Helping or Hindering?

Sep 10 2017



Do you like the picture? It’s entitled “Helicopter Parents.” If you take a good look, you can see first of all, that it takes place in a classroom. One parent is doing the reading for a child; one parent has written a paper; one is complaining about grades; one is bringing treats; and one is “rescuing” a child from the dastardly professor. Anyone involved in education today knows about helicopter parents.

They are always right when it comes to their children. The teachers do not know what they are doing. They hover over their children no matter the activity and couch it in terms of wanting the best for their children. But do they?  Will what they are doing help or hinder?

First, some examples. A young lady graduated from college and was interviewing for her first job. She got the job. But the Human Resources Department interviewer received a phone call from her father and it went something like this. “I’m so-and-so’s father and you just hired her. I need to know about her benefits, her insurance, and her salary.” The interviewer replied that such information could not be given out since the daughter was hired, not the father. The father replied, “But I take care of all her finances for her.”

Or what about the parent who wrote all of his child’s papers in high school including applications for awards and scholarships? What will happen to that child when s/he gets to college and has to write a paper? Or the parent who calls a teacher complaining about a grade or a son or daughter not receiving an athletic award? Are those parents helping or hindering?

In Proverbs we read that “a wise child loves discipline.” In the Gospel lesson we read that parents, even those who are evil, will give good gifts to their children. But are helicopter parents giving good gifts to their children or hindering their ability to make decisions when they get into the work world or when they have to face difficult decisions in their lives? Are helicopter parents disciplining children and teaching them right from wrong or turning them out to seek approval and pats on the back all the time when they are working because they do not know the difference on their own between mediocrity and doing a good job?

What is our responsibility to teach our children as a Christian family of faith? Is it to completely protect them from reality or to teach them how to cope with reality? Is it to point fingers at everyone else who is presenting challenges to our children or to teach them how to cope with those challenges? Is it to help them use their faith to make good decisions and to cope with uncertainty, or is it to completely allow them to use their faith as an excuse for problems and explain that God is just testing them?

Let’s talk a little about discipline. Discipline teaches children right from wrong. It teaches them that there are consequences when THEY make bad choices. It teaches them to make better choices. Discipline is not intended to be physically punitive. It cannot be arbitrary, and it must be consistent. Telling a child, “That’s ok. I understand that you were having a bad day. Just try to do better” does NOT teach a child how to make better decisions. Making excuses to a teacher for a child’s bad behavior, or denying that the child exhibited the bad behavior in the first place does not teach responsibility.

It is our responsibility to teach our children how to make decisions, how to deal with adversity, how to be thankful when things are going well, and how to become responsible adults. At an early age we need to teach them how to THINK about decisions and how to stand up for what is right. And we need to teach them that God is with them always – through the good and through the bad. And finally, we need to teach them that when bad things happen to good people, it is not God who is punishing them for some imaginary transgression. It is people who are making the bad decisions that will be creating difficulties, not God who is punishing them.

Disciplining children is not easy. No parent wants to hear, “I hate you. You don’t love me. Everyone else can do it. Why can’t I?”

It is parents who have a responsibility to set boundaries. It is the family of faith that has a responsibility to teach God’s love and presence. Our Sunday School teachers have a great responsibility for they act in concert with every one of us to teach our children responsible Christian values. Our children also have a responsibility to do the best that they can do. We want them to succeed. We want them to grow up to be responsible adults. And we want them to know, above all else, that God loves them and we love them. If we can do that much to influence successive generations, then we will be successful. Our most important task is to help, not hinder their development. Amen.