Worry has been an unfortunate staple of my parenting from the beginning. Seriously.
When I discovered I was expecting a child for the second time, I worried…
Would I miscarry again?
What would we do about my job when the baby came?
How on earth would I — who knew next to nothing about kids — raise this child?
Parenting has taught me some important and uncomfortable truths about myself. I discovered how drastically I would swing between extreme fear and extreme unconcern. Some things I would worry about too much, while other things didn’t concern me enough. I prayed, but I failed to fully entrust the outcome to God. I clung to my concerns, trying to control everything with my own strength, while dismissing issues I simply couldn’t handle at the moment.
Most parents swing between similar extremes. We either worry too much or we don’t care enough. Inevitably, we put far too much stress on the unimportant while neglecting the important. We expect our chosen formula to yield certain results, only to find ourselves deflated when our fearfully and wonderfully made children don’t conform to the “norm.”
How do we find the balance between fear and flippancy?
Putting Fear in Check
Fear isn’t entirely negative; it can be a great motivator.
For example: There are inherent dangers in allowing our kids unlimited and unsupervised access to the internet. They could be exposed to pornography, sex-trafficking schemes, child entrapment, cyber-bullying, etcetera. Because I fear the consequences, I take necessary steps to prevent the pollution of their mind, educating them on appropriate screen usage and the potential dangers of communicating with online strangers. I might employ additional technology tools — such as filters and wifi controls — to further protect them.
The same principle applies to concerns regarding their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. An ounce of fear is a pound of motivation.
Unfortunately, when we make choices from fear alone, we do not always choose wisely. Fear must be channeled by wisdom.
What does the Bible advise us to do with our anxieties?
“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)
God’s peace guards our hearts, and that guardianship comes through fervent prayer. If you are concerned about some issue in your child’s life, carry that fear to God so you do not become unstable. Ask Him to grant you wisdom in addressing the problem.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
Let fear motivate you to seek God’s wisdom. Make your parenting decisions through prayer instead of panic.
The Trouble with Being Blasé
In my early years of parenting, I read a parenting book or five that addressed this issue of “choosing your battles.” I have tried to live by the principle of fighting the battles that matter and refusing to engage in battles that don’t.
I have a child with sensory integration disorder who does not like having her hair styled. In spite of all my gentle attempts to coax her into a pony tail or simple braid, she wants absolutely no part of it. Rather than fighting this battle, I’ve established a minimum standard: “washed and brushed.” As long as she leaves the house with her hair clean and untangled, all is well. Some parents might think I’m a little too laid back, but here’s the thing: Her hair is not a character issue. We have far bigger fish to fry than hairstyles. We are even now engaged in far more critical conflicts.
Like fear, however, we can allow this “compromise” to creep into the issues that really do matter. We might be waving away small acts of disobedience or slothfulness because, in truth, we feel “too tired” to deal with them. We could be allowing them more freedom than they are actually prepared for simply to avoid being labeled as “that extreme parent.”
How do we know which battles actually matter? As with fear, we need to ask God for wisdom. I don’t know about you, but this is my first time parenting. What I know I’ve learned by observing my own parents, reading some books, and some good old-fashioned on-the-job training. My three kids continue to challenge and amaze me every single day. All the “seasoned” parents I respect give me the same advice: parent on your knees!
Finding the balance
The great equalizer between panic and passivity is God. As parents, we ought to be humble enough to recognize how much is beyond us.
We cannot control that “free will” in our children.
We do nothave the power to protect them from all the evil in the world.
We will notbe able to make all their choices for them.
To find the balance, we must form the habit of parenting through prayer.Every morning, before we come face-to-face with those young souls, offer them up to the Lord in prayer. Thank Him for the opportunity to love and train these children. Ask Him to give us wisdom in every decision we will face that day. Request discernment regarding what is critical and what is not. Throughout the day, fire off those arrow prayers for help in the midst of the inevitable drama.
With school starting up once again, we will be faced with new challenges, new phases, and new decisions. Far more important than school supplies, curricula, and clothing is the character of your child. We need God’s help with our children every single day. Do not let fear or flippancy drive your decisions, but allow the Heavenly Father to be your guide.
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com