"I think with many more of today's parents than in the past, the "helicoptering" is more about over-protecting them from what they perceive to be this dreadful, dangerous, terror-filled world and not realizing that kids need to be able to take educated risks, make independent decisions and take consequences for their actions." Jean Walker
Flags Flying in Normandy, France
(Taken by Deb)
No doubt you have become aware of a fairly recent phenomenon called helicopter parenting. According to Dictionary.com, helicopter parenting is defined as “a style of child rearing in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child's independence by being too involved in the child's life.”
Although helicopter parenting can be observed throughout our culture, it appears to be prevalent among families where the children’s lives are micromanaged by their parents, sometimes even into adulthood. Where do we find such micromanagement of children? Some (not all!) homeschooling circles, legalistic congregations, Gothardites, and others who adhere to a particular formulaic idealism in raising their children. Those who take their parental oversight to an extreme we will call Helicopter Parents on Steroids.
How ironic that Josh Harris, who went from what we consider to be a rigid homeschooling culture to the 'mother' of all discipline-based ministries — Sovereign Grace Ministries (we haven’t forgotten that he lived with the Mahaney family for an entire year) – would recommend an article written by Reb Bradley, a homeschooling dad, who learned firsthand the pitfalls of micromanaging his children’s lives. (link)
In his excellent article, Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling: Exposing the 7 major blind spots of homeschoolers (link) Bradley explains:
“In the last couple of years, I have heard from multitudes of troubled homeschool parents around the country, a good many of whom were leaders. These parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn't turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn’t hold to their parents’ values.
Some of these young people grew up and left home in defiance of their parents. Others got married against their parents' wishes, and still others got involved with drugs, alcohol, and immorality. I have even heard of several exemplary young men who no longer even believe in God. My own adult children have gone through struggles I never guessed they would have faced.
Most of these parents remain stunned by their children’s choices, because they were fully confident their approach to parenting was going to prevent any such rebellion. Some were especially confident, because as teens these kids were only obedient. Needless to say, the dreams of these homeschool parents have crashed, and many other parents want to know what they can do to prevent their own children from following the same course.”
Early in the article Bradley explains that he when his grown children were young, he was overly confident in his approach to parenting, believing that if he trained them "in the way they should go", he would be a success as a parent. With regard to his own children, Bradley reveals:
“I had wrongly thought them to be exactly like wet clay, me being the potter with total control over what they would become. I was not prepared for their individuality, nor was I ready to see them as fleshly beings. As I watched them each face off with the Lord and have their own struggles with the flesh, like I had when I was their age, my homeschool dreams crashed royally.
After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people. Bev and I still stand behind what we have taught on parenting in the past. However, we urgently add to it the following insights.”
What are those SEVEN BLIND SPOTS identified by Reb Bradley?
1. Self-centered dreams
2. Family as an idol
3. Emphasis on outward form
4. Tendency to judge
5. Over-dependence on authority and control
6. Over-reliance upon sheltering
7. Formulaic parenting breaks down relationship
For a thorough explanation of these blindspots, please consult Bradley’s article at the link provided.
As soon as I read Harris’ post featuring Bradley’s article, I was reminded of a recent comment here at TWW by one of our faithful readers, Evie, who expressed concern about Carolyn Mahaney's apparent micromanagement of her daughter(s). She posted the following quote by Nicole Whitacre from her article Future Homemakers on the CBMW website.
“As a young woman, I often lay in bed at night and wondered about my future. I stared hard into the darkness, as if God had put the answers there. I had a longing to do great things for God. I imagined myself as a missionary in another country, maybe even a nurse. (I assumed my tendency to faint at the sight of blood would not be a problem.) I had visions of speaking to crowds of women, leading many to the gospel. What I didn't yet understand was that God's plan for me was greater than what my imagination could conjure up. It was also very different than what I thought. How about you? What are your dreams and aspirations for your future? How do you answer the well-meaning adults who ask about your plans after high school?”
Included in Evie's comment was her paraphrase of what she believes Nicole Whitacre was trying to communicate, with excerpts coming from her "Future Homemakers" article.
“I had a longing to do great things for God. I imagined myself as a missionary in another country, maybe even a nurse. I had visions of speaking to crowds of women, leading many to the gospel…I didn’t yet understand…However, Mom did not allow me to remain ignorant for long. Through Scripture, hours of conversations, and helpful books, she presented to me the noble calling of a homemaker and its powerful effect in the world…Mom…taught me of the power of a homemaker’s influence in the world…Through my mother’s training…I finally realized…that God’s plan for me…was very different than what I thought…God’s plan for me was greater than what my imagination could conjure up… what John Angell James calls a “woman’s mission.” Scripture unapologetically sets forth the high priority of the home for each and every woman…this is our clear mission from God…you don’t have to wait until a future day or time to get started on your mission. You can begin today…My mom, Carolyn Mahaney, will tell you how…by answering God’s call…True greatness…to be homemakers.”
We believe Carolyn Mahaney and her husband micromanaged their daughters during their formative years if not beyond. By Nicole's own admission, she longed to do great things for God as a nurse or missionary. For clarification we are not being critical of homemaking as a chosen profession. Dee and I have each been homemakers for most of our married lives, and we have loved it! In fact, it is our homemaking profession that makes The Wartburg Watch possible. However, we would never discourage a young lady from pursuing her own dreams and aspirations. This is what greatly concerns us about those whom we describe as helicopter parents on steroids.
There appears to be a trend in homeschooling circles where girls are expected to become homemakers exclusively when they grow up. The Botkin girls have written about this ad nauseum in their book So Much More (see categories section for our book review). Newsflash! The virtuous woman in the Bible was not restricted to homemaking responsibilities, as some would have you believe. Consider these verses from Proverbs 31: “She considers a field and buys it” (v. 16), “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.” (v. 18), and “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant” (v. 24). Remember, these words were inspired by Almighty God when Biblical patriarchy was in vogue.
Let us be clear. We are NOT feminists. On the contrary, we are conservative Christian women who believe that God allows flexibility in the lives of His children. We place a high priority on the family; however, there are married couples who successfully juggle marriage, careers, and children. For example, some nurses work part-time or on weekends in order to spend the majority of their time with their families. Furthermore, teachers can have schedules that mesh well with family life. And some women work part-time while their children are in school to keep up their professional skills.
Since we are women, our primary focus has been on young ladies. We believe it is wrong to train them up to believe that their exclusive calling is homemaking. We look forward to your input on parents who micromanage their children. As the quote above indicates, children (both male and female) must learn to take educated risks, make independent decisions, and face the consequences for their actions. Otherwise, they will not be prepared to face adulthood. What a shame that micromanaging parents can stifle their children’s dreams and aspirations. May the helicopter parents on steroids learn from the mistakes of those who have come before, lest they repeat them.
Lydia's Corner: 2 Kings 22:3-23:30 Acts 21:37-22:16 Psalm 1:1-6 Proverbs 18:11-12