Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parenting out of Fear

Inconsolable Tears.  Tantrums.  Self Pity.  Lack of Confidence.  Lack of Self Control.  Doubt. And most of all, Fear.

And those are just my emotions.

Our sweet, smart, happy three year old is struggling.  Hitting, kicking, screeching, clawing, throwing, etc.  These past weeks in our house have been as close to hell on earth that I can imagine.  I don't use that term lightly.  Knowing that there are many people in worse predicaments than we are in, I feel a little shame admitting to feeling this way.  But seriously.  I've never felt so hopeless, out of control, depressed, anxious or fearful in my life.

How can I blame my daughter for her behaviors that are directly mimicking my own emotions?  God is not-so-subtly revealing to me that I am parenting out of fear rather than faith. 

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." ~Isaiah 41:13

Fear of Losing Control
I so long to be in control.  In control of my finances, my eating habits, my marriage, my household, and, most importantly, my daughter's behavior.  Well, there is nothing like a three year old's behavior to prove that I am not in control.  No matter how rigid, strict, structured and legalistic I aim to be, I absolutely cannot be in control.  My daughter can choose to eat or not eat, sleep or not sleep, be calm or scream at the top of her lungs, hug me or hit me, and there is not a single thing I can do to change a decision that she has already made.  The punitive measures I have used as consequences do absolutely nothing to teach her.  They are only my attempt to feign control, thus instilling further fear in my daughter.  I am ashamed.

"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:4-7

Fear of Losing Face
I long for my daughter to be the most disciplined, best behaved and advanced child on the block.   My friends will read this and cringe.  (Give me grace, friends, I beg you.)  Truth is, I want people to look at her and see what an amazing parent I am.  What is wrong with me?  I now realize it is more important Lainey possess Godly traits such as peace, self control, Godly confidence, empathy and forgiveness.  How will she learn these if I am not modeling them? If instead I am modeling impatience and arrogance?

"There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" ~1 John 4:18

Fear of the Future
Daily, I concern myself with how Lainey will be when she is a teen.  I've convinced myself if I don't teach her to respect authority NOW, she will grow up to be a terror.  To that end, I've adopted an authoritarian parenting style rather than attempting to understand her.

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." ~Matthew 6:34a

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." ~ Psalm 55:22

"For I know the plans I have for you,' declared the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~Jeremiah 29:11

Fear of Losing Myself
I am so selfish.  I frequently put my own sleep, time, hobbies, desires before the emotional needs of my daughter.  Oh, I justify it:  "This will teach her independence." or "It is good for her to learn it isn't about her all the time."

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." ~Philippians 2:3-4

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ~John 14:27

My sweet daughter.  I'm afraid I owe her BIG.  Because of my fear, we both have healing and misconceptions to overcome.  We need God.  I can only overcome this fear by giving up control, my image, the future and my desires to him.  And what a relief it is to turn it all over to him!  What an amazing God that He will still take me and love me in spite of my weakness.

I cannot raise Lainey the way she deserves without God's grace and guidance.  With this realization, I am filled with excitement, rather than fear, about the good works God will work in Lainey.  I am humbled with honor to be tasked to raise her.  God chose her for me and I will give him my love and trust in return.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." 1 Corinthians 5:17


  1. Rachel, Thank you for being brave and putting words to the fears we all feel. You're saying what many of us parents are feeling! Praying for you two!

  2. Rachel, Your words tell of fears but more importantly this post tells of courage. You show courage to name those fears and to reflect on them. Our culture has a way of being secretive about things that are challenging. You may not see it from the inside, but from the outside, I see a bright child who has learned compassion for others no matter who they are, who knows herself and tries to do right. Your mothering is intentional, thoughtful and authentic. She will observe and mimic those qualities in you. Your family is going through a huge transitionary time. I pray that you forgive yourself in moments when you feel like you fall short. And that you reach out to the "village" when you need it. May the spirit intercede with words that cannot be expressed.

  3. Rachel you are a great parent. Just admitting your fears and always striving to improve as a parent is exceptional. My children are far from controlled, or accepting of authority. They are wonderful and fun. They are unique and spirited. They embarrass me in public often. A great resource I use is Celebrating Calm. I follow them on FB and they help to keep me mentally in the right perspective about how I need to control my own emotions before I can attempt to help teach them to control theirs. Also, something that has worked for us is when I switch from punishing to rewarding. I used star charts with pictures that we review for expectations each morning when the twins were 3. Around then I also put little fuzzy balls in a cool glass jar titled "Warm Fuzzies" so when I see them do something good I give them a warm fuzzy. We count them and celebrate all our awesome behavior. Just two ideas to add to your tool kit. They are not magic fixes, but they have helped to keep me sane. You can do this. Will keep you all in my prayers.