Lee J. Langley, M.S., LMFT
Parents are often confused about how their children should view them. Most parents would say without hesitation that they want their children to love them. But, fear...that's another issue altogether. Some parents want their kids to fear the consequences (punishment) for their misbehavior. Other parents actually feel their children should fear them physically. Both of these concepts miss the point.
Children should fear something, but it should not be physical harm or punishment. Rather, our kids should fear losing our respect and approval. Parents who are able to instill this brand of "fear" will be rewarded with more respectful, thoughtful, empathic kids, and down the road, more successful young adults.
In today's society, where kids are bombarded by sexual images that would have been unthinkable even fifteen years ago, parents need to ask themselves what they can do to help their children make wise decisions, especially where drugs, alcohol, and sexuality are concerned. Punishing kids for misbehaving is often necessary, but insufficient with respect to what is required to keep kids safe when they are out of the parents' sight. Of course, setting good limits, establishing structure in the home, and being good role models for our children is very important, but what happens when kids are outside the home and exposed to the temptations and powerful influences that are ever-present in their world?
One of the few things, perhaps the only thing that can help teens resist peer pressure and their own hormones is a strong faith in a God who they know loves them and does not approve of behavior they know is wrong. Children who have this type of faith as taught to them by parents who they see observing that faith daily are much less likely to succumb to the ubiquitous and dangerous influences they face on a constant basis.
Thus, it's critical that our children fear both losing their parents' trust and respect but more importantly, they should loathe the thought of disappointing their heavenly Father, who is able to see them and their behavior, even when the parents cannot.