Teaching our Kids to Fear (Not)
It’s official. I’m the father of two children under five who can ride their bikes without training wheels. It is wonderful – sort of.
The problem is that they don’t really understand their limitations. For example, this afternoon I decided to take them for a bike ride, which began with a cruise down the alley behind our house. The alley had more of a slope than I realized, and before I knew it, both girls were zooming down pretty quickly. I started to panic as I imagined them uncontrollably zooming into the street.
“Put your feet down!” I said nervously.
They skidded to a halt, and I took a deep breath.
“Girls, you have to be careful in the alley. It’s got a big slope.”
I followed them as they rode down the sidewalk to an empty parking lot. Once they got there, they just rode around in circles, but I repeatedly found myself wanting to caution them – especially my three-year-old, who kept doing risky things like wiggling the handlebars for fun. But I kept reminding myself of the words of a godly mentor who expressed remorse over how he raised his oldest son.
He said that his greatest regret as a father was teaching his son to be fearful. He was so afraid of his son getting hurt that he was constantly cautioning him about everything. As an adult, his son is now insecure, fearful, and afraid to do anything involving risk.
So as I watched the girls going round and round, I reined myself in and resisted my fears. I thought about God, our Heavenly Father, and His Spirit reminded me of what He’s always telling His children, “Fear not, fear not, fear not, fear not, fear not” (in fact, He says it at least 80 times in Scripture). So who am I to teach them anything else?
With that in mind, I watched my three-year-old ride round and round, taking more and more risks, and I held my tongue. In the process, she lost control of the bike and went over the handlebars at one point (she landed remarkably well though). Then a few minutes later, she accidentally jumped a curb and somehow managed to nail the landing so that she kept her balance.
I asked if she was alright when she fell off the bike (she was), and I cheered when she jumped the curb. But other than that, I was silent. And I hope that silence spoke volumes to her. I hope it said, “Fear not, because I’m not afraid right now. I’ll always be here, but it isn’t to teach you to be afraid. It’s to watch you surpass my expectations.”