Have you ever found yourself parenting out of fear instead of parenting out of love?
When we parent out of fear, our kids never get the best of us, the most of us, or even what they really need from us. Parenting out of fear is a reactive form of parenting.
I’d love to invite you into more proactive parenting—thoughtful, intentional, strategic, and wise parenting. Or more active parenting—responsive, engaged, invested, connected parenting. It’s difficult to parent out of love when we are simply reacting to everything going on around us. We are postured to react rather than respond.
We always have options. Sometimes we choose fear over love. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Sometimes we choose love over fear. Regardless, I invite you to extend grace to yourself in the journey of parenting.
You are going to make mistakes. God can redeem the mistakes we make in parenting. He extends grace to us so that we can then extend grace and mercy to our children.
Receive the grace and mercy that is available to you. And then do that thing we teach our kids to do when they fall off their bikes while learning to ride: get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.
Being an intentional parent means I get back on the bike and learn from the mistake I made last time around. Maybe I rode too close to the curb; maybe I didn’t brake soon enough or didn’t have a firm grip on the handlebars.
Try doing it a little different next time around. If you need to take a break for a while, that’s Okay. We all need breaks. A chance to stop, breathe, gain some perspective, and then we’re more ready to try again.
Reconsider Your Purpose
In Ezekiel 20:22 God spoke about the Israelites, saying:
I seriously considered dumping my anger on them, right there in the desert. But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out (Ezekiel 20:22, MSG)
Those words resonate with me. I can’t keep track of how many moments I’ve seriously considered dumping my anger. Or worse yet, the times I’ve gone ahead and just done it.
I’ve walked in at the end of a long day to find the kitchen sink is still full of dinner’s dirty dishes, no one let the dog out, wet towels line the bathroom floor, sports equipment and cleats are scattered throughout the house, and everyone’s acting like the chore chart on the fridge is a recommendation more than a requirement.
Or there is arguing from the backseat of the car or the upstairs of the house, and my kids are acting more as if they are opposing teammates than members of the same family.
The normal, daily moments of parenting take us to the ends of ourselves, and we respond less out of who we are and more out of what we feel.
Being an intentional parent simply means I’m growing toward responding more out of who I am, who God made me to be, than out of how I feel.
Why did you decide to become a parent?
I enjoy asking parents this question. I mostly enjoy watching people’s faces in response to the question. Most often they just stare at me as if maybe I’d asked something like, “Why did you decide to buy a car?” or “Why do you go to the grocery each week?” I hear a range of responses like:
• “I never really thought about the why.”
• “It seemed like the next natural step.”
• “I always knew that I wanted to be a mom.”
• “I saw myself as a parent. It just felt like the right thing to do.”
• “I can’t really describe it, I just knew it was time.”
I then give permission to not have an answer to the question. I don’t think it’s one most of us gave much consideration to. I, like many dads, stumbled into parenting because it was just what you did next. I never really considered the purpose.
I certainly never considered what parenting would do to me, in me, and through me. Decades later, I am just beginning to wrap my mind around that. I suspect I’ll still be figuring that out until I’m done. I only know this much so far: As I reread the Genesis narrative, I see important insight into the parenting journey. As we trace back through the Creation story, we understand God created man and woman in His image, charged them to multiply and be fruitful, and blessed the first birth.
Genesis 4 is all about parenting. It begins with Adam and Eve giving birth to a son, then another son, one killing the other, and then giving birth to a third son, Seth. The story of parenting evolves into the next generation as Seth and his wife give birth to a son named Enosh.
The fourth chapter of Genesis closes with these last words, which I believe speak to all of us about the purpose of parenting. They are:
“At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord” — Genesis 4:26
We are reminded within those words that parenting will take us to the end of ourselves. It will drive us to a place of dependence, of crying out for help, of leaning into God for wisdom and strength. We aren’t designed to do this on our own. We need God.
Proactive parenting requires intention and thought. Have you considered lately why you became a parent and allowed that to influence your daily parenting style?