One of the biggest challenges I have had as a parent is knowing the balance of when to keep my children from falling and when to let them fall. I remember telling my daughters when they were young not to run on one particular sidewalk near our house because it was not smooth. It was really jagged and rough. My reason for this command was because I had a memory of falling on a similar concrete and tearing up my knees and to this day I remember the pain.
Day after day they would run in that area and I would repeat my warning over and over. I finally got tired of repeating myself and stopped. One day, I heard that pain shrieking scream and a daughter came in with blood all over her legs. She had fallen and scrapped her legs pretty good. I cleaned up the wound and my first response to her was, “I told you not to run there; so this is your consequence.”
My statement was accurate but was it the most helpful? You see, I had not given her the reason for not running on that concrete. I never shared my story with her. I didn’t explain that if she were to fall, it would hurt. I didn’t teach her that in everything we do there is a consequence. I had just told her not to do something and expected her to obey.
I think there are times when we have to let our children fall as that teaches them to make wiser decisions. As parents, we can explain why they fell and what would be a better choice in the future to prevent such falls, but I believe that only works to a point.
But what about when they are older? I have an eighteen-year-old daughter who has graduated, who has her license, and who has a good foundation in a Biblical worldview. She is now in a time of learning how to use that knowledge to discern and make godly decisions in all that she does. We don’t have to watch her every move making sure she is not going to mess up. I trust my daughter and have no reason not to trust her. She drives my car and I can trust she won’t drive stupidly or put her siblings intentionally in danger. With that said, it doesn’t mean that I will let her come and go at all hours of the day and night (not that she’s trying to do that) or allow her to get into a vulnerable position. What if I were to take that same approach and let her just fall and learn from her mistakes?
Let me give you an example. She was up late one night and I walked into her room after 9 p.m. She doesn’t have to go to bed at 9 p.m., but she was on her phone late at night looking through her Instagram and Pinterest accounts. This is not in and of itself bad, but it could potentially foster unhealthy habits or even traveling down a road that should not be traveled (meeting someone online, having secret conversations, etc.). Her dad and I spoke to her of the potential dangers of being on the internet by herself late at night.
I had to ask myself, “Is that enough?” My first thought was that she is wiser than I was at her age and she was raised in a Christian family focusing on the sufficiency of Scripture for eight years, so she knows right and wrong. Then my other thoughts came and I struggled with thoughts of her being vulnerable and someone luring her away on the internet and it will be too late to catch her before she falls. My instinct is to take the phone away every night.j
A good friend and mentor had to ask me whose faith is being tested here. Hers or mine? My friend reminded me that we need to trust what we teach our children and count on the Holy Spirit to inform them. So, this time around as opposed to when she was younger, I have taught her what the Bible says and she has a strong foundation. We have talked about consequences of our actions as well as taking responsibility. I cannot micromanage her every move. This is my test to make sure that my faith is not lacking in my daughter or in the work that God has done in her life.
- Jenni Zimmerman
Jenni is a homeschooling mom. She and her husband, Chris, live in Washington state with their four children. The entire family are earnest students of Biblical law.