Bumper Bowling


I’m not a big bowler.  I mean, I’m no stranger to the 100 point mark, but turkeys are pretty rare for me!  However, recently I’ve been thinking about bowling as it pertains to parenting.  Weird, huh? Well, let me explain…

As the parents of two kids under the age of 4, I am constantly looking for ways to help my kids excel in life.  I love them with all of my heart, and I am highly interested in their development and growth.  As Luke says of Jesus as a kid, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52) That’s my constant prayer for my kids!

What’s this have to do with bowling? Well, when I was younger I remember learning to bowl with the inflatable bumpers covering the gutters.  It was amazing!  I could toss the ball down the alley with my eyes closed and there was still a great chance of hitting a majority of the pins!  I believe that parenting can look a lot like that…we find ways to adjust and direct the course of our kids as they barrel towards various goals in their life. We coach them in their relationships with family and friends, hold their hands as they learn how to obey and follow instructions, and walk with them through each step of growth into young adulthood.  As parents, we are the bumpers!

The temptation as “bumpers” is to see success in our kids’ lives through our assistance and choose to stay in place…forever, if possible.  The bumpers exist to train, not to remain! No bowler who keeps bowling with bumpers ever becomes truly successful in the real bowling world!  At some point the bumpers must be removed so that the bowler can experience bowling the way it was intended…complete with the pitfalls and dangers of the sideline gutters.

Parents, are we adequately serving our kids as bumpers? Do we see our role as protective and preventative? Or do we use our influence to train our children how to bowl without bumpers?

I truly believe that, as Andy Stanley would put it, this is a tension to be managed rather than a problem to be solved.  Our goal should be to create balance as our kids’ bumpers, sometimes re-routing and sometimes allowing them to feel the pain of their mistakes.  How do you manage this tension? How have you seen your kids react to your role as their training bumper?