There is an insidious enemy to healthy parenting, and it’s exacerbated and grown by our modern culture. This enemy lurks on social media, on parenting blogs, naturally in the hearts of parents and in parenting conversations that are had throughout the week. Terrifyingly, this enemy is also normalized and treated as “no big deal,” or in worst cases, as a general parenting M.O. And yet, it consistently steals our joy and freedom as parents.
What is this enemy?
Our second parenting axiom:
Fear is a terrible parenting posture.
What is Your Parenting Posture?
A “parenting posture” is a way to describe our individual way of dealing with or approaching different situations. It refers to how we hold ourselves, the expectations that we bring and our overall attitude toward parenting moments. Normal postures can range from hopeful and enthusiastic to hesitant or frustrated. Your parenting posture will shape the words you use, the responses you choose and even the weight you give to different situations.
Parenting postures, in some senses, are inherent to your personality. Some people will be more predisposed toward happy-go-lucky or bubbly postures, whereas others are going to naturally tend to be quieter, more introspective or even more hesitant.
But postures are also learned and cultivated – they’re not simply defined by who you are, but are the product of what you allow to shape your thoughts, attitudes and focuses. They’re also affected by your experiences and your particular context; a parent of a teen will likely have a very different parenting posture than the parent of an infant.
A Parenting Posture of Fear
The modern world is a dangerous place for kids. Social media, online dangers, always-connected phones, tablets and computers and the prevalence of sex and violence on even daytime TV are just a few of the dangers parents of kids ten years ago knew nothing about. Because of the quick rate of change, and the overabundance of information, it is easy to quickly fall into fear.
Fear is a paralyzing posture. It’s a “no” first mindset which sees danger around every corner. Caution, wisdom, and restraint are not the same things as fear, but too many of us parent from a position of fear.
Ultimately, fearfulness leads to defensiveness, and defensive parents are rarely proactive parents. If you expect a boogeyman around a corner, you will rarely walk around that corner. But beyond paralysis, fearful parenting also leads to constant conflict. Parents will experience fears their children rarely have and will refuse to walk around proverbial corners their kids can’t wait to turn.
Think, for example, of a preteen approaching the topic of social media. The dangers of social media are well documented, and a parent reading about those dangers can quickly become fearful. That fearfulness can result in a quick, decisive and harsh, “NO” when the topic is brought up, but the child sees none of those fears. The child will just continue to walk forward, pursuing social media, but the parent will try to stay as far away as possible. This creates a tension that will only grow as your children push further and further.
Parents, your petrifying fear will rarely translate to your kid’s attitude, but instead, often lead to disagreement and fights.
A Different Kind of Fear
Fear can manifest itself differently for moms than from dads.
Moms tend to fear things external to their children – the influence of other kids or media, the speed of the slides at the park, or her teenagers driving ability – or lack thereof! Social media itself plays into these fears with articles and comments about the dangers of the world
Dads, however, tend to fear internal realities: a lack of responsibility or a perceived laziness in his child. Perhaps it’s a character trait that dad sees in himself but doesn’t want to see in his children: anger or a lack of patience. Or perhaps it’s a fear that his son or daughter won’t stand up for what’s right when the time comes.
Whatever the fear for a mom or a dad – internal or external – it’s easy to adopt that fear as a default posture for parenting. But a parenting posture of fear is a paralyzing position and must be rejected.
Perfect Love Casts out Fear
How can we combat a fearful parenting posture? Three thoughts:
First, we must be made aware of our own fears as parents. Few things can do this better than a carefully cultivated group of friends. We need to surround ourselves with other parents and peers with whom we can be honest and truthful about our decision-making process, and who can highlight our fear for us when we encounter it.
Secondly, we need to consistently throw ourselves onto God’s mercy and provision. As our trust in God grows, our fears will shrink. We can do this most easily by consistently turning to God’s Word and journaling thoughts and observations from the text. Seeing God’s provision play out in the lives of his followers in Scripture, and writing about how those situations might apply to our lives will help guard our hearts against fear.
Finally, if you are married, commit to speaking often about fears that you might have with your spouse. Perhaps you haven’t used this language before; you’ll find you have different parenting fears but that you can speak to your spouse’s fears as well. Talking with your spouse will give you and your spouse insight into how best to resist the paralysis that can come from fear and instead turn it into healthy caution which can guide, instead of freeze, your parenting decisions.