Posted tagged ‘helicopter parents’

The Button-Pushing Middle School Student

November 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          November 4, 2017

                         

I’m becoming experienced as a substitute teacher. Everyday I experience new things, am dismayed in new ways, and face intriguing situations that would make good fodder for reality TV.

I’ve come to realize that there is a certain category, a distinct species amongst students that causes a few to stand out like peacocks. It’s not a very large group of students, and they don’t usually cluster together like geese.

They are the button-pushers, the students who would give Jesus a hard time for walking on water. They look for the seeds of distraction and chaos to infect good discussions and teachable moments.

Recently, I had a week with the same 125 students, grouped into four classes and another class period for specialized study. Out of 125 students I discovered “the button-pusher”. Everyday he pushed my buttons in some annoying way. On Day One he asked belittling questions to another student after she gave a report on a current event in front of the whole class. His questions, which I squashed after the first couple, were asked in a way to make her look stupid. Hear the button being pushed and held down! On Day Two he kept bothering the student sitting beside him, saying things under his breath to her, touching her arm with his pencil. I was clueless of what was going on until she finally erupted…which is what he was going for!

On Day Three we had a confrontation. When I asked him to stop making a noise with his ruler, slapping the desk with it, he pushed his button with “What about him?” “I’m not talking about him. I’m talking to you!” He gave me the button-pusher look of defiance. “Don’t give me that look!”

On Day Four he started early and I attacked early. “We aren’t going to repeat yesterday. You either get with the program or take a nice vacation to the assistant principal’s office and stare at his wall posters.”

On Day Five his dad came and picked him up for some kind of appointment five minutes into class. God does answer prayer!

Button-pushers gain reputations amongst teachers. This button-pusher had done a couple of things to other students that were just plain mean, but when the teacher talked to his mom the response was that the teacher must be mistaken. It couldn’t be her son!

Conspiracy theorists believe button-pushers have been inserted into middle school classrooms to sabotage the education of the masses, but, even more than that, to become detriments to the preparatory process for the state assessment tests. There’s rumors that they have taken summer training in “argumentative classroom behavior” and “creating crying teachers who start mumbling to themselves”. Like the four celebrity judges on The Voice they have learned how to recognize opportunity and hit the button at a moment’s notice.

Oh, that button-pushers would be a dying breed heading towards extinction, but unfortunately they seem to be repopulating every year. Perhaps it has something to do with the growing number of helicopter parents, absentee parents, clueless parents, and the natural order of disorder. THEY would have you believe that! And if you do you’ve just had another button pushed called “gullible!”

Helicopter Church Members

April 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           April 8, 2016

                                 

The term, “helicopter parents”, was first used in 1969 By Dr. Haim Ginott in his book Parents and Teenagers. Since that time the skies have been overpopulated with parents who hover over their children for a variety of reasons.

The interesting thing is that churches have helicopter members. These are folk who hover over programs, look for mistakes in the Sunday bulletin, pounce on perceived errors, and question the intelligence of the pastor and/or church leaders.

They think the Kingdom would not be able to operate without them, and even then believe the Kingdom could function more efficiently if God would just let them do it their way.

Helicopter church people come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders. Some contribute to a church by sitting in the same seat each week, and they also…sit in the same seat each week. They are the ones who simply critique. That’s it! They aren’t involved in ministry other then that. They see it as their calling…the ministry of correction! They time the sermon, check the scripture references for accuracy, and ration out their smiles.

Others hover over the pastor. They check his schedule, call him in the late evening and get annoyed when he doesn’t answer. Bottom line: They don’t trust him, just because that’s their right! They grab him every Sunday after the worship service and monopolize his time, even though they know there are visitors present that he would like to meet. They ask him why he isn’t doing certain trivial ministry details, and could care less about community outreach, the homeless, and world hunger. They are concerned that two of the rubber stoppers in the pew communion cup holders are missing, and indifferent about missing members who have been dealing with difficulties.

Then there are the helicopters who are loving and caring, but also smothering. They have good intentions, but don’t understand the boundaries. They look you in the eye with sincerity and ask you how you are doing, and after a response of “Fine”, they question it until the person begins to think that maybe she isn’t doing okay. They mean well, and would give you the shirt off their back, but often take it to an uncomfortable level. However, of the helicopter church members they are the ones who most resemble the people of the first century church.

Just as the term “helicopter parents” came into existence to define those who hover, the church also has those members who hover over any activity, program, function, or detail of the ministries involving their kids and youth. Mind you, there are some parents who “drop and shop”…dropping the kids off and going shopping for a while. But most parents are engaged in their children’s church activities in some way. The helicopter parents micro-manage. They are the “Dance Moms” of the church, sometimes seeing the teacher…the “Abby” of the classroom…as their adversary.

And finally there is the “helicopter pastor” who has his hand in everything and knows everything. He’s been called and ordained, and takes that as God’s authorization for him to dominate and dictate. The Sunday sermon is just one of the various ways he sermonizes each week. When helicopter church members fly in the same zone as helicopter pastors there is bound to be a mid-air collision.

Thus, a new skill set for the church is appearing. One that could be labeled “air traffic controllers”. Controllers guide the helicopters in moving in a safe direction. They discern possible crashes long before they happen, and chart new paths for those who are flying around. It is a special kind of ministry that almost all pastors have no clue about. Seminary education focused on homiletics, Greek, systematic theology, and pastoral counseling. It did not offer a class in “positive movement in ministry”, or “the guidance of agenda-dominated church members.”

In fact, the air traffic controller can rarely be the pastor. The pastor is more like the pilot of one of those helicopters with multiple propellers. He’s usually carrying a heavy load. The air traffic controller has to be trusted by those he/she is guiding. He must establish principles for people to fly by that will not be questioned, for, without a doubt, the hovering members will try to balk when they are told to keep moving.

The thing is…the church needs passionate people who are invested in the ministry. Those saints are to be encouraged, but there comes a point where being invested in needs to be differentiated from owned, and that is sometimes a messy separation.

Making Grown-Ups Too Quickly

July 31, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       July 31, 2015

                                         

As a high school basketball coach and a middle school football coach I am around adolescent athletes a good bit each week. I love relating to them, seeing them create life-long friendships with teammates, and improving on their skills and understanding of the sport they are competing in.

There is growing concern about a multitude of things related to middle school and high school sports. “Helicopter parents” is a new term that is used to describe parents who are always hovering over their children to make sure that the coaches are seeing that the next Peyton Manning is right there on their football field in a twelve year old body.

We also have the “transfer craze”, where athletes are changing schools because School A has a better team than School B, plus the attached thought process that says, “I’ll have a better chance of getting a college scholarship if I play for School A!”

      Helicopter parents spend unbelievable amounts of money to have Johnny play for a club basketball team, go to several basketball camps, and outfit him with gear that an NBA player would wear…because if Johnny is going to play for Kansas, or UConn, or UCLA someday he’d better get started now.

And so grade-school boys are treated like celebrities and middle school girls start walking with swaggers because their lives are consumed with playing a sport…one sport…year-round…too excess, but nothing is too excess in the eyes of their parents.

We cut out the years of their lives where they can just be kids, playing whiffle ball in the backyard with the neighbor kids, catching fireflies at night, and having a sleep-over in the home-made tent in the basement made out of bed sheets and blankets and propped up by chairs. We eliminate the need for kids to just be kids, like it’s a wasted period to be avoided like acne, and we rush them into being grown-ups who haven’t reached puberty yet.

But the tragedy in addition to that is that when you don’t let kids grow into their lives it’s like cutting off a body part that will hinder them in some way at some time. Johnny gets to his junior year in high school and is sick of his sport, and he’s angry with his parents for making him play it excessively. Brenda’s knees ache all the time to the point that Motrin is her best friend. Tim thinks he’s a loser simply because he is very athletic, and his parents have told him he should be with all the money they’ve spent on him over the years. Judy can’t stand being around her dad because all he ever talks to her about is volleyball.

A life rule that we just can’t seem to remember is everything in moderation! Excess does not lead to success! In fact, more often than not, excess is the curb on the road to sadness.

In a few days my wife and I are having a cook-out for all the girls I coached for five years in high school. We will talk about some of the games, and a couple of our opponents, but we will mostly talk about what is going on in their lives now, the meaningful team bonding experiences they had, and the former teammate that passed away a couple of months ago. It will be a gathering of young ladies who have moved on in life and are understanding that the most important things do not have to include a round 28.5 inche basketball!