If you’re a fan of women’s gymnastics, chances are you’re familiar with Rick and Lynn Raisman, parents of U.S. gymnast and gold medal winner Aly Raisman.
The Raismans have achieved “viral” status thanks to their all-too-obvious nervousness when Aly performs. They squirm and grimace their way through their daughter’s leaps, somersaults, and dismounts – Aly’s mom sometimes even watches her routines through her hands!
If you haven’t watched the Raismans’ reactions, take a look:
As entertaining as it is to watch, if you’re a parent, you have to admit: the Raismans are simply emoting what all of us feel on the inside as our children grow up and journey towards independence.
Parents feel that tug when they drop their child off on his first day of school.
It happens at piano recitals, debate competitions, and Little League games.
You’ll find parents struggling at dinner tables when their sons and daughters consider where to go to college… or if they should take that job 2,000 miles away.
But while the temptation to “helicopter” around our children and shield them from danger or hurt is real, part of growing up means our kids have to learn to confront life challenges… but as anyone who watches Aly’s mom and dad soon realizes, it isn’t easy for the parents!
Thankfully, the opposite of “helicopter parenting” isn’t to completely let go. It’s more about being a “lighthouse” who’s available to provide age-appropriate wisdom and guidance. There’s an article on the Focus on the Family website that lays out the difference between the two types of parenting:
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. How does the analogy apply to parenting? Here are the differences in a nutshell:
- Hover and control
- Follow kids around
- Tell them how to behave
- Impose rules and regulations
- Check in and communicate
- Won’t chase kids down to enforce rules
- Let them know where they stand
- Offer wisdom (light) and guidance
Our children won’t mature in a healthy way if they aren’t allowed to navigate scary situations and challenging experiences. Kids need to take calculated risks to mature. Unfortunately, American parents often view struggle as a negative thing. We’ve created a world of convenience, filled with smartphones, microwaves and the Internet. The message is that struggles and discomfort are to be avoided. We’ve recognized the value of self-esteem but forget that it should be strengthened through challenges.
What we fail to see is that when we remove struggles from our children’s lives, we begin to render them helpless. They lose the opportunity to develop resilience, creativity and problem-solving skills — important strengths they’ll need later on.”
Good food for thought for all of us who, like Aly’s parents, sometimes squirm as we watch our “baby” make his or her way in life.
I hope you’ll head over to the Focus website and read the entire piece, “From Helicopter Parent to Lighthouse Parent.”