A few years ago there was an article in Time magazine called “The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting” by Nancy Gibbs. It began like this:
The insanity crept up on us slowly; we just wanted what was best for our kids. We bought macrobiotic cupcakes and hypoallergenic socks, hired tutors to correct a 5-year-old’s “pencil-holding deficiency,” hooked up broadband connections in the tree house but took down the swing set after the second skinned knee. We hovered over every school, playground and practice field—“helicopter parents,” teachers christened us, a phenomenon that spread to parents of all ages, races and regions.
Stores began marketing stove-knob covers and “Kinderkords” (also known as leashes; they allow “three full feet of freedom for both you and your child”) and Baby Kneepads (as if babies don’t come prepadded). The mayor of a Connecticut town agreed to chop down three hickory trees on one block after a woman worried that a stray nut might drop into her new swimming pool, where her nut-allergic grandson occasionally swam. A Texas school required parents wanting to help with the second-grade holiday party to have a background check first. Schools auctioned off the right to cut the carpool line and drop a child directly in front of the building — a spot that in other settings is known as handicapped parking.
We were so obsessed with our kids’ success that parenting turned into a form of product development. Parents demanded that nursery schools offer Mandarin, since it’s never too soon to prepare for the competition of a global economy. High school teachers received irate text messages from parents protesting an exam grade before class was even over; college deans described freshmen as “crispies,” who arrived at college already burned out, and “teacups,” who seemed ready to break at the tiniest stress.
What has turned us into “helicopter parents?” When did we learn that all hardship is harmful, that every unknown is dangerous, and that even the tiniest failure must be avoided?
Perhaps the answer is when we lost our belief in God. Overparenting is a logical conclusion if we alone are responsible for everything. Without a God who is in control, I alone am responsible; I alone have to make the world safe for my children; I alone have to navigate the stormy waters of life and defend myself and my family against every danger.
But the Bible teaches that we are not alone.
Instead, we are cared for by One who intends that we have life “in abundance.” Further, the hardships of life come our way to produce good — not damage — as we grow in faith.
Consider some of the images for trials and suffering we find in the New Testament: a gardener prunes a vine so that it will be fruitful (John 15:1-2); a wise parent disciplines children (Heb. 12:7-9); a fiery crucible purifies gold (1Pet. 1:6-7). Scripture teaches repeatedly that good comes from hardship.
As James teaches in chapter 1, faith grows when it is tested. James started his letter with the admonition to rejoice in trials and hardships because they have a purpose. That purpose is to mature and strengthen our faith.