Several years ago, I had an encounter with one of the biggest childhood fears facing mankind. Let me explain. My family stayed at a hotel with an indoor water park. As a dad, I watched my kids run to each of the water areas including the pool, lazy river, and the kiddie slides.
My son, who was eight at the time, wanted to make sure I saw everything that he did. “Dad, watch me. Dad, watch this. Dad, I just peed in the lazy river.” What? If you’re the parent of a young elementary boy, chances are high you’ve experienced the same thing.
After being knee-deep in water for most of the day, I decided to introduce my oldest son to the big slides. I was thinking, If you think that’s fun, wait until you try this.
As we climbed the steps of the big slide, my son was excited and nervous, and he had lots of questions: “Dad, is it fast? Dad, is it dark? Dad, will it flip us over?” Our trip to the top of the slide was going well until we we reached the final three steps. That’s when his excitement turned into panic. “Dad, I can’t do this. Dad, I’m too scared. Dad, I don’t want to do this.” His eyes filled up with tears. He turned around and tried to force his way past me back down the stairs. Fear was keeping him from going forward.
As a parent, what was I supposed to do? If I let my son run from his childhood fears, I was confident he’d run from other things in life too: run from rejection, run from responsibility, run from relationships. I didn’t want my son to run from his fear (and I didn’t want to walk back down the four flights of stairs we just climbed), so I asked him a question: “Would I let something bad happen to you?”
Before revealing what happened next, I think it’s important to see what God, the perfect heavenly Father, said to the people of Israel through the prophet, Isaiah, when they were afraid:
… “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3 MSG
This leads to the parenting principle I learned that day: Our job as parents is not to protect our kids from their fears—our job is to walk them through their fears. This was an opportunity for my son to overcome a fear. My job was to walk him through the fear.
That day, my son hopped on the raft because his dad was with him. He knew I was going to take care of him. After reaching the bottom of the slide (with his dad screaming like a little girl the whole ride), my son had a change of heart. For the rest of the day, he rode the big slides with a big smile. He had conquered a fear.
Whatever childhood fears your kid is facing—fear of failure, fear of the dark, or anything in between—we have the opportunity to walk them through those fears together. I encourage those of us parents facing a fear right now, trying to get the courage to go down the big slide, to do two things:
- Read Isaiah 43:1-3 again, and let God’s words sink in.
- Read this fun post about fear and the YouVersion Bible Plan it recommends.
Don’t let fear keep you or your kids from going forward. Today, we ride the slide together.