This past weekend, I was able to spend a day celebrating my niece’s second birthday. While she was napping, I snuck out for a walk with my sister-in-law and mother on a wonderful, breezy Saturday. Along the way, we started to talk about parenting. Our conversation ended up drifting to the concept of the hovering, helicopter parent.
You know the term, right? That parent who hovers over their child, second-guessing their actions and trying to protect them from any danger and problems. We talked about my 7-year-old niece and giving her more freedom to ride her bike on their street, and how sometimes giving that freedom is nerve-racking when we can’t keep our child in sight. Instead of our best intentions to raise kids who will be happy, productive, independent and responsible adults, we still want to try to make sure they don’t get hurt.
And then we hear stories about young adults whose parents came for a full-time job interview with them, and contrast it with the tales of how we grew up (haven’t you heard that “I grew up in a time without seatbealts, helmets, riding freely in the neighborhood and I’m still alive!”).
It dawned on us in the conversation that much of this is about control, and it can become a problem for us as Christian parents. If we’re trying to control every variable in our children’s lives, how are we trusting God to care for him or her? How can our prayer life grow if we are convinced that we have to manage each minute variable of life? We both admitted how much this can be a struggle – we want to help our kids grow, but instead of setting the right example, teaching God’s principles and letting go at appropriate times, we sometimes go back to hovering.
If we look at our best example of a parent – our heavenly Father – we see someone who is the exact opposite of a helicopter parent. He is our best and only example that we should emulate for the best kind of parenting.
- He loves us unconditionally. We don’t have to prove anything to Him – he loves us just the way we are, flaws and all.
- He equips us to make right choices. He gives us his Word as a guide, and sends his Holy Spirit to live within us. He even encourages us to meet with our “brothers and sisters” in the faith to provide us with accountability and to help us learn and grow.
- He doesn’t take away our ability to make wrong choices. As a parent, I want my child to learn from my mistakes so their life will be easier. But ultimately, they will make choices that I might not like. I can only imagine how our Father feels after He has equipped us, loved us and guided us and then we make horrible choices and fill our lives with sin. But He doesn’t stop us from those choices – because he wants to be in a relationship with us, not controlling and dominating us. He is still there with us – but he lets us make the choice.
- He is always there to pick us up when we fall. No matter how much we mess up, God is the God of second chances. And thirds, and fourths, and hundreds. When we repent and turn to Him, he will be there, like the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). He doesn’t tell us “I told you so!” He lavishes us with love, grace and mercy and helps us get back on the right path.
- He allows us to grow and be shaped by the trials and tears. Even if our wrong choices didn’t cause a time of trial or suffering we’re going through, our heavenly Father uses those times to help shape us into someone who is more like His son, Jesus. No tear has to be wasted in His heavenly plan.
Isn’t it funny how the best examples always come from our heavenly Father? May you know His love and example today.