Before you read this, I want to be clear about one thing: I am not advocating that parents put their kids in bad situations, and I am not saying that we shouldn’t comfort our children when they are scared.
What I am saying is that what you are about to read has been an unfolding story in my home.
It is the story of breaking fear.
It started with a small voice. “I’m scared of the dark,” he said.
From a little person’s voice, fear moves us to compassion.
My first response was to go to my child and hug him. Before I could even stand up, my husband’s voice came forward. “No you’re not,” he said, “Go back to bed.”
Fear is a lie. It seeks to stop us and to isolate us. We are afraid of rejection. We are afraid of failure. We are afraid of dark, unknown things.
Sometimes fear can be reasoned. Our son’s room was dark. He couldn’t see.
“I’m afraid of the dark,” he said again, another night.
“No you’re not.”
When a thunderstorm shook our home, our two-year-old lay crying in his bed. “I’m afraid,” he said.
We went to him. We hugged him. We told him it was okay. We prayed for him. In the next bed, his four-year-old brother said, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”
He knew that he could speak to fear, and he did, for his brother.
Fear is a lie. If we had calmed our children without equipping them to speak to fear, we would have been setting them up for lonely, isolated lives.
We are not perfect parents, but we have been given these children. As long as we speak truth, we are giving our children the tools to live abundantly.
Born out of emergency, a grasp at hope and desperation in a time of need, it is a lifelong principal. – Neil, my husband.
When our children were 7, 5, and 3 years old, we watched Jumanji. It was my idea. I thought they would think it was hilarious. Monkeys in the kitchen? Yes, please!
But it was the scene where little Alan Parrish gets sucked into the game board that did us in. Our five-year-old, the same one that was afraid of thunderstorms, was terrified by that scene.
At bedtime, he couldn’t sleep. He walked to our bed. He asked to read a bible story. He wanted to snuggle close to me. For weeks, he asked us to leave his bedroom door open overnight.
“Perfect love casts our all fear,” we said. Over and over. We kept saying it.
“What is perfect love?”
“Where is Jesus?”
“Fear is not allowed here.”
For weeks, the terrifying images were stuck in his head.
Then, one day, he started saying it for himself. “Perfect love casts out fear,” he said, “Fear is not allowed.”
It’s just a movie. It’s just a door left ajar. It’s just a five-year-old wanting an extra hug. “Give it to him,” you might say. “Make him feel better.”
It might begin as a small thing, but if tolerated, fear remains, and grows.
Fear is not allowed is a tool that I grabbed when I was facing “dad I’m scared” and didn’t have any preconsidered or predetermined response. It came out naturally because it is a description of reality. I’ve considered the fear that shaped my childhood and decided I would not allow it in my life. As my children’s lives are an extension of my life, it will not be allowed in their lives. So, fear is not allowed. -Neil, my husband
I know fear for myself. All the time, I feel it creeping up, telling me that I’m not good enough, that I made the wrong decision, or that what I create is worthless. In college, I took an elective class called “Violent Crime Profiling.” It sounded exciting, but for years the stories of notorious serial killers haunted me.
Fear will try to creep in, but we speak to it. We remind fear that it is not allowed, and it flees.
Fear is intangible, not real. But it is incredibly real, if you allow it to be. If you give it strength, it is the most powerful force. If you bow to it, it will conquer all. But it is not real. It is not tangible. It is a construct, sometimes for good (fear of bears and snakes), self-preserving (fear of heights, thin ice). But often times misused, abused, exploited. – Neil, my husband
He was scared of the dark. He was scared of thunderstorms and scary movies. Many children are. It’s natural, we might say. But then what? If we had simply hugged our children through a night of fear, we would still be dealing with it.
We will not coddle our children’s fear. Neither, our own. Fear is not allowed.