Parenting from Fear: How to Free Yourself from Emotional Bondage
By: Chudney Drew, LPCA
Fear is one of the most basic human emotions, yet one of the few emotions that can cripple one’s spirit and destroy relationships. Our minds are powerful. Clinging to destructive thoughts and fears can often lead us into vicious cycles of self-doubt not only with ourselves, but in our role as parents. Parenting is a high calling and becoming conscious of our individual fears can help prevent us from sabotaging our relationships with our children.
Close your eyes and reflect upon your early life. Think back to the day your heart was broken for the first time, the day you didn’t make the all-star team, the day you didn’t get invited to your classmate’s birthday party, or the day you didn’t get accepted in to your top college choice. Recall the feelings that were triggered; was it sadness? anger? frustration? despair? Often painful experiences can be so heartbreaking that we will fight tooth and nail to never experience those heartbreaking emotions again. We wrap ourselves in an armor against them so tightly that we actually live a life of fear and begin to parent out of fear.
As you reflect upon your parenting, ask yourself how present are your fears? Do you want your child to excel in various sports because they have expressed a genuine interest and passion to do so, or is it you don’t want them to experience the same heart wrenching pain you felt when you didn’t make the team? Do you withhold encouragement and attempt to redirect your child when they express high hopes and interest in applying to colleges that you feel that they will not get accepted to? “Do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).
It is vital that you recognize your fears and the thoughts they trigger are shifting you back to a past, hurtful experience or state of mind that has given you a distorted lens of yourself and your child in the present. I encourage you to recognize that your reactions to your child’s experiences may be distorted from your feelings about events that happened to you in childhood. You view your experience from childhood as your child’s experience. Fears from your past do not have to continue sabotaging your relationship with your child. The first step toward releasing the bondage of fear-based parenting is awareness. You can empower yourself by identifying your own fears and their associated thoughts and behaviors. From there, you can bring an increased level of mindfulness into your life, and begin to shift your thoughts, actions, feelings, and behaviors.
Extend yourself grace just as God extends grace to us each day. Allow yourself time to harness your desire for change, personal growth, and positive parenting. Process your thoughts and feelings without a need to control or judge them. Once the emotional barrage of your own fears and feelings have passed, you can begin to recognize that the way your child presents themselves may have nothing to do with the fears you are projecting onto them. Your parent-child journey can become a conscious one, of mutual kinship and spiritual partnership.
Get to know and understand your fears, because knowledge and awareness bring about power to change. It is the most essential ingredient for personal growth, self-actualization, and becoming a parent who can promote the growth of your child’s spirit. True emotional connection and secure attachment with your child cannot be formed and maintained in a state of fear. You and your child are deserving of a lasting, strong, relationship that is selfless, unconditional, and forgiving. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3).