Comic Brian Regan reflects on a childhood memory of his grade school science fair, for which he simply put some soil in a paper cup and displayed it.
“I call it cup o’ dirt,” he explained to those wandering by, wondering what his project was all about. “You should move along now.”
The kid next to him was more ambitious. He’d created an intricate model of the solar system and kept explaining enthusiastically, “The yellow one in the middle is the sun!”
Thanks, Copernicus, Brian thought.
Which brings me to the first of five ineffective parenting styles to avoid:
- Helicopter parents.
Back to the science fair scenario: If your child’s display is appropriate to their age, but little Johnny’s looks like a high school senior project—well, you might suspect a helicopter parent has been hovering in the background.
Helicopter parents help their children do their assignments; argue with teachers about their children’s grades, and in general attempt to shield their kids from any form of hardship or disappointment.
For the parent who follows Jesus, this is not appropriate behavior. Jesus promised us suffering. God uses it to shape our characters. Should we do any less for our children?
- Minivan madness parents
These parents drive kids from one extra-curricular activity to the next, barely slowing down enough to sleep at night.
The family’s schedule is packed. Their idea of having dinner together is passing out burritos in the van on the way to the next sports practice or dance rehearsal.
Even Sundays aren’t necessarily off limits from activities.
This driven behavior is about image management. Parents compete with one another as to whose kids are the most awesome (meaning they excel at the most activities).
Does that sound healthy?
The parent who follows Jesus recognizes competitive over-busyness is the malaise of our culture.
Christians are commanded to obey God’s Sabbath rest, which is a lifestyle. We are to rest, not only from activities and work, but from worrying about what others think.
God’s approval is enough.
Putting limits on your children’s extracurricular activities is a way to stay sane and actually enjoy each other’s company.
Think about it: if the parent pays attention only when the child is on the field or the stage, what message does that send?
On the other hand, if you spend time in conversation around the family table, no one has to perform in order to earn love. You’ve created a safe place to bond and be yourselves.
Years from now, your fondest memories will center on your relationships within the family, not the activities your kids engaged in.
- BFF parents.
These moms and dads are insecure and need their kids to like them. They function as adult buddies instead parents.
They hesitate to exercise their authority for fear of the child’s reaction. They’ve bought into the lie that good parenting is all about letting kids make their own decisions and simply “supporting” them in that.
In contrast to this, the Bible says children are naturally foolish. It is parental authority which works that foolishness out of them (Proverbs 22:15).
Parents who follow Jesus know they have a responsibility to exercise their God-given authority.
They recognize they are not perfect, but they trust God to provide the wisdom and grace they need to lovingly guide and discipline their children.
You can enjoy a wonderful friendship later with your adult children—but only if you are willing to be the parent now.
Next time, we’ll discuss two more ineffective parenting styles to avoid.
Meantime, let your kids do their own work. Create breathing room in their schedules. Exercise your parental authority for their good.
In other words, keep the long view in mind.