If there has ever been a time when we need to be growing courageous kids, it’s now. Children with the courage to become the brave and caring adults our world needs. To one day find solutions to very real problems that seem only to be getting worse. Courage to live lives that matter. But how to accomplish such a monumental task? And when to begin? At age five? 10? 15? Is it too late if our children are already adults?
It’s never too early or too late to begin modeling courageous living for our children. But growing courageous kids requires brave parenting.
When my firstborn son Andy arrived in this world 30 years ago, I was full of optimism and determination to protect him from any and every negative influence. I set about in earnest to shield him from the evils of sugar, too much TV, and playing with toy guns. To my dismay, his grandmother introduced him to chocolate and ice cream before his second birthday. He learned all about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from his friends at Christian preschool. And without ever having held a toy weapon (to my knowledge) at the age of four he would carefully load kitchen utensils into his little boy belt and brandish wooden spoons, spatulas, and ladles as his imaginary weapons of choice.
I was outnumbered. And as all young mothers eventually realize, I came to understand that my attempts to shelter my son and later his younger sister and brother, were pretty puny and insufficient against forces beyond my control.
But there was good news! You see, parenting from a position of fear and hiding from danger isn’t God’s way at all. For God hasn’t given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (2 Timothy 1:7)
To honor God’s desire for me and my children to live courageously, I needed to make three brave parenting moves:
1) Be brave enough to step back.
I may have mentioned once or twice how much I like helping people. Well, when I became a mother, I felt like I had hit the “helping” jackpot! Here were three small humans who needed me. And I felt like a superhero when I could find solutions that made them stop crying or worrying. Or ways to help them feel secure, safe and happy.
What I didn’t realize was that every time I stepped in to fix something for them, it might make me feel great and them feel better for the moment, but an opportunity was lost for them to gain confidence and grow problem-solving skills of their own.
Learning to do hard things like handling difficult emotions, navigating through uncomfortable situations, or living with unpleasant consequences, comes from experiencing these things in life, not from hearing about them and certainly not by being rescued from them.
So just like I had to be willing to see my kids fall and risk hurting themselves when they learned to walk or ride a bike, I had to be brave enough to step back and allow them to experience some of the pain that comes from the hard things in life. Things like disappointment, loneliness, or being treated unfairly. And guess what? The pain didn’t stop them. They learned from it and grew. They got braver and stronger for the next time. And they began to see God at work in their lives.
2) Be brave enough to lean in.
Leaning in means coming alongside my kids and helping in new ways as they navigate the bumpy parts of life. Not jumping back in to solve something after a short pause spent watching them struggle for a bit. But being willing to stay the course with them, listening, sharing, hearing their concerns, mulling over possibilities. Allowing them as much time as they need to find answers.
It takes courage for me to lean in because I have to let go of my desire to fix things and trust in God’s timing as He guides and directs my kids toward a solution. It means giving up my desire to be in control, while still staying connected and engaged with my kids, so they feel my love and support. For a fixer like me, leaning in without taking over can be H-A-R-D. But the fruit of this brave parenting move is this: my kids know I believe in their God-given abilities, they feel respected and in turn, give respect to others. And they have personal knowledge and experience of what it means to seek God’s guidance and find answers there.
3) Be brave enough to talk about what’s true.
Stepping back and leaning in have both been helped along by being brave enough to talk truthfully with my kids about the realities of their lives and mine. For years I avoided difficult conversations, fearing my inability to handle unpleasant emotions like hurt, anger, or disappointment. But as we grew together in our ability and confidence to deal with hard things, a wonderful thing happened. We all became better at talking about those hard things, both in our lives and in the world around us. And we’ve learned to come together in humility, offering one another grace, as we continue to seek God for his direction, help, and wisdom.
For me, brave parenting has meant being willing to do three things – step back, lean in, and talk truth. My children are all young adults now, and we are still learning together how to say YES to the invitation of Joshua 1:9:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We will find everything we need to raise our children up to be the leaders God calls them to be when we run to Him for strength and courage. Because of His love for us and our children, we can make the brave parenting moves necessary to raise courageous kids.
What does brave parenting look like in your family? What moves are you making to nurture and grow courage in the hearts of your children?