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Principles from Plutarch (8) – How Fear Effects Parenting

In my last message I wrote about how love is a stronger motivator than fear. In this message I am going to continue to explore how fear can negatively effect our parenting. 

While discussing Artaxerxes Plutarch wrote, “Fear is the bloodiest passion in princes.”

Fear provokes leaders to oppression, to actions they regret in times of clear thought. All too often we as parents rely on bribes out of a place of fear, out of a fear of losing control or a fear of being hurt or rejected by our children, out of a fear of being embarrassed by our children’s bad behavior. Who among us has not given into a public tantrum because we were embarrassed at how our child was acting? Who among us has not given into an unreasonable demand because we worried our kids would be mad at us if we didn’t? But this hurts our children! In attempting to keep ourselves from being hurt or embarrassed, we hurt them if we fail to do what is right and best for them. I think as parents one of our greatest fears is being rejected by our children. But we need to be ready to face this because many of our children, in a moment of pain or frustration, will reject us. They will speak out of their anger, fear, and hurt and say things they will later regret. This is wrong of them and there is no excuse for it, but we cannot let their failure to do what is right inhibit our resolve to do what is right. And yet we must not let this resolve prompt us to act overly quickly or impulsively.

Time and again Plutarch shows that cowards rush into battle. Cowards cannot abide the stress and the tension that precedes a battle and for that reason they rush in to get it over with. Wise and brave generals, on the other hand, only fight on their terms.

Few parents like battles. As a result, we are often tempted to rush to respond, to react against a perceived challenge or threat. In so doing we all too often fight battles on the ground and terms of an upset child. This is foolish. Great parents, like great generals, are patient—they don’t react. Instead, they wait to deal with trouble—they fight their battles on their terms, on their turf, and in their timing. The opposite of fear is not impulsiveness, but rather a courage guided by wisdom.