Challenging believers in Jesus to think and act based on Bible truth.

On My Mind #40: Parents: Is Fear a Part of How Your Child Views You?

Parenting, yes parenting. I hesitate even to write about parenting because I feel so inadequate. Guess what, we all do. So let’s get over that. Before I make my main point, let me be sure to say what is NOT happening here:

–I am NOT saying my kids are perfect (sheesh, have you met them?)
–I am NOT saying I know everything there is to know. In fact, I learn actively from articles about parenting and parenting blogs. I like to have lots of conversations with parents because it’s as much a craft as it is an exact science.
–I am NOT giving you specific instructions for how to raise your child. Even the Bible does not give specific instructions in handling certain difficult situations that arise, so I will hesitate to speak with authority.

My point? FEAR should be a PART of how your child views you. Why am I saying this? Here are three things I’d like to give you that I hope challenge your thinking.

1. Fear should be a part of how we approach God, so fear should be a part of how we parent.

God strikes fear in me. It’s true. He despises sin and the Bible says He will judge it in terrifying ways. This concept is something I take seriously as I consider my sin, how I lead as a church leader, and how I challenge others to flee their sins. If God was all grace all the time, there would be no reason to fear Him because we’d think He’s just a nice God. He is an incredibly loving God and I worship Him for that. But I also worship Him because He’s done something to save me from His terrible wrath. Both must be present in the equation. This is the theological part that sets up a couple practical parts related to parenting.

2. I want my children to fear me in a healthy sense that there will be consequences for their behaviors.

Just like someone who believes God is all nice all the time, a child who thinks their parents are all nice all the time will eventually abuse it. Parents should not be concerned with hurting their child’s feelings or damaging their self esteem by setting firm boundaries, saying no, refusing to engage in arguments, and occasionally asserting authority through stern warning and physical punishment. NONE of these things (done with love and grace and without a twinge of abuse and anger) will damage your child. That said, if this is the ONLY way your child is relating to you, then it will damage them. Fear must be a PART of how your child views you.

Maybe an example will help. Tired of the whining child? Get in their face once in a while and let them know it’s a completely unacceptable way to communicate. Do so in a very stern voice and grab them firmly or pick them up if they are smaller. At the same time tell them you will be glad to communicate with them when their tone changes and there will be clear consequences if they fail to stop communicating that way. Here they are not getting only a rebuke. You are loving them and showing them you’ll be glad to engage them when they’re ready to do so in a proper manner. The examples could go on and on, but I hope this gets you thinking.

3. Yes, this means I don’t hesitate to let my children know when I’m downright angry with them.

The other day our son decided that hitting his sister would be a great way to get her to leave his room. (You can refer to the part above where I mention my kids aren’t perfect). Pretty much a stupid decision and he knew it. I made sure he understood how angry it made us that he would resort to hitting and that hitting in any case, especially a girl, is not something we find acceptable. In addition to letting him know we were angry (which he probably knew), we will be working with him to find healthy ways to handle it when he gets angry. The anger (from us as parents) is present, but it’s not the entire equation.

In sum, please value that having your children fear you is a part of helping your children see God and understand who He is. Don’t take this as a license to go off. And don’t discipline (especially spanking) out of anger. Just don’t be afraid to be firm. Show grace with it. You may have to follow up with consequences repeatedly and that can be tiring, but I believe it is worth it as kids (in general) will warm well to the structure you are providing.

Comments

  1. Oh my – did I need to read this tonight. Good thoughts and suggestions. Obviously, you know the stage my boys are in and sometimes I feel like all I am is stern with them. But, I am very cautious to make sure that the love and grace are always hand in hand with it. After an exhausting night, this was encouraging. Hope others are encouraged too!

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