The 2 Approaches to Parenting: The Soft Landing vs. Aim for the Sky

Do you expect your kids to fall, or do you expect them to climb?

Those really are the two expectations of parenting: the parents who think that their kids will fall, so it’s their job to provide the soft landing. And then there are parents who think their kids will climb, so it’s their job to provide the ropes and the harness. Both keep kids safe. But one aims at helping them climb; the other aims at assuming they’ll fall.

I’ve always been a climber type of gal. I expect that my kids will do the right thing. I thought all Christian parents did this, but I was speaking with a friend recently who said that her attitude towards the teen years is this:

Kids are going to make mistakes and explore. I would rather they do it now, while they’re still under our roof and we’re there to catch them when they fall, than that they wait until they move out and we’re not there to cushion the landing anymore.

I was a little flabbergasted, and I didn’t say very much. But why do we assume that kids will mess up? Sure teens have a lot of pressure, and a lot of issues, but so do adults. And teens have the Holy Spirit just as much as adults do, when they love the Lord. My attitude has always been: I expect you to do what God says is right. I know you’re not perfect, but I expect you to try to listen to God. I’ll love you no matter what, but I expect that we will all, as a family, try to live for Jesus.

Do Not Conform – Wooden Plaque

from: DaySpring Cards Inc


Is that so weird?

Apparently it is. I was reading a story lately that epitomized this from Lifesite News, that featured a Planned Parenthood spokesperson saying that American families would be healthier if parents let kids have sex at home. She says:

Dr. Schalet, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said American parents should be more like their counterparts in the Netherlands, who allow teenagers to have sex openly under their roof.

Schalet told local media she finds it unfortunate that America, girls believe “in their parents’ eyes they would be a disappointment if they were to engage in sex.”

“In the Netherlands if a girl is in a relationship, she’s not a slut for wanting sex, for making decisions about sex,” she said. Most parents deem teen sexuality a “part of your life that you are allowed to own and make choices about.”

Get that? Our lives would be better if we let kids have sex at home! That’s not all that different from the attitude I’ve also encountered from some parents at church who let their teens drink at home, and serve alcohol to other teens visiting, “so that they won’t drink outside the house”. They’d rather the kids drink where they’re safe. Why not just expect kids not to drink at all?

You’re setting the expectations: I expect you to make poor decisions. I expect you to mess up.

Am I being naive? I don’t think so. I didn’t drink. I didn’t have sex before I was married. In fact, 40% of Christians in my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex didn’t have sex before they were married, either. I know that’s not a majority, but it’s a substantial minority. And I think the figures would be higher if parents expected more of their kids.

My children have always come to me when they mess up. We talk all the time–taking walks and talking and chatting at least an hour a day. I keep up with them. They know they can talk to me. But they also know that I expect them to do the right thing. And lo and behold, they do!

I don’t know why Christian parents would give in to defeatism and assume that their kids will choose the wrong path. When we assume that they’ll fall, they often do. If we give the message: we expect you to do the right thing, they often live up to that.

And here’s one of the scary parts that I’ve never understood about parents who let their kids have “sleepovers” at home or to want to get drunk. They now have nowhere safe. If even their parents think they’re going to have sex, how can they say no? Your home is supposed to be the one place in the world where you can still be a child and still be protected. But if your parents are saying, “you can have sex here”, then your parents aren’t protecting you. If your parents are saying, “you can get drunk here”, then your parents aren’t providing a safe environment for you to grow up in.

We owe it to our kids to expect the best, and to provide that safe environment. Jesus’ message was, “go and sin no more”. Did that mean that He wouldn’t forgive them if they messed up? Of course not. But it did mean that He expected them to choose well. And we should expect the same of our kids.

Kids live up to their expectations. I want to raise mountain climbers, not people who fall. What about you?