Fear, Discipline, And A Tough Night As A Parent

Yesterday was an adventure in parenting. If you’d like to sympathize or learn through my frustration please read on.

Hayden has loved playing soccer. The last few years he has had the comfort of playing with his cousins. This year he is playing on a team without any family. He was so excited to get to his first practice. He got ready without any issues. He moved fast and had a smile on his face. He was truly excited about a new season.

And then we got to practice.

He shut down. Blamed not wanting to play on the field (it was a different field then where he practiced last season), then his shoes, then any other excuse he could hold on to.

It was so frustrating. He sat on the sideline and pouted as his team played. The YMCA supervisor talked to him and tried to encourage him.

The coach was so supportive and tried to encourage him. Hayden wouldn’t budge. His strong will can one day be used for good when he directs it towards something positive. But at this time it was infuriating. And embarrassing.

I don’t think anyone judged Hayden. Hopefully they didn’t judge our parenting. But the truth is if I was an outsider my response would have been, “Just make him go out there.”

I was wrestling against my own instincts to push Hayden onto the field by being bigger, stronger, and more stubborn than him.

After 3o minutes we made the decision to take him home. We were going to try again next week. Him allowing his fear to effect his behavior wasn’t going to ruin our night.

When he got in the van he started crying because he really wanted to play. That was so frustrating to hear.


That’s what I wanted to say. I didn’t say it, but the caps lock was on in my brain. All of my thoughts had lots of exclamation marks at the end of them. It is so difficult to control my own emotions.

But with a little bit of renewed confidence Hayden got out of the van and walked onto the field. Only to be frozen in fear once again. He wouldn’t budge.

Everything in me wanted to pick him up and just toss him onto the field. He was being ridiculous, and stubborn.

As a parent I am responsible for helping discipline my kids, but that’s different than punishment. Discipline seeks to lead to a new behavior. Punishment focuses on the past. Punishment leads to more fear.

In trying to help Hayden, we had to fight against our own instincts to lead with fear. Fear may have gotten him on the field, but it also would have created a divide between us. Discipline would hopefully draw him in.

So I stood by him and tried to encourage him. I didn’t force him to go out onto the field. That wasn’t easy for me. I also let him know that if he chose to not get onto the field then he would be going to bed after dinner.

The problem is that I could have won that war, but I wouldn’t have won over my son. I knew the heart of it was fear. He was afraid because he didn’t have the comfort of his cousins.

I was embarrassed and my natural reaction is to demand that he gets his hind parts on the field, threaten, and punish.

The problem is that might have got him on the field but it wouldn’t have taught him. He ended up getting on the field for the last 10 minutes.

When we got home we talked. We allowed him to not go on the field but that choice meant he went to bed right after dinner. When I talked to Hayden at bed time he expressed that he didn’t think we (mom and dad) ever listen to him.

That was frustrating.

We do listen. We just don’t agree. He blamed not wanting to play on being on a different field, but that wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was fear. I had to listen to Hayden so he felt supported, and then I had to help reframe his thinking.

I’m far from a perfect dad. I make mistakes often. I desperately want to draw Hayden in while I also discipline the behaviors that will hinder his life.

The Scriptures teach that “perfect love drives out fear.”

Fear doesn’t drive out fear. Love does.

So in my conversations with Hayden I’m trying to love him out of his fear. I separate the behavior from who Hayden is. Hayden is brave. He just forgot.

I call out the good behavior and his potential. Hayden has shown bravery by overcoming his fear of rides at Busch Gardens. Hayden has the potential to be a leader on this team. Hayden allowed fear to dictate his behavior.

I love him the same even when he doesn’t preform. Resisting my natural instincts to punish him onto the field exhausted me last night. I fell asleep at 8:30 PM.

I’m sure I jacked up some of this moment. My hope is that at the end of the day Hayden will find His confidence in God. I know that often kids attribute the voice of God to how their parents talk to them. I want Hayden to know and experience love driving out his fears. Ultimately that’s a God thing, but as his dad I play a part in it.

We slay the dragon of fear when we realize just how loved we are. We don’t have to fear failure when we are loved for who we are instead of what we do.

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Rob Shepherd

I am the full-time husband of a wonderful woman! I love being married! We are proud parents to twins, Hayden and Reese. In my spare time I am the pastor of Next Level Church. I have a relationship with God and it is an adventure. Oh and I wrote a book. It's called Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.


  1. Karen
    September 14, 2017

    So awesome how you kept your patience and showed him love. I’ve not always done that. Last night Hannah lost her field hockey game but played her best game ever and knew it. She said she felt like crying she was so full of happiness. I could see the confidence God is instilling in her. Through His word through her family through her church family through prayer through her mentor. It’s turning into a God story all the way!

    • September 21, 2017

      Karen, I love God stories. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Robin
    September 14, 2017

    Wow this brings back memories to when my oldest daughter wanted to try out for competition cheer when she was small. She was so outgoing and we felt just a natural, but once we got to the place with the hundreds of other girls she was terrified and broke down crying and couldn’t do it. I was so upset and upset for her. I tried all the comforting talk and encouraging I could think of but nothing helped. She is an adult now but still remembers that day. Social anxiety just got the best of her then, but it hasn’t affected the strong woman she is now. All we can do is love them through those times .

    • September 21, 2017

      Robin, your last line is so good. That is all we can do. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Becky wallace
    September 14, 2017

    My oldest daughter was very fearful as a child. She refused to go to ballet (after I had bought $$$ all the gear and shoes) and couldn’t vocalize why except ‘the teacher has a pony tail’. She cried at every preschool and early elementary school show. I have more crying photos of her early years than anything. That young lady is now a 4th year student at VA Tech. She spent Christmas in Antartica! She is a missionary and spent all summer in Honduras. She is also an EMT on the VA tech rescue squad……..she rarely gets scared any more. Its a phase and you did a great job working through it. He may do it again next week but stay consistent and eventually he wont need you any more! lol.

    • September 21, 2017

      Becky, that’s amazing!! Glad to hear how this has potential to work out. Thanks for sharing.

  4. September 28, 2017

    You wrote that you were far from a perfect dad. I think that you demonstrated through your son’s experience that you were indeed the perfect dad. We all get frustrated with the little ones, and we all look back on our frustrations and laugh at the sillyiness of it!


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