Fostering Faith not Fear in our Sons

It's been a tough year teaching my 15 year old son.  Although we've been together in this homeschool journey for the past seven years, this year brought about difficulties I wasn't prepared for...and it's not on the academic side of things.

While I've been working on loosening my mom grip and letting him become a man, it seems that my son has settled deeper into fearing that he's going to get something wrong. Others advise to just give it time. They say, "If you trust them, they'll come around eventually." I've seen this work well, and I've seen it fail miserably. So what's a mom to do when she's faced with finishing out the middle school/high school years with a young man?

raising teenage boys

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Cultivating Faith not Fear

Punishment is proactive. My job as a mom is to punish disobedience right? Over the last year, I've never thought about spanking my grown son so much. Yet is that really what will do the trick? I don't think so. I felt helpless when the words, threats, punishments didn't seem to be making any difference. But my thinking about the situation was so wrong.

As I sat listening to Andrew Kern's "How to Become a Christian Classical Homeschooler in a Secular Progressive Age" talk at the Great Homeschool Convention, a simple revelation came over me: I've been approaching this from the wrong angle. Instead of punishing my child by appealing to my son's fears of not getting his work done, not doing it well enough, or not pleasing me, I need to feed his faith.

This is so hard to do in the moment because it seems counter-intuitive. My natural self wants to yell, demean, and belittle my son. If I'm thinking logically, I should know that those tactics will not produce a strong man of character. They will simply further feed his fear, and he will recede more into hiding. That is the exact opposite of what I'm desiring to cultivate.

Fighting Against Indifference

One of the ideas that really shocked me in Andrew Kern's talk came from the story of Hannah Arendt, a reporter who covered the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.  Eichmann was the man who kept the trains on schedule during the deportation of the Jews to the gas chambers. His argument was that he was not guilty of harming any of the Jews because he was simply following orders. He was doing the job he was tasked to do - keep the trains running. What happened to the Jews once they were on the train was not his concern.

One of the biggest arguments that my son and I repeatedly have comes from him wanting me to just tell him what to do. Leadership skills don't come from following, they come from thinking critically, forming opinions, and executing ideas. I'm not serving him well if he's simply following orders. I'm creating a robot that is indifferent to the consequences of the ideas he's executing. Ouch.

Hannah Arendt argued that all it takes is indifference to produce evil. The Holocaust happened because people lacked awareness and courage to resist it. When we become forgetful, we lose our courage. Read more about this idea in her book, or watch the movie.

How do you fight against forgetfulness? Remembrance.

Sharing Your Faith

What convicts me the most about the concept of remembrance is not simply talking about it, but living it. [clickToTweet tweet="The greatest way to feed the faith of my son is sharing how God has been faithful in my own life" quote="The greatest way to feed the faith of my son is sharing how God has been faithful in my own life." theme="style2"]

Often, I lean on my own strength, wit, and wisdom to get me through the challenges I face. I shared with my son this recent struggle, and how God proved faithful:

When something is heavy on my mind, I often lay in bed at night and have conversations with whomever it is I need to work something out with.  These conversations can play on loops for hours.  

I've realized that I need to stop seeking my own wisdom first, and taking my troubles to the Lord. Every time I was tempted to have a fake conversation with myself, I would pray. 

Philippians 4:6-7 says, " Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

What I've learned is that when I do this, I'm not so worried about the outcome of a conversation because I know that God is working it out. He feeds my faith, and I can trust both the yes and the no.

The amazing thing was that when I made the phone call that I had been praying about (instead of rehearsing in my mind), God went before me, and all of the issues that I imagined might come up were vapors in the wind...not real. God was faithful, and my faith was strengthened to seek Him yet more.  "Further up and further in." (See The Last Battle - the final book in the Narnia series).

This is just a simple, yet tangible example of sharing an experience of faith building in my own life. I'm setting the example for what it looks like to struggle through fear and trust God. Remembrance involves story telling. It involves sharing of memories. Start modeling this, and they will see that what you're talking about is genuine.

Restoring the Ruins & Renewing the Mind

If you're like me, and you've struggled with your relationship with your son (or daughter for that matter), know that God loves restoration. Unforgiveness imprisons people. Christ's work on the cross was to restore relationships. If God was willing to give His son to the cause of restoration, we can assume it's really important to Him. Know this: in our struggling relationships, we don't find freedom. When we are defining our relationship in unhealthy ways, we are not free.

Restoration comes from a renewed mind. A mind founded on Truth. Yes, capital "T" Truth.

Fostering faith not fear

Our goal should be that our children will be better able to see truth. Andrew Kern suggested that we cultivate truth identifiers by training the faculties of our children: practicing paying attention, strengthening memorizing skills, and loving harmonizing ideas.

We can also work to renew our children's minds by replacing old messages with True ones (adapted from More Than a Bucket List: Making your dreams, passions, and faith a reality):

  • Don't say, "Try harder." Encourage: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Don't promote, "Look out for number one." Rather say, "Honor others above yourself" (Mark 9:35)
  • Replace "Fix the problem now" with "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12)
  • Don't encourage, "I need to get even." Say, "Leave vengeance to God" (Romans 12:19)
  • Don't stress: "Strive for success." Encourage: "Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul." (Matthew 22:37)
  • Replace: "I can never change" with "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13)
  • In place of "I am a failure" say "I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God and created in His image" (Psalm 139:13-14, Genesis 1:27)
  • Don't promote "No one cares." Rather say "I am the apple of God's eye, His beloved, created for purposes beyond understanding." (Psalm 17:8, Jeremiah 29:11)

If you'd like to post these verses around the house to continue feeding his faith with scripture, you can purchase this PDF download for inspiration. Click the image below for a larger preview. Click the "buy now" button to purchase for $3.

Faith not fear
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Freedom in Christ

I desire freedom for my son from the tyranny of fear, and that only can be found in Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1-2

My job has changed over the years in raising my son. I'm releasing him to the Lord, and in doing so, I'm feeding his faith. I'm not saying that I trust my son to always do the right thing, because let's face it, he's human and perfection is impossible. I'm saying that I trust the Lord to complete His work in His child.

Funny thing how faith feeding feeding the faith of my son, I end up feeding my own faith as well. Isn't God good?


  1. Abby on April 9, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Your article was timely! My 8 year old is preparing for Memory Master proofing and is finding it hard to persevere because he is afraid of failing. There’s a good Ask Pastor John podcast that I can’t find right now…but I found this interesting article. Thought you might find good food for thought here.

  2. Shari on December 28, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    We have started Challenge A with CC this year. This article is perfect! Thank you for the scripture references too! You are a blessing!!

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