Fear Doesn’t Need To Be Learned
How sad is it as a parent to hear your child say they are scared? Fear is not something that I ever needed to teach my children. It came as naturally as loving ice cream. Whether it was the noise of a vacuum cleaner or the dark closet in their room at night, my children have always had fears. Not-so-unbelievably, their fears don’t seem to be going away anytime soon (I mean, I still have fears don’t I?), which means as a parent this is something that I must be attentive to constantly.
The other morning, I found myself once again interacting with my children’s fears. My youngest son (age 6) was faced with a dilemma. He was excited to invite one of his classmates to church but when he realized what it would take, his excitement soon changed to despair. Noticing this change in his disposition, I said, “What’s wrong, Asher?” He replied with “But I’m scared, dad!”
Now, in that moment, I could have very well shamed him and told him to get over his fears and suck it up. Instead, I took this as an opportunity to dive into the why. So I asked him, “Asher, why are you afraid?” He couldn’t really answer so we worked through it for a moment, not really getting anywhere.
(Since I know my child well I knew why he was really afraid: He was afraid because he started thinking about what his buddy would think of him. He was afraid because he didn’t want to be rejected. He was afraid because he is terrified of failure.)
Try To Dive Into Your Child’s Fears
Instead of shaming him, which is my tendency at times (full disclosure), I dove into his fear and tried to identify with him by saying, “I understand, Asher. It’s hard to do things that are a little scary.” I then asked him a question: “Asher, what is the scariest thing that has ever happened in this world?” He couldn’t answer. I proceeded to remind him of how scary the cross was for Jesus. As Jesus anticipated what was about to take place in the Garden of Gethsemane - being rejected by humanity, being rejected by the Father in that moment, and being tortured physically to the point of death - He actually sweat “great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44).
Asher perked up because well, you know, blood! Now that I had his attention I said this: “Jesus faced something far scarier than we ever could imagine, Asher. And because Jesus did the most scary thing ever and actually didn’t fail, we can now do scary things without being afraid of failure. Doing scary things isn’t about not failing but rather about trusting Jesus. Why? Because He never fails.”
Did this conversation cause Asher to immediately get excited again about inviting his buddy to church? No, not really. But it did remind him about how awesome Jesus is. And isn’t that the point?
What would be helpful for you to think through the next time your child says they are afraid? Consider the following:
Please don’t dismiss your child’s fears. Rather dive into them. Empathize with them (you’ve been scared before).
Instead of offering an immediate solution or fix, listen to your child.
- Take the time to talk about the why with your kids. Ask them why they think they are afraid in that moment.
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