The Big Picture Podcast 52: Helicopter Parenting

The Big Picture Podcast 52: Helicopter Parenting November 18, 2014


Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from our not-so-groovy friend the Late ‘Boomer as he lets us in on how he’s doing in his efforts to clean up the societal mess that is the legacy of his generation, the Baby Boomers.

On a previous visit from the ‘Boomer, we discussed an article from talk show host and super-wise man Dennis Prager titled “Baby Boomers Owe America’s Young People an Apology”. In that podcast I mentioned this quote he made:

“Our generation came up with a  foolish slogan that ended up robbing you (America’s young people) of childhood. It was, ‘Never trust anyone over 30.’ Our infantile attitude toward adult authority has inflicted great harm on you. Because of it, many baby boomers decided not to become adults, and this has had disastrous consequences in your lives”

I wanted to expand a little more on that today.

The Baby boomer’s refusal to grow up has now filtered down to their children, and as Dennis says, it has been disastrous.  We can see this manifested today largely by what is known as “helicopter parenting” where parents (mostly moms but a lot of dads, too) hover fearfully and anxiously over their children in desperate attempts to either shield them from harm or ensure their success.

I saw a lot of this when I was a high school teacher years ago, and now as a parent myself, I see it in so many parents in our little circle of life.  And I think it stems from the Baby Boomer desire to avoid growing up and being responsible.

Because if we don’t trust ourselves to grow up, how can we trust our children to? And if our children don’t see us as adults, what security or model of success in life will they have?

I was struck by this recently after a non-helicopter neighbor of ours was telling my wife about her experience with dropping their son off at college. She described with amazement all the classes and meetings she saw at orientation – not for the incoming students, but for their parents!

Those of us of a certain age remember going to college quite differently. When it came time for me to go to college, my parents walked me out to my fully loaded ’74 Chevy Vega, pointed me south on the 405 freeway, and told me to stop when I got to San Diego. Very few parents back then actually went with their children to college, and NONE of them were given classes on what their children could expect or how they would be constantly informed on little Johnny or Janie were doing.

Going to college then was a first step towards life on your own as an adult. Now it’s just an extension of your dependent life with helicopter Mommy and Daddy.

At least it is for way too many young people today.

And this really does have an adverse effect on the students. A whole slew of studies have shown that as the first generation of over-parented kids graduate into the world, those whose parents intervene inappropriately — running interference, removing obstacles and solving problems that kids should tackle themselves — actually wind up as anxious, narcissistic young adults who have trouble coping with the demands of life.

Now, before you think I’m throwing stones here, let me tell you I’ve also had to resist these urges myself on more than one occasion. If you could see me at our son’s baseball games when he’s not getting enough playing time or is being squeezed by the umpire’s strike zone, you’d know I’m guilty. In fact, my non-helicopter wife and I recently put our beautiful 12 year-old daughter on a plane to the mid-west all by herself, to the amazement, and I’m sure some disapproval, of friends and family. I was cool about it, thinking what great parents we are to give our little girl the trust and confidence to visit family alone. Yep, I was pretty proud of us right up until she got into the security line, at which point I nearly panicked and rushed the scanners.

What the hell were we doing? She’s going to go through airports alone? There’s people out there that can hurt her! I’ve got to go with her and make sure she’s safe!

But I didn’t.

I managed to shut my helicopter down, took a walk around the terminal, and off she went. She did great. She came home safe and healthy and all the much more equipped to some day take on the world.

So I get it. I really do.

But this the way it is with so many of the well-intentioned ideas that came out of pop culture and the pop psychology of the 60s and 70s. Because of the post-modern urge to deny what had been self-evident for centuries, that responsible parenting was an obligation to raise a child into maturity and independent adulthood, not security and self realization or self esteem. Our children have been released into a challenging, scary world full of problems and obstacles that they are not equipped to face. What a disservice we’ve done to them! And that’s todays word from the Late ‘Boomer.

In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible).

Today’s witnesses come from Indonesia, and their story goes like this:

When Stenley got off the boat on a remote Indonesian island, he felt the spiritual darkness.  The people there practiced a combination of witchcraft and Islam.  Stenley was fresh out of Bible School and ready for the work to which God had called him – reaching these island people for Christ.  Stenley preached boldly, calling people to turn to Christ and then to burn their idols and relics of their old life.  One Muslim burned his idol, but inside was a scroll from the Quran.  When radical Muslims heard of the burning of the Quran, they reported Stenley to the area officials.  He was immediately arrested.

Although Stenley was horribly beaten and lay comatose, His mentor from Bible School, Pastor Siwi, came to see him and witnessed tears streaming from his eyes. Soon after, Stenley died from his injuries.

But even death could not end Stenley’s ministry. When his story was told in his home village, eleven Muslims accepted Christ as Savior. Fifty-three villagers made the decision to attend Bible school, seven of whom asked to be sent as missionaries to the very village where Stenley had died.

Hoping to extinguish the gospel fire, village officials snuffed out Stenley’s life. But even in the midst of their violence, God’s hand was at work. Today the flames of the gospel burn brightly in that village.

And the next story is about Stenley’s mom, and goes like this:

The woman was one month away from graduating Bible School along with her daughter.  It was the same Bible School where her son, Stenley, had gone before he went to another Indonesian island as a missionary.  Stenley was killed for carrying the gospel, but his testimony had prompted many others to go to Bible school and to accept God’s call to share his love.

When they had completed their training, the woman and her daughter planned to go to the very village where Stenley had died. She hoped for a chance to show Christ’s love, even to the men who had beaten her son to death. A visitor to the Bible school, hearing of her plans, was surprised.  “Are you not afraid to die?”  he asked her.

The woman seemed confused by the question, as if it was not something she had thought of before.  “Why should I be afraid to die?” she answered simply.

Her faith in God’s goodness was complete. If he chose to use her in the village where her son died, so be it. And if he permitted her to die there, she would accept that call as well. Her death would bring her into the presence of the Christ she loved. Death was not an obstacle or a punishment, merely a doorway into the eternal presence of God.

So with Stenley and his mother, we see the opposite of helicopter parenting. We see a mom who took an eternal perspective not only on her son’s life, but her own as well. And for that, Stenley and his faithful mother are hereby nominated to the great cloud of witnesses, of whom the world is not worthy.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this week’s Big Picture Podcast, please go to my web site at and also check out our other podcasts and points of view on the E-Squared Media network at Wherever you go, leave a few comments and tell your friends, and even you pastor about us. See you next time on the Big Picture podcast.

Be blessed!

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