Jonathan, don't run so fast!" Andrea called as we sat on the park bench watching our 3-year-olds play. It was tough to get a word in edgewise between all of her warnings to her son. When she realized that I had uttered far fewer "watch outs!" to my daughter, Andrea turned to me and said, "I guess you think I'm pretty paranoid. It's just so easy for them to get hurt, and Jonathan never looks where he's going."
Andrea's not alone in her "paranoia." Some degree of fear is natural in parents. We love our kids so much that the thought of anything bad happening to them sends us into a panic. Yet if we're not careful, this caution can become oppressive. When we let fear dominate our parenting, we can actually shield our kids from the very things they need to be dealing with.
It's important to let go of parenting fears if we want our kids to be confident and responsible. By acting as "watchdog" we run the risk of raising kids who are unable to look after themselves. Fear has a way of silencing the God-given instincts we all have for discerning what's right and wrong, safe and unsafe.
While being conscious of safety issues is important, we have to know when to draw the line and let our kids experience life, even the painful parts. That might mean letting your toddler climb on the jungle gym in the park, even when you're afraid she might stumble. Or you might need to let your 10-year-old ride his bike to a friend's house a few blocks away rather than drive him there. Ultimately, only God can completely care for our children. He trusts us to protect them and love them, but as Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" This is our hope as Christian parents: God is in control and we can trust him. He really does have only the best planned for our children.1