians we spend so much time protecting our children from the world that we fail to prepare them to make a difference in this world.  Biblical parenting, however, pictures parents as courageous warriors getting ready to release their children into battle.  Psalm 127:4 says,

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior so are the children of one’s youth.

Arrows were made to fly.  They can’t sit safely in the quiver or rest on the bow forever.  They must be released!  That's what our preparation is ultimately for--to release our children into this world equipped with the gospel of Jesus Christ to serve people for the glory of Christ. 

So lighten up all you helicopter parents!  (me included).  Let go of the reins.  Parent your children as God parents you.  Protect them, yes.  But all the while prepare them ... so you can release them ... to fly into the battle with the glory of the gospel.

  • Read the article yourself in TIME magazine online
  • Read more on Missional Parenting
  • Read another post on Growing Up Too Fast and Then Not Fast Enough