Are Your Parenting Fears Hurting Your Kids?

By Joshua Straub
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Avoid three common parenting fears so you can provide the emotional safety your kids need to be who God created them to be.

As a kid, I loved to wrestle and play baseball. To say I wouldnt care if our son, Landon, played either sport would be a lie — Id love for him to follow in my footsteps. 

This past fall, when he was 4, we signed him up for T-ball. I even coached his team. We had one practice and one game a week. Not bad. Things remained pretty stable in the Straub home.

Related content: Safe House 

Then one day he brought a flyer home from preschool advertising Tiny Tots Wrestling Camp. I was excited. I hadnt started wrestling until seventh grade. If he begins now, he’ll have such a jump-start on the other kids, I thought

Though it ran simultaneously with the T-ball season, we decided to check it out. We learned that joining the club meant two practices a week, plus matches. Though Landon enjoyed it, our family was overextended. We knew we had to say no to wrestling.

Im glad this happened to us now for two reasons. First, my wife, Christi, and I were able to talk about how we plan to manage our family schedule as our kids grow. Second, it forced me to face the desires I have for my children — and especially my fears.

Margin and emotional safety

I’ve discovered that in parenting, fear is the enemy of margin. Margin is important, because it is the time we allow ourselves for unexpected challenges, conversations and time together as a family.

The more I allow my fears to guide my parenting, the more Ill fill the margin with things to combat my anxieties. That, in turn, makes me less emotionally safe for my child, because being emotionally present requires margin. When every minute is filled, I cant pause to have a meaningful conversation with my child or seize a teachable moment.

Here are three parental fears that can threaten the margin our families need:

1. Fear that my child will experience the same unfulfilled dreams I did.

Im grateful that Landons wrestling camp allowed me to face my fears (and disappointments). Honestly, I wasnt a great wrestler. I thought that maybe if my son started earlier, he would stand a better chance at excelling in the sport.

Whether its making the big leagues, attending Juilliard or getting a coveted college scholarship, we look for opportunities to nudge our kids toward accomplishments we believe theyll need to achieve their dreams. We may even do it in the name of giving them the opportunities we didnt have.

While theres nothing wrong with accomplishments or the activities, when we steer our childrens lives according to our own agendas, the pressure can emotionally debilitate our kids. My child may not need to quit piano lessons or soccer, but if the activity is causing tension in the parent-child relationship or the home, I need to evaluate whether its doing more harm than good.

As you seek to create healthy margin, start by evaluating every activity based on your childs interest. Be discerning about which activities you add to the schedule.

In addition, take into account your familys life stage. The strain on a family for a 4-year-old who is exhausted from practices, games and tournaments is much different than on a family with a tween who is tired, but genuinely passionate about her interest.

2. Fear that my child will not reach his or her potential.

A few years ago, I met with a young man who was failing school, using drugs recreationally and living a sexually promiscuous life. It didn‘t take me long to see the pressure this young man was under. His dad was a well-respected local ministry leader, whose expectations for his son were for him to also be a spiritual giant.

Rather than loving his son for who he was, the father shamed him for who he wasnt. The young mans tearful, heart-wrenching confession is one no child should have to make: Josh, my dads expectations for me are so high, I know Ill never be who he wants me to be.

What expectations are you inadvertently placing on your child? Do you have a family business you expect him to take over? Is your child an introvert who loves to read, yet you wish she were a popular social butterfly? We become emotionally unsafe for our kids when the preoccupation with our agenda overwhelms our ability to be present with our kids emotions, passions and dreams.

To build relationship with your child, join in on an activity that he finds life giving. Perhaps you could audition for community theater with your daughter who loves to act. Maybe you could volunteer with your sons robotics club. Whatever activity your child enjoys, make time to do it together.  

3. Fear that I am a bad parent.

Sometimes our agendas as parents arent about unfulfilled dreams, but a basic fear that were not good parents. We may put pressure on our kids to do what looks good in the eyes of others, overlooking factors that really matter. But what if activities that seem important are actually causing us to miss out on something more important?

In a recent Harvard study, nearly 80 percent of kids stated that the primary message they receive from their parents is that personal achievement and happiness matter more than care and concern for other people. The kids in the study were also three times more likely to agree with the following statement: My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if Im a caring community member in class and school.


In many cases, were unwittingly sending our kids the message that outward success matters more than inward character. I believe this happens because of the unrecognized fear that my childs performance is a reflection of how good Im doing as a parent. We plan trips, hire tutors and push our kids to perform and look good for others so we have something to prove were doing a good job.


Creating healthy margin happens when we as parents become the kind of people we want our kids to be. Put more emphasis on serving others with your kids. As you encourage your child to do his best academically, show him that raking the widows lawn matters more than good grades.


Less doing, more knowing

I dont know if Landon will ever wrestle. But what I learned through our recent experience is that my greatest fear is sacrificing my relationship with my kids by pushing them too hard as a result of my own fears. I want to make time to discover who my children are, what they love to do and the activities that make them feel alive.  

Raising our children in the way they should go, according to the Lord, and not the way we want them to go, matters. And emotionally safe parenting requires ridding ourselves of fear and creating healthy margin.

Dr. Joshua Straub is a counselor, speaker, consultant and author of books such as Safe House.

Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Joshua Straub

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Joshua Straub

Joshua Straub, Ph.D., serves as Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources, and is the president and co-founder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower marriages and families. As a speaker, family advocate and professor of child psychology, Josh has trained thousands of professionals in Critical Incident Stress Management. He uses his experience and knowledge in the …

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.