I find the telltale signs of fear or love when parenting are the words that we use. For example, the opposite of fear is love, and of course it is loving to teach your child to swim, to provide protection from drowning. Love says, “I want you to learn how to be a good swimmer, because one day you will go swimming without me, and I want you to have the skills to keep you safe.” Fear says, “I want you to learn to swim because water is dangerous, and you can never trust that the lifeguard is truly watching. Haven’t I told you stories about kids who died? Don’t ever think of going swimming without me, or without your life vest, or in any open body of water like a lake... That’s just too scary.”
Can you hear the difference? Motivation is revealed in our words, and they rub off on our children. Kids are intuitive and when we parent from a place of fear, they not only pick up on it, they pattern their hearts after it. The truth is, we can never fully protect our children from every risk and consequence. It may not show up at first, but our fear can plant seeds in their hearts that produce consequences we do not want. Fear teaches them to not reach out and try new things, to be scared of new opportunities, or to give up when something gets hard or scary. Fear will stifle their growth, and ours. Parenting from a place of love requires trust and confidence, not in ourselves, but in the Creator.
One parenting rule we live by now is to never make any decision based in fear. When I’m facing a decision for my children and I’m afraid of the consequences, I stop and pray. I want my confidence always to be in God and His love for my children. In full transparency, I don’t always start from there. I have learned to make a daily choice not to be fearful for my children. My confidence is not in my ability as a mother, but in the one I trust to guide my parenting.
This is our anchor verse: 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” A sound mind is wisdom and brings calm to any decision. If I'm not calm or well-balanced in my thinking about a decision, I know my thoughts are coming from fear. A sound mind is vital and not to be overlooked. However, truly parenting in love comes from a place of trusting God. This is not a Pollyanna mentality - that nothing bad can ever happen. Of course it can (hence my sons burned hand). We've been given a brain for a reason, and we need to use it by equipping our children to know the stove is hot! We can give our children the wisdom they need to navigate this life, in confidence not in fear. Remember, though, that they learn best from your example, so before you go off re-thinking every decision you have ever made, start with examining your motivation and confidence. From there, your parenting will be guided by wisdom.
One last thought, parenting in confidence and love isn’t a message we preach to our children, but part of living a fearless lifestyle daily. Living it out is the best form of teaching we can provide our children; they will do what we do. These verses help me the most when making daily decisions for my kiddos, as I endeavor to live out a fearless lifestyle with them along my side:
Deuteronomy 11:19, 21. “Teach them to your children, talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night... so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land.”
What a picture of a mother in action with children by her side all day, teaching throughout the day! We all want our children to truly flourish and live a fearless lifestyle. As we walk in confidence, we are giving them a fantastic start! Author: Tonya Flowers is the mother of 3 boys: Lucas who’s a 3rd grader, and 3 year old twin boys, Wyatt and Timothy. She is a nurse part time, a minister at her church, and serves FWMOM as our Chaplain.