By Michele, Contributing Writer
From Day 1, fear can be a huge temptation in parenting, although the specific fears may change from season to season. I continually try to remind myself that my children belong to God, and they are in His hands. He created them and placed them into our family for a reason.
Meanwhile, God continues to mold me, instill a greater foundation of faith, and refine my own character, too, through this journey of parenting.
As I seek to train up my children on a daily basis, some common fears (and their antidotes) are:
Fear #1: What will people think?
Whether it is a child with "special needs," typical childish behavior, or my own imperfect responses, situations in life occur that aren't always desirable (or planned for).
There is usually more to our family's story that can be glimpsed during a scene at the grocery store, and I cannot expect anyone to understand. But it often grieves my heart when people assume my child's behavior is a reflection of me. (It's not. They are their own- often immature- person, with emotions, desires, opinions, and spontaneity.)
On a good day, I will continue the focused path of training each child in that particular moment, knowing a lifetime of discipleship is not completed in a day, as I seek the Lord's will. However, on a day where I forget to rely on God's strength, the fear of what others may think may provoke me to overreact, in order to "prove" my parenting skills.
Parent for God's glory, not for others' approval. Proverbs 29:25 says, "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
Fear #2: Am I teaching them enough?
Whether you are homeschooling or not, it is easy to run into this fear, especially with a new school year or exams on the horizon. Marketers often prey upon this fear, urging you to supplement with additional workbooks, tutoring, extracurricular classes, and new curricula. (Often, they even recommend these products with the baffling exhortation to "get your child ready for school.")
Our family believes that all of life is "school" in one way or another, as we strive to encourage a love of lifelong learning. We don't try to "get them ready"; we just keep learning!
I have found that if a curriculum/experience is providing our child's educational needs, then we probably don't need to change it. As I tailor our learning plans and wade through the choices, I use the parameters I mentioned last month: Nourishing their Souls, Nurturing a Love of Learning, and Developing Godly Character.
All educational formats (public or home learning) will leave "gaps." A child simply won't learn everything all the time. But the key for me is to encourage my children, so they are prepared for the "gap." How will they respond as adults, when they recognize a gap in their learning? Will they take joy in researching and learning the answer, or will they be uncaring and gullible?
Create an environment where learning is enjoyable and encouraged. I am continually inspired by Jesus' experience at the temple, as a boy, in Luke 2:46-47, 52, where "After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers... Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." He sought out the educational experience.
Fear #3: How will they be influenced?
I think the early years are the prime time for establishing a foundation in this area. Parental influence seems easier, in a way, since young children are depending upon you for pretty much everything. (Older children are eventually more independent in their friendships and schedules, as they prepare to enter adulthood.)
As we closely go through life with our young children, it is so valuable to teach them to discern truth, identify fruits of the Spirit, develop a close relationship with the Lord, and begin building godly character.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Bad company corrupts good character." Instead of approaching this truth with fear, take it as an inspiration to be prayerfully proactive.
I give my little children freedom to run and play outside, but I do tend to keep a close watch over their friendships and education. If we are involved in outreach ministries, our children stay close with us, to help under supervision or just observe. They sit with us in church services, and we take responsibility for their instruction.
Do what you can, with God's guidance. I am inspired by the faith of Moses' parents, and how they pursued teaching him God's standards at a very young age, knowing he would be under the influences of Pharaoh's household.
Hebrews 11:23-26 says, "By faith, Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and because they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith, Moses, when he grew up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward."
It is my goal that my children will experience peaceful parenting, not fearful parenting, so I try to dwell upon Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know I am God." We all make mistakes, but our Lord's grace is abundant, and his mercies are new every morning.