Teaching Our Kids to Trust God Means Letting Them Go

by | May 15, 2023

It is said that faith is like a muscle. It grows by stretching. If we want our kids to have great faith, we must allow them to experience times of testing. 

Kids today are fearful. Studies show that anxiety and depression in our youth have increased exponentially over the last decade. The experts point to a variety of culprits including social media, bullying, the pandemic, and climate change.  But there is one that doesn’t get as much attention: hyper parenting or helicopter parenting. This type of parenting is characterized by:

  • overindulging
  • over protecting 
  • over scheduling children 

In my experience, this type of parenting deserves some of the blame.

Last April, The Atlantic Magazine published an article titled,  “Why American Teens Are So Sad.” The author calls out modern parenting strategies as a possible cause. He explains that these include two phenomena:

  1. The amount of time and money parents spend on their children has nearly doubled in the last 40 years.
  2.  “Anxious parents, in seeking to insulate their children from risk and danger, are unintentionally transferring their anxiety to their kids. “

As a former middle and high school teacher, I saw this first hand. And I must admit I bought into it in the early years of raising my own children. Modern parents put a lot of effort into controlling our kids’ lives to protect them from hardships and failures.  In doing this we rob them of the self confidence and independence that comes from overcoming. It also results in weak faith. Let me explain.

 We see our children’s success and happiness as a reflection of us so we try to give them every possible advantage from an early age. The pressure is on from homemade baby food and organic diets to music lessons and scheduled activities/sports as young as 3 or 4. We hire tutors in elementary school so they can get ahead and eat lunch with them at school daily to “get insight” into their social life. We want them to fit in so we give them the most popular gadgets and toys. We rarely give them chores and responsibilities because enforcing them takes too much time. When they miss the bus, we take them to school or if they forget their lunch or homework, we take it to them. If they are having an issue with a teacher, coach or a friend, we often intervene to work it out for them. If we aren’t doing these things, we feel like we aren’t doing our jobs.

 Although done with the best intentions, this hyper controlling parenting isn’t working. Instead of being more successful and happier than prior generations, today’s children are actually less self-reliant and experiencing less satisfaction in life. This is evident in that many are getting drivers licenses at later ages and living with parents well into their 20’s. The result is an entitled generation who is fearful of disappointing us and lacking hope. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds. We’re so busy trying to make everything perfect that we don’t have time to actually cultivate a relationship with our children, much less disciple them in their faith. This is actually our most important God-given role as parents. 

It’s time to take the pressure off and give them the space to figure things out on their own. They might fail but that’s okay. As much as we want to, we can’t control what happens to them, especially once they leave our homes. So let’s stop trying and allow them to experience hard choices and situations along with the consequences of their decision and actions. There’s no better teacher. Yes, it’s hard to watch sometimes but I promise you your child will be better off.  When we get out of their way, God can do His thing with them and their faith will grow. 

JESUS IS OUR MODEL

 

Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God. Believe also in Me.

John 14:1

Jesus didn’t try to control his disciples. He modeled obedience to the Father and helped them mature spiritually. He built trust and gave them the tools they needed to accomplish His purposes for them. Sometimes he rescued them to keep them from physical harm like when he calmed the wind and waves to keep them from sinking in the boat in Matthew 8:23-27. But He also sent them out among the wolves to spread His message. They quickly learned that some would receive them and some wouldn’t. Many came to know Jesus through their mission. But they were also rejected, beaten and ultimately killed for it. And Jesus promised them great reward in Heaven.  

 GOD HAS A PLAN

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

God is sovereign and in control of all things. He is faithful to keep His promises. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He promises wisdom to those who ask for it. He never promised us an easy life but, He does promise to bless those who obey Him. Your children’s happiness depends on their relationship with God not on their circumstances. He has a plan for their lives and the sooner they figure that out, the better off they will be. Our kids aren’t really ours to begin with. They are only a loan from Him for a short time.

HELPING OUR CHILDREN CHOOSE FAITH OVER FEAR

As a type A, driven perfectionist, the hyper parenting approach appealed to me from a to-do list mentality so I bought in hook, line, and sinker. This only put more pressure on me, my husband, and my kids. Thankfully, I had wonderful, Christian mentors speak into my life. They gave me the following suggestions to help my children choose faith over fear:

  •  Walk the talk. 

When faced with challenges or difficult situations, let your children see you turning to God for guidance and support. Share your own faith journey with them and explain how your trust in God has helped you through difficult times.   

 When my husband went through a period of unemployment, my daughter kept asking why God was making us go through this. I continually pointed her back to God’s character and goodness. I explained that He wasn’t making us go through this hardship but was allowing it to teach us to depend more on Him. Our kids saw us praying and leaning into God for strength and courage. They saw us continue to put God first in our family and they saw our faith grow through it. All three of our children tell us that this had one of the biggest impacts on their faith growing up.

  •  Help them to own their faith.

Read the bible with them from an early age and help them learn that God is their creator, provider, redeemer and sovereign Lord.  As soon as they can read, help them start to study the bible for themselves and cultivate the discipline of a daily quiet time. Share the Gospel with them and encourage them to receive Christ as their Savior as early as possible.  

 Memorize verses together that reinforce choosing faith not fear. For example:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

–Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”

Isaiah 41:13

Also, as they grow older, allow them space to question their faith and guide them in researching the answers. God says those who seek me will find me if they seek me with all their heart. Working through their doubts actually enables them to own their faith and take God at His word. As they own and engage in their faith, they will be able to trust God more. 

  •  Teach them to cry out to God.

Pray as a family, and encourage your children to pray on their own. Help them to understand that prayer is not just about asking for things, but about building a deeper relationship with God. Talk about how God has answered your prayers and be honest about those times when He said “No” or “Wait”. Tell them how God used those situations in your life. Teach them to cast their anxieties on Him because He cares for them. Praise Him together when their prayers are answered.

 

     

    “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

    1Peter 5:7

    • Don’t rescue them. 

    Let your child face the situation and learn to overcome it. You can pray with them and encourage them to:

    1. Talk to the teacher about their grade
    2. Order food for themselves
    3. Talk to their coach about more playing time
    4. Sending their own emails
    5. Learn the responsibility of assigned chores. Inspect what you expect. But, don’t expect perfection. Encourage them as they learn.
    6. Suffer the natural consequences for forgetting a needed item at home. Ie. lunch, homework or band instruments. 

    Each time they are able to face a fear and conquer it, their confidence and courage will grow. You can help them give glory to God for this and watch their trust in Him blossom.

    This is exactly what God does with us spiritually. 

    For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

    Hebrews 12:11

    • Teach them to be grateful. 

    Gratitude is an important aspect of faith. Teach your children to be grateful for the blessings in their lives, both big and small. Help them to understand that even in difficult times, there is always something to be thankful for. By cultivating a spirit of gratitude, your children will learn to trust that God is always looking out for them.

    •  Encourage them to serve others 

    Serving others is a powerful way to live out our faith. Encourage your children to volunteer in their community, to help those in need, and to be kind to others. By serving others, they will learn to trust that God is at work in the world, and that they can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

    It is our job, as parents, to point our children to God and model trusting Him in all things. We want to help them understand that whatever situation they are in, God has allowed it for His good purposes. He loves them even more than we do. When they know their identity is a child of God, they can find their security and self-worth in Him, not with you, their peers or anything else.

    When they are grown and out of our homes, they will certainly experience hard times. It is best to allow them to flex their faith muscles when they are under our wings so we can help them learn to fly. As they learn to surrender their cares and concerns to God’s will and experience His care and peace, they will be able to trust Him and choose faith over fear. And this will enable them to soar when they need it most. 

    What changes can you make in your family to begin choosing faith over fear?

    Listen to the podcast below and get more insight on the topic of “faith over fear”. Learn how to weave this into your daily parenting strategies to insure a stronger family foundation.

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