“Helicopter parenting”— it’s more than just a buzz word, in the age of social media and wanting our kids to have a perfect life, as well as with the onset online predators and the constant fear of strangers, it’s become a bona fide parenting style. Frankly, it’s something that many of us have to fight against giving in to when our parental instincts go on over drive.
What is a concerned parent to do then, when one doesn’t want to hover like a helicopter parent but still wants to lead and guide their kids in an appropriate way? I recently found the answer in an article by parenting expert Dr. Tim Elmore and it was a total “light bulb” (no pun intended!) moment for me: instead of being a helicopter parent, Elmore says, we should strive to be a lighthouse parent.
“Lighthouse parenting” allows your parenting style to transition with your kids as they get older and still provide all the guidance and protection they need. Yes, they MAY need you to hover more when they are toddlers, but by the time they are tweens, your lighthouse should be shining BRIGHT. Elmore explains, “A lighthouse stays in one location, and it’s a beacon that has ongoing communication with passing ships. A lighthouse reveals its location; it warns mariners of danger and provides wise guidance — but it won’t chase down the ships.”
The differences between a helicopter parent and a lighthouse parent are key in turning your kids into successful adults. Elmore says that while helicopter parents “hover and control, follow kids around, tell them how to behave, and impose rules and regulations,” lighthouse parents “check in and communicate, won’t chase down kids to enforce rules, let them know where they stand, offer wisdom (light) and guidance.”
To truly embrace lighthouse parenting, we as Christian parents need to also embrace a scripture in James that a LOT of us like to give the side-eye (me included!)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)
Not only do WE not want to suffer, we REALLY don’t want our kids to suffer (because of course it’s WAY harder to watch them hurt than for us to hurt ourselves. Their suffering is ours as well.) But the truth is, our kids need trials, struggles, and tests to develop into capable adults. They need to develop problem-solving skills, face natural consequences, and learn to lean on the Lord when they need help.
Are you ready to be a lighthouse parent? I’ll be honest, for me, the struggle will be VERY real, but I am committed to being the parent my kids’ deserve—and that’s one that is a shining guiding light, not a noisy hovering machine.
For more from Dr. Elmore, check out his book: 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid: Leading your kids to succeed in life and his website Growing Leaders.