When I became a parent I found myself frequently getting drawn into vicious thought cycles of pessimism concerning my son. It would usually start with a simple observation like, “My son doesn’t like naps” or “My son’s hair is thin.” That would lead to a series of fearful and often ridiculous what ifs.
What if he never sleeps well? What if he goes bald at 15? What if he ends up chronically cranky? What if he resents me and my inferior chromosomes? What if he’s hard to love, he and I don’t get along, and he struggles to make good friends?
Quickly I’d arrive at the inevitable conclusion: Because my newborn son won’t take a good nap and he’s yet to grow hair, he’ll surely die an old, lonely jerk with severed family relationships.
There’s no shortage of fears in parenting. We fear what our children might inherit or learn from us that will be to their detriment. We worry about the potential dangers of allowing those outside our family to have influence or interaction with our children. It’s not hard to imagine how our kids might even screw themselves up through immaturity and poor decision making.
Fear can twist any characteristic of our kids into a dilemma. Fear can make your kid’s shyness a personality disorder. Fear can make the independent child a rebellion risk. Fear can make any other kid’s success your kid’s failure. Parenting fear can make anything unfamiliar unwelcome, and anything you can’t control unacceptable.
Fear and worry are dangerous because they masquerade as “I’m just trying to love my kid.” But in reality, they are very real sin. At their root, they are a mistrust of God and a play for power and control that solely resides with Him. They are also a wasteful misuse of the faculties God has given us. The power to create something in your mind is a gift from God. To use that gift of imagination to create or cultivate worry, fear or anxiety is a waste of your God-given creativity.
The desire for our kids to have social acceptance, beauty, success, comfort, safety, etc. and the fear of them growing up without those things are all self-centered aspirations. Not only are they not promised in the Bible, the quest to acquire them often comes at the expense of following Christ. The truth is there is danger in this world, in particular, for those who follow Christ. Parenting Christian children requires parenting courageously, and yet, carefully, in a dangerous world.
Parenting Carefully and Courageously
We should parent carefully but remain mindful not to wander into cowardice. We have been entrusted with the rearing of the next generation, and that responsibility must be handled thoughtfully and wisely. We should be careful when discerning what influences we allow, which our kids should face, and which they should flee from. Being careful, though, should not make us cowards, sheltering our kids from any chance of failure or discomfort.
Parent courageously, but do not stray into carelessness. Balance trust in God with godly wisdom to avoid both overprotecting and overexposing your kids. There are a great many dangers to be faced in this world, and parents must have the backbone to help their children face them with both tenacity and wisdom.
I hope my wife and I never have to see our children face immense spiritual, physical or emotional danger, but if or when they do, I pray neither of us reacts in a spirit of timidity. I pray we would react bravely, trusting in the Lord. I also pray we would not be careless or reckless with their lives, disregarding wisdom to thrust them into the fray.
Parents, strive to trade self-centered fears and worries for God-centered trust and wisdom. Let courage and carefulness direct your steps as you labor to raise kids who will walk in the fear of the Lord.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7