Helicopter parenting, lawnmower parenting, free-range parenting, tiger parenting, attachment parenting, baby-led, and serenity parenting—the list of descriptive parenting terms is endless. Or here is one of mine: janitorial parenting—letting your children do whatever they desire and you clean up after their mistakes, allowing them to avoid accountability.
We are regularly having new labels and descriptions of parenting thrown out at us. Much of the time, they are characterizations of flaws or destructive leanings in parenting, ones we feel a need to rebuff or defy. Other times, they are leanings that are held out as the ideal and you may be judged if you don’t subscribe to it.
So are parents over-protective and over-involved, or too lenient and uninvolved? Who makes that judgment? What you may criticize as unwarranted, I may deem completely appropriate. What you call excessive, I may call necessary. Or, what you deem uninvolved, I may call confidence or trust in my child. After all, I think we would all agree that there are no clear answers to questions like: How old should a child be to be left home alone? Or what age should a child have a cell phone or a particular level of freedom or responsibility?
For these kinds of questions, we might be able to agree to disagree but there are other parenting problems that create more objective concerns. One such concern is when parents shape their role based on what feels most comfortable or desirable for them. For example, some parents avoid engaging with their kids because they feel overwhelmed by their needs, and other parents are constantly engaged with their kids because they want to control every outcome. We could offer other examples, but anytime the focus is primarily on the parents’ needs/desires—it is unlikely they are providing wise, godly parenting to their children.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions? Here are some questions for you to consider.
- Are you buying into the assumptions and beliefs of our culture? Currently, the ultimate goal in parenting is fostering individuality and autonomy, supporting our children’s choices regardless of our opinions or convictions.
- Are you driven by a fear of being different than, less than, or criticized for your parenting?
- Are you defining yourself or your parenting by your own idealistic principles, needs, desires, or fears?
Parenting never goes well when we blindly accept cultural trends, aim to rebuff or appease the opinions of others, or we base it on ourselves. These take us off track.
Better to ask yourself:
- What do my children want and/or need?
- Is it biblical?
The solution is always intentional, wise, godly parenting. Wisdom requires us to consider the specifics of the circumstances and the needs of each child (temperament, weaknesses, temptations, and capabilities), before deciding how to parent them in a particular situation. We must have thoughtful, philosophical values for why we choose to parent in certain ways, and these should be based on biblical principles. When your parenting reflects God’s ways, he grants you great liberty as you respond to the needs and issues in your home and context. He does not prescribe a cookie-cutter approach to parenting. Biblical principles are rich with wisdom for the task and we must become skilled in applying them in our homes.
Knowing this encourages us to think wisely and personally about how to love each child. One child may require more supervision and correction, another may need you to challenge them to take risks and step outside their comfort zone—while yet another must be guarded and reigned in because they are indiscriminate in their relationships and decisions. Biblical wisdom never changes—it is timeless—but the way in which we speak into our children’s struggles and experiences requires deeply personal and individual biblical application.
What kind of parent are you? What matters most is that you pray for godly wisdom to understand what is best for your children and then pray for the boldness to incarnate that in your home. Our goal is not success (at least as the world defines it); it is faithfulness to the task. We don’t always get it right, but when we focus on parenting wisely, we can trust God with the outcome.