The Fixer Problem in Parenting

The Fixer Problem in Parenting

First off, I love Anthony Bourdain. Beyond all of the great writing, incredible food and interesting people, his show provides one element that separates it from the rest of the massive food television market: location. From Russia, to Peru to the DMZ of the Korean Peninsula, "No Reservations" took the viewer into some of the most exotic and specialized locales in television. Viewers are afforded  a certain naiveté that Anthony just happens upon these exotic locations, tribal customs and interesting people who just happen to be making some incredible food. Oh, the ignorant bliss of television....

The truth of the matter is that shows like "No Reservations" would jump through loads of hoops, have significant advance presence and a team of locals who worked diligently to make sure everything was so detailed and perfectly plotted that it appeared completely natural. One of the most important jobs, especially in the more remote locales was the job of the "fixer". The fixer is a local who is well connected and could get Anthony into places and situations that he, otherwise, could not get into or in many cases would not even know existed. The fixer would go ahead of Anthony "fixing" each situation, setting it up for the most optimal camera ready interactions and experiences. This is great for television shows, it gives a glimpse into what more intimate and often times closed door situations would look like if you were not an outsider.

While being a "fixer" is great if you are working for a television show, it is terribly detrimental if you are parent.

In the past 5-10 years I have seen more and more parents resort to playing the fixer role for their children. I see them lumber and labor to always be five steps ahead of their children, always sorting, setting, arranging and meddling to make sure that their child has the most "optimal camera ready" experiences possible. So many parents are doing this from the moment their children have any potential for an experience that could be "off the script". "Fixing" relationships, social circles, clubs, extracurriculars, classes and even play dates has become the standard. It is done with the best of intentions, but with the most dire of consequences.

Study after study, has warned us of the high price we pay when parents insulate, over protect and script their children's lives. Children not only grow up with a less experienced life with little ability to problem solve, lack of creativity and very thin skin, they also grow up more depressed and more medicated.

When parents resort to the role of fixer we tell our children two things:

  1. You are incapable of living in a world that I do not create for you.
  2. Whatever you accomplished, you did so (only) with my help.

In youth ministry we have the incredibly important job of helping our parents see a different way. There is a prophetic role that we are called to that helps parents step outside of the predominant stream of "fixer" parenting and not only trust that their kids are amazing capable and stronger that they could ever imagine, but to also trust that God does not need them to script their children's lives. When we do fixer parenting we are committing the sin of rigging our children's lives because we do not believe in them and we do not believe in a God who loves them. Helping our parents understand the durability of their children and the trustworthiness of the God who made them is a holy and good calling. A calling that I encourage you to answer.

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