Safe or Strong Parenting?

I’ve been reading “Grace-Based Parenting” by Dr. Tim Kimmel the past few weeks and it has really been challenging my way of thinking when it comes to raising a Catholic child in this extremely scary, broken, and hostile world.

Now I’m no parenting expert…haha I’m winging it just like everyone else. However, this book is challenging my whole approach and so I thought I would share.

Parents want to do the best they can for their children. We just want to protect them. It’s instinctual.

However…overly protecting them is not necessarily preparing them for living in this world.

This book is  challenging me to move away from “safe” or “fear” based parenting, which in short is when we try to overly control every influence over our children, hiding anything too broken or ugly, so they grow up in this perfect little Christian Bubble.

The problem with this is that it does nothing for building up spiritual strength. There are no spiritual risks, there is no time to deal with real brokenness, decisions, consequences, forgiveness, healing, or grace.

When in reality, God is all powerful and trumps all brokenness and is the source of tremendous grace, healing, and strength.

Jesus did take on everything ugly, broken, and painful already.  He took that burden head on. He did not cower, hide, or live in a bubble.

Now…of course this is not to say parents should be reckless and flood children with all of the world’s problems at once. There is something to be said for age appropriateness, but there is also a real spiritual battle going on that children need to be preparing for.

We wouldn’t train up an runner by protecting him from the elements of nature or stepping in with a water bottle every moment they get a little weary.  We would coach and build up stamina, and face weather when it comes, rain, wind, sun, and slowly practice all different types of terrain. I imagine most marathon runners who strictly train on an indoor  treadmill don’t win many races…

But it is scary and sometimes addressing real life issues seems too overwhelming to do with our children. We never want our children to suffer.

But what does that say about our beliefs about God?

That it’s too scary for even God to handle?

Too overwhelming for God?

That suffering can’t serve a purpose?

Is that the message?

It’s just too much…


God can handle it.

In fact he can handle ALL of it…and having that confidence in God can lead to a more empowering approach to guiding our children, rather than a fearful approach.

Because we really have nothing to fear. No matter how broken, hostile, or evil the world becomes, we know that God can conquer it.

That confidence can empower and build up so that when the real brokenness creeps its way into our children’s lives, they can feel secure, safe, and capable of dealing with it.

This quote specifically hit me in the gut:

“Raising children in evangelical hideaways and creating a spiritual Disneyland works directly against the development of an empowered relationship with Christ. If anything, safe Christianity isn’t about a relationship with Jesus Christ; it’s about a relationship with a Western, middle-class caricature of Jesus Christ. It’s an option that the majority of Christian parents around the world (especially the Third World) wouldn’t consider for their children because it isn’t even a remote possibility. Raising safe Christian kids is as much a product of middle to upper-class wealth as it is anything else. Putting it bluntly, the reason parents choose to raise their children in highly protected spiritual enclave is because they can afford to. History has shown, however, that God the Holy spirit has always provided better protection for children than their parents’ checkbooks ever could.” (pg. 117-118)

Are we revealing opportunities for our children to encounter a real God who loves and gives grace and strength to the most broken of broken Christians being tortured and killed, homeless people being spit on, children being abused, spouses being cheated on, teens being pressured into gangs, young girls getting pregnant, drug addicts trying to get clean, children traveling from foster home to foster home, tired parents, hookers trying to make money, etc.

Or are we only allowing opportunities for our children to know a God who is talked about during a fancy brunch after Sunday church, or in expensive schools, among uniform wearing children who have never even heard the word $&*! by age 13.

I think there can be a happy medium…between overly protective and reckless.

The happy medium is grace…a grace that gives strength.

So to my daughter…

I promise to learn and grow in my parenting approach. To always give you opportunities to grow and learn while still giving you the security and love to know that you are capable of all of life’s challenges through the strength of our Lord, because he can handle it all. You are strong, worthy, loved, and capable. I hope to show you this. I will fail. But that’s real life brokenness that we will face, and hopefully grow, heal, and learn grace from. I love you.



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