Episode 75 – Parenting out of Fear
Join Josh and Kit this week as they discuss, not solve, how to love and parent our children without allowing fear to take over.
I wasn’t a fearful person until I became a parent
if we don’t do this parenting thing right, then our kids won’t be okay in the world
if I do a good enough job as a parent, my kids won’t need a savior.
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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.
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I have a long sorted history with fear. It’s been a part of my life, literally is for as long as I can remember. I remember being afraid of the dark. I remember being afraid of snakes being at the end of my bed. I remember being afraid of kids at school, being afraid of asking a girl out, being afraid of being rejected by a girl, being afraid of grow with like me. I mean all sorts of fear, you know? And it’s something I’ve really started to get after much later in my life. But it’s still something I wrestle with, especially in the area of parenting. And so we’re gonna talk about that. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re just gonna have a conversation about fear and parenting and what fear does to parenting, what fear does to kids. And maybe we’ll even get to a [inaudible] or two that just might be a better, a better way for parents. So kit, how has fear played into your parenting?
It just occurred to me when you were saying what you just said, that I don’t think I was a fearful person until I became a parent. Really? Yeah. I don’t think I was particularly fearful, but wow, that changed. And I remember feeling that moment when my first child was born and Greg saying something like, from now on we’re going to live with our, how our hearts outside our bodies, you know, kind of thing. Like, whoa. And I took the responsibility really seriously. We’d waited for a long time. All that’s good. But I also remember something happened where I began to be like, I’ve got to get this right. They’ve got to get it right. There’s a way to do this. There’s a way not to do this. And we’d better stay within the boundary lines. And that’s not a really healthy way of approaching it.
Well I think so. I think, but I think you’re speaking the language of a lot of parents, a lot of us, because there is a sentence and I, so I’ve wrestled a long time with fear and it certainly, it certainly kicked up, you know, a couple notches on the volume meter, you know, when my kids were born. And I think with different stages and different things, they go through it. Like, you know, it ramps up. Yeah. But there is an element of like, even for those who don’t struggle with fear, when we watch our kids there, there’s something I dunno, there’s something about that that produces more fear in us. What would you say that is?
I think it’s, I think fear stirred up in any parent from me. I, you know, we waited so long and I, in some ways I think I, you know, it became an idol to me, you know, having a child and being a parent. And so I just really, I think put a lot of pressure on myself to do it right. And I also think we were new Christians and so we were being kind of influenced in some really good ways, but maybe in some other ways where there’s, you know, in fact there was a book back then that we read that talked about keep your children in these boundaries and if they don’t stay in those boundaries, you better discipline them. So I think there was some fear in that book that so I thought, well, I’m going to be a good Christian parent, then I better, you know, walk the straight line. And so I think I hadn’t learned and I did enjoy my children, but I think when it came to you know, what they did or didn’t do, I think I was really nervous and scared that maybe I wasn’t up to the task. Maybe it was more sobering than I thought it would be and maybe I’m not going to be really good at it, so I better like show the line.
So what, what are we afraid of? I mean, we’re afraid that what’s going to happen? I mean, what’s the, what’s the dread, you know?
Well, I think part of the dread is that there is a way to live your life. And if we don’t parent perfectly or right, then they won’t live their life the right way and then we will have failed. We would have been failures. Maybe we’ll look a certain way to other people if our children don’t do the right thing. You know, some of that image stuff. And you know, you fall in love with this child and you s you just, there’s nothing, it’s like nothing more matters to me in the world really in some ways than this child being. Okay.
Okay. So I hear a few different things. Like one is, look, there’s a vulnerable human being that I’m responsible for, right. Especially when they’re little, little, and if I, if I’m not vigilant and taking care of them, they really could get hurt cause they don’t know better. Yeah. So there’s, there’s just, I think some of that good fear, you know, just kind of awareness. There’s danger in the world, and I didn’t have to use to pay attention to it in my house before, at this pool before, out in the mall before, but now I do because there’s somebody who needs me to be protective of them. There’s other thing that just is a ton of pressure we put on ourselves that if we don’t do this parenting thing right, then our kids are not going to be okay in the world. They’re going to, they’re not going to be to hold down a job. They’re gonna they’re not gonna follow Jesus there. They’re not gonna have good relationships. They’ll make poor sexual choices. They’ll use drugs. They’ll, they’ll die in early death. They’ll get in an accident. I mean,
Yeah, no, that’s, yeah, absolutely. All that stuff.
And so there’s, there’s, ands and some of those are all real possibilities. Right? But it’s, but there’s, there’s this added thing that you’re sharing, I think I can relate to. I think a lot of parents can relate to this idea of, and it’s all up to me, you know, I’ve got to make sure that this, this, this, this, and this doesn’t happen. So that this, this, this, and this can happen. Is that a fair pressure to put on
Parents? No, because when you think about it, there is an enormous variety of influences over a child. Clearly parents have a significant influence and we do want to be thoughtful and prayerful about how we love and how we care for our kids. And it’s not all up to us. You know, we don’t have control over, you know, all these things that happen. So I wonder if I would’ve been able to say, do the best you can every day, you know, start your day and love, trust God a little bit more. You know, I think there would have been a lot less angst in my own soul and a lot less anxious passed on to them.
So here’s some, something that’s helped me in. And as I’m, as I’m wrestling with fear as a parent, I, and I think it speaks to what you’re talking about in that this idea of it helps to kind of disassemble, break apart that idea of like, it’s up to me because I, cause if I were to kind of track that, that constricting in my own gut about like, I gotta get this right or my kids are gonna whatever. I think really the end that I’m after is my kids won’t need a savior. I can, if I do a good enough job as a Christian than my kids will not actually need Jesus. I will have been enough Jesus for them. You know, theologically. Like I just know that’s not true. And so if it is true, and I think that, I think it’s been in Christian airwaves for parents, like, yeah, raise your kids like this so that they will turn out.
Yup. And, and if it’s, if we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God, if we all need Christ, if we all need his intervention in our lives, then it’s not all up to us there. There’s, there are other factors here and it doesn’t take long in parenting to recognize if you would say, so I’ve got six kids in my house right now. I can say like, they’re all so different. So I might have something with one kid that I can help kind of direct him. But man, it’s somebody with different, like it’s just, there’s so many different variables. Wearables.
I also, when you said, you know, are they gonna follow Jesus that something came up for me? And that was, you know, our kids, first of all, we know it’s the Holy Spirit’s conviction in someone’s life. And certainly we want to, you know, say the right things, do the right things with our kids and other people. But this, this fear of if they don’t follow Jesus and that it’s up to me and it becomes this, I think it communicates to the child something that’s not very compelling or winsome. And so, and again, of course we want to pray about that. We want to talk to them about it. But I’m just, I’m wondering, I’m just thinking that I think sometimes we, there’s a lot of fear just attached to that and God’s writing a story for them where they may wander the prodigal son that it happens. And so what do we, how do we interfere actually with our children’s desire to know Jesus in some of this too, because we’re fearful rather than,
Yeah, gosh, that, that’s such a hard but good word. And I, I, so if, if we don’t need to be our kid’s savior and, and we’re not by any stretch of imagination saying that parents do not have a significant influence in their kids’ lives or they’re not supposed to. Right. I am a firm believer that mom and dad are meant to be our kids. Kind of archetypal image of, of what God is like. Yeah. I think that’s part of why God has given parents parents. Right. My, my kids will ha will know something about what it means that God is their father by their experience of me. No matter what anybody says, their experience of me is going to have it. Is it going to imprint on them what, what it means to be in relation with the father. So we’re not trying to negate that there is responsibility that we have, but, but we’re trying to remove some of the, some of the fear that gets tangled in there. And I think that what you just said makes, makes a lot of sense. When I think about my own story, I honestly like I would if you’d asked me like, why do you love Jesus? I would point to the things that I did that my parents weren’t glad that I was doing and the way that he loved me out of those things.
Right, right, right. It’s taking [inaudible] we follow the, it’s up to me and I can control this and I have to, you know, kind of make it happen and say all the right things and put all these boundaries. We, we negate the whole idea that we’ve been, we’ve talked about before of suffering, that there are going to be times that in, in fact, maybe the very place they’re gonna find their faith is because they have made a choice that’s killing us. That they made it, but without despair and without some sense of, wow, I need a savior. How are they ever going to know him? Right? So of course we’re going to try to protect really bad things from happening at the same time. You know, we have to understand that this life is, is this is this mysterious in that way.
Right. And we’re, and we’re really, I think we’re really getting down to the difference between a workspace righteousness. Yeah. And a faith-based gray spaced righteousness. Yeah. Except now we’re talking about like how do our kids become whole righteous people? Like is it through our works or is it through God’s grace? And I think, you know, and God bless those kids who grew up in a, in an environment with parents who were supportive and who decided a young age to follow Jesus and Kinda don’t stray from that. And, and really ended up just loving the Lord and their lives through their experience of their, of their parents. We need people like that in the world. And if that’s true for them, it’s by grace and for those who wander far from home and whom the Lord brings back, it’s by grace that relieves some of the pressure off.
Yeah. And I, and I wonder too, like not at all, but so yeah. And I think, you know, I think you’re right, there are some people who grow up in, in a Christian home and they have just a lot of, lot of order, a lot of stability, a lot of truth, a lot of grace, a lot of love. And they, they may make really good choices. And at some point though, they need to be prepared that life is gonna get difficult. Right? Right. Yep. So protecting and parenting out of fear isn’t going to prepare them. Even if they make these good choices developmentally in their younger years. At some point you, we don’t want to not prepare them that God is in your life. He didn’t promise it. Everything’s gonna go great. He said he’d never leave you. And so again, you don’t want to be like, and so bad things are gonna happen, so you get ready to get ready. But we also don’t want to give them a false illusion that, you know, there’s going to be hard things. And how do we prepare them for that?
Yeah. I mean, so let’s talk about this a little bit. Like what is fear? So I have two questions. One, what does fear look like in parenting? What are some of the ways we, we fear are we, we parent out of fear and then what does it do to our kids? Right. And then, and then I have another question after that. But yeah, like for me, I think I know that I’m parenting on a fear when I start getting really angry. Yeah. I mean, sometimes there are other things going on, but anger is, is not a primary emotion. It’s always a result of some other underlying thing, a more vulnerable emotion. And for me, very frequently that’s fear. And so, you know, when my, when my kids were out in the road and I yelled at them at the top of my lungs or whatever, it’s not, it’s fear, it’s fear. So I think my anger might be more uptight, more kind of holding them loose, a little tighter grip or a lot more tighter grip. That’s fear.
Yeah. And mine is, you know, controlling too. It comes out of that safety. I, I, you know, like I’m, I’m a little over the top on safety and I really pray about it and ask my kids forgiveness. You know, cause it’s one thing to, you know, tell your kids to be safe and pray for them to be safe. But it’s a whole nother thing to be like, okay, now be safe and call me as soon as you get there. And then, so it creates all this anxiety in me. I’m not going to God and saying, Lord, I know that you have her and I can rest in that. And she’s not receiving. Oh my mom trusts God. I can trust him too.
Yeah. Yeah. So another I think so. I like the you know, call me when you get there kind of thing. Helicopter parenting. It’s you’re alive and well in my home you we’re going to, I’m going to where to check over your homework every night and make sure it’s exactly right. And I’ll be in touch with your, your teachers to make sure that everything’s happening right at school and the conflict with another student where I’m going to, I’m going to be there. Yeah.
And what in the world does that communicate? You know, that, that like just tight control kind of thing.
Yeah. So what does that do? What do you think it does take you to a kid when they experience parents being fearful? You, I mean, you mentioned why, and I think you mentioned, I think, I think it does convey to our kids some, you know, again, because since we are the archetype of what guys, like I think something like God’s like that he, he really doesn’t want him to mess up. He’s,
And so I think that, I think that there was that, I think my kids sort of felt like, whoa, wow, gosh, God, this, this whole Christianity thing’s pretty oppressive. Yeah. I wonder, I wonder if my kids have got some of that too. Yeah. And so, and I, and I’m so sad about that because, you know, as I’ve gotten older I, I’m continuing to realize more and more the freedom that can come and the rest that we can have. And so you know, we do the best we can, and I did too, but I just look back and I’ve talked to my kids about that, you know, like, I know that you know, there was some of that, and I’m sorry about that.
So some of those like, you know I’m gonna, I’m going to look tightly at what you’re looking at. You’re on your phone and I’m gonna, you know, watch what you’re watching the movies, what music you listen to, that kind of fear based stuff. And I think that like that, that gives us perception of God as this he’s in this, you know, he’s, he’s, he’s in the sky or he’s hovering over your shoulder looking for you to screw up or looking for you to make a mistake as opposed to a more different perspective of God that’s not fear-based but, but involved nonetheless
Does it. So that does exactly what the opposite of what we want it to do. Like what child is going to want to follow and oppressive, controlling, angry, fearful, fearful, a god like that. Who’s gonna, you know? So it’s funny how it backfires.
Habitat. So here’s the other side of things. So John writes that perfect love casts out all fear. So what is in, in, in, in contrast to that, what is, what does it look like to parent in love knowing that they’re dangerous out there? Yeah. Maybe even, let’s get specific a little bit. Like with kids, I mean kid, if you’re to look back and, or I even think for me, like what, what does it mean for my kids devices and how they use their devices? It doesn’t mean that I’m gonna be completely checked out and you say, yeah, you know, take it to your room and spend all night with it in your room and do whatever you want. Like, right. I want to be involved. But I think it has meant for me like learning to not ask every time what are you doing on your phone? Right.
Right. And so, and again, every situation is different. Every parent’s different child is different. There are principles that we can go by, but you know, have conversations with your child and just be honest with them about, you know, some of your concerns and how do we work this out. It depends on how old they are, you know, if they’re tense, different conversation than when they’re 16. But you know, this is a, it, this is kind of a thing that you can do conversations, ask questions
And you were saying something earlier, like have fun. Yeah. So mostly, you know, I think one of the things that, that my wife and I learned as we were walking through the really difficult season in our marriage when we were early, early on, a difficult issue in our marriage. And we were, when we learned, we can’t always talk about it. We actually have to, so we actually segmented it to say, you can talk about it here, but we’re not gonna talk about it again until we get here. And I think some of those things that we fear for our kids, like, like setting a boundary for yourself or for you and your spouse, like we’re, we were to talk to him about it. We’re not going to bring it up again. We’re going to leave it alone. Yes. After going to and have fun. Absolutely.
I think that’s huge. I think that’s absolutely huge. Because again, if we’re the person who’s representing, you know, someone who loves God and who is trying to be more like Christ, then what do we want to communicate with them? We want to be loving. We want to be patient. We want to be lighthearted. We want to be trusting, you know, we don’t want to be always on the lookout, you know, for what are you doing and you know, is it the right thing?
Oh, here’s another thing. I think that that fear does to our kids. If I’m afraid my kids are going to screw up, they’re going to sin in some way or they’re going to get hurt in some way, then an a and they know it and they cross a line, they know I wouldn’t approve of in my fear, then I’m the last person that I want to tell them. Exactly, Hey dad, guess what? You were right. I was wrong. Why don’t you tighten the screws a little bit more on me so I don’t make this mistake? I mean, they’re going to be like, I don’t want my dad to know because it’s already bad enough. Yes. So man, ah,
Yes, it’s really, that’s a, it’s in fact, I can think of several examples right now where I did it the wrong way and the, and then more recently learned to do it a little more the right way, the better way, and just the difference was you know, stunning.
So here’s a verse I think we’ve got to start winding down, but that verse I quoted him in to go perfect love casts out fear from first. John. I think one of things that’s caught me recently about that verse that’s been different, I’ve always, I’ve always, always heard it like, okay, so if you’re F that means if you’re fearing you need more of God’s love, you need to experience more of his love. And I think that’s true, but more recently I’ve been challenged to think about it. If you’re fearing you need to actively choose to love more, like, like the love of God is in you love from that place, live from that place. And I’m not saying that those are mutually exclusive, but when it comes to my parenting, like one of the, and I think I’ve said this on this podcast before, it’s been, this is a game changer for me when I, I changed my perspective from a fear-based, I’ve got to do this right.
So my kids don’t get hurt or so they turn out to do x, Y, and z with their lives. That’s a terrible, terrible goal. So, you know, I want my kid, I want my kids to remain versions till they’re married and to never see pornography and never smoke weed or do this or that direct me like I’ve got my list. Right. So, yeah, those things are all good desires on my part, but I’m living out of fear and trying to parent them in a way to keep them from those things. It’s, it’s less effective. And I, and I’m in a, in a worst place and I’m relating with them worse than when I say my job is to do my best, to love my kids where they are today. Yeah. And if they should do those things. My job, my calling by God is to love them the best I can.
Absolutely. There. And that, that’s a different calling. Like that’s, that’s me trying to be more like Christ in their lives, which helps me to, interesting. It helps me to loosen my grip a bit to say it does. Absolutely. I know that Jesus can love when you’re doing well and I know he can love when you’re doing poorly. How do I know? Well, because he’s loving me in those. And so I’m going to try to live from that place in your life as opposed to trying to keep you from all the bad things that could happen
And that way that you’re describing, they will receive love the other way of parenting. They’ll receive fear. Yeah. So, you know, that’s powerful. We’re still working on, oh, me too. Yeah. I mean, you know, there’s no way we arrive at any of this stuff. But I mean, like if my kids were listed, if, if my kids ever listen to podcasts or they don’t, but if they were, they would be like, yeah, your, yeah. Fear. Yeah, we get it, we see it. I can see my daughters rolling their eyes as I the imagine them listening to this cause you know, they, they know they, and, and, and again, I think they might say that we’ve, we’ve learned along the way, but it is, it is definitely challenging.
Yeah. So I don’t know that we’ve got, I don’t have the answers for this. I know that talking about it helps. I know. Reminding myself of God’s goodness helps and I know,
And be kind to yourself, be compassionate with yourself, you know, be like, okay, this is hard. Parenting is humbling. And I think, you know, being understanding that it is a process and that beating yourself up about it, it’s really important. Telling your kids that you’re sorry when, when you know things like this come up where you really have parents without a fear and just saying, I’m really sorry. I want to do better. Just be honest and humble. Yeah. Yeah. But it’s, it is so ongoing thing.
Well, I’d like to pray. And if you’re listening, I really wanna encourage you, don’t tune out because I have a couple of things specifically. I want to pray for parents listening and that I think will be really helpful for you. So I wanna encourage you, stay engaged for a minute longer while I close to pray. So, Lord, I, I think we, we named some things in this podcast that are helpful, but we’re also in process with, and so we just ask for more, more of your love to flow into us or remind us more of the love you’ve already given. And Lord, help us to parent more out of your love as opposed to out of our fears where we confess to you that we have made agreements with fear. In a way we’ve, we’ve invited fear into our homes and asked it to keep our kids safe and to help our kids turn out a certain way below our fears. It is a terrible master and it’s it’s enslaved us and it’s hurt our kids. And so lord, we confess that idolatry to us and we ask now, Lord that you would forgive us. We also now in the authority of Jesus, we break this agreement with fear and we say, do you fear in Jesus name that you are not a good ally for our kids and we don’t want you involved in their lives or in our parenting?
So we send you away a fear from our homes and from our families and we choose instead, Lord, to invite you, your Holy Spirit to enter into, teach us Jesus, to be winsome, like you, to love fiercely, to be involved intimately and tenderly and attentively, to be fully aware of the dangers that are around us, but Lord to equally or even more so aware of the magnitude of God’s love and power. We choose to trust you, Lord more than we trust fear. We do believe in you. Learn, help us in our end belief and continue to grow us in your likeness even as we ask that you grow our kids and your likeness to pray all these things. Now the name of the father and son.