How to Transform Your Fear-Based Parenting
My goal, as a parent, is to raise children.
There are a lot of right ways to fill in that blank. Some parents say ‘godly’. Some say ‘loving’. Some say fancy words like ‘self-actualizing’. (No joke. I’ve heard it said. No idea what it means.)
And, while those are the right answers, they’re not often the true answers; the ones that are playing out in the reality of our families.
Do you know what goals your parenting is truly driving at?
You love your kids, so you want to parent them well, but, if you’re like me, you may have an unconscious, fear-based goal driving your parenting.
I don’t claim to be a parenting-guru, but I do know some of the mistakes I make and some changes that help. Maybe you’re where I’ve been.
As I observe myself and others, I see people embracing a lot of fear-based parenting priorities. I see situations that would require the blank to be filled with words like ‘mindlessly obedient’, ‘agreeable’ or even ‘self-centered’.
I didn’t know it for a long time, but my real goal for my kids was ‘capable’ and it encompassed a whole host of negative parenting goals.
Taken on it’s own, ‘capable’ isn’t such a bad word, but it was setting my kids up for failure.I was selling them the lie that being capable would insulate them from the struggles of the world, which, obviously, isn’t true.
That’s the first issue with using capable as a target; it gives a false sense of being in control.
Another problem is that it’s far too vague. It gives no direction or moral compass, leaving our kids open to becoming capable at negative behaviours.
I was capable at many a job that I hated so much I cried my way home everyday. I was capable at shutting down my own heart in order to accommodate someone else’s broken places. I was even a capable New Age metaphysics student.
There are a lot of things a person can be good at, postive and negative.
Personally, (with help from someone wiser than myself) I’ve caught myself teaching my kids to be capable people-pleasers.
We’ve all met kids (or adults) who are capable manipulators, bullies and victims. How about those striving to be capable Christians, which just translates to dogmatic rule followers without the love that is the whole point.
Capable, as a goal leaves us open to our fears
But that’s not the only issue with teaching ‘capable’. Even if we strive to be capable of positive things, it still creates negativity.
After all, who can be capable all the time? Can you? Do you want to teach your kids that if they can be good enough at XYZ, they will be considered worthy?
What if they can’t measure up?
There’s Valuable, and Then There’s Valuable
Being capable of something, in the work-force, makes a person valuable to the organization.
A military rescue diver is only valuable to his unit as long as he can rescue people from the ocean. I once knew a man who was injured in training, resulting in a brain injury and a great fear of the water. He was no longer valuable as a rescue diver.
That’s exactly what the ‘capable’ mindset created in me.
I knew that if I could do it – it being anything the person assessing my value wanted – then I would be valuable. On the flip side, if I was found incapable, I lost my value.
To be without value is to be without hope for a future. Without a future, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and learning from mistakes becomes almost impossible.
For me, this translated into a mortal fear of being found lacking, at anything. It meant that learning to do insignificant things – waterskiing, typing, playing a video game – was a life or death matter.
It meant I took myself way too seriously and didn’t try things unless I knew I would excel at them.
Learning that I have value even when I am incapable has been quite a process. But it’s a process that has given me a new word for my parenting goal.
Now, my goal, as a parent, is to raise valuable children. Children who know that their value is as unchanging as the God who sets it. Yes, they should strive to be capable, not in order to be valued highly, but in response to it.
And, when I mess it up? When I’m not a capable parent?
Value unchanged. Learn something and try again.
Have you ever considered what your real parenting goal is? I would love to hear from you.
God feeds the birds and you are far more valuable to Him than any birds!
Luke 12:24 (NLT)