What is a helicopter mom? Well, she is the mom who always hovers and circles around her children just waiting for them to be in need of her services. She is the mom who does too much for her children possibly to the point that they do not develop independent skills for themselves. I have to admit that I have been guilty of this type of parenting at times.
After I graduated college and began working in the mental health field, I read books such as Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay which actually termed this type of parent and Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World by H. Stephen Glenn, Ph.D. and Jane Nelson, Ed.D. One of the main points in both of the books was to allow the child to feel the pain of their own mistakes so they can learn from it and become more responsible people. If the child is never allowed to feel the natural consequences of their actions, they will never learn from their mistakes. Both are great books in their own right and gave me lots of good parenting tips.
The books would suggest the following examples. If the child forgets their lunch at home, don’t bring the lunch to them at school. The child, feeling the pain of their hunger, will learn to not forget their lunch next time. They will not starve to death. Or if a child doesn’t tell you till 10:00 p.m. that they need a poster board for a project that is due tomorrow, don’t go get it for them. They were not responsible with their time, and the bad grade they get on the project will be their natural consequence.
Yes, I see it. Yes, I get it. I want to have self-reliant children. I want to have children that are allowed to feel the pain of their mistakes so they can learn from them. I just wonder sometimes, “Where is the grace? Doesn’t there need to be some balance?”
Don’t I make mistakes or forget things sometimes? Wouldn’t I want someone to help me out if I needed help? I think about Matthew 7:12 which says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Haven’t I make the 15 mile trek to Carl’s work, because he forgot his work cell phone at home? Didn’t I pick up ice on the way to a football game, because my boss called me to tell me he forgot to get ice for the suite on his way in? Didn’t I call a friend to pick up a bag for me at the church that I forgot, because she was going there anyway? Isn’t grace and mercy and servanthood what I should be showing my children? Am I going to have to suffer the natural consequence for my sins and all of my mistakes, or has Christ shown me mercy and grace by being the sacrifice for my sin?
As a parent, I have worked it lots of different ways. One time when Madison was in kindergarten, she forgot her lunch one day. I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment and could not bring her the lunch. She sure was hungry when she got home, but I gave her a big after-school snack. On another day, I have seen her lunch box still sitting on the car seat, turned the car around, and took it to her at school. Last week on the way to school, Nathan realized he had forgotten his saxophone and asked if I would go get it for him. I asked him, “If I get your sax for you, is that going to teach you that you can be rescued, or is it going to teach you to be more responsible?” He said more responsible. I had my doubts but said, “It is going to cost me time to go and get your sax for you. What are you going to sacrifice for me if I help you out this time?” He offered to help his mother make dinner that night. It worked for me. I got back to the school in the nick of time just as he was approaching the band class. He looked stressed out and worried. The relief on his face when he saw me standing there in the hall with his sax was answer enough for me. It was the right thing to do.
I know there has to be a line. We can’t rescue our kids all the time, or they will never learn. I get that. However, I also want them to know that I am here for them. I want them to know there is someone they can count on in this world. I want them to learn that we help people when they have a need, and that we as Christians should bear one another’s burdens. I want them to see my gift of mercy and compassion, and the One who gave that gift to me.