FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Overcoming Fear

with Tim Kimmel | July 28, 2004
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Today on the broadcast, author Tim Kimmel explains the difference between fear-based parenting and grace-based parenting.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, author Tim Kimmel explains the difference between fear-based parenting and grace-based parenting.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Tim Kimmel explains the difference between fear-based parenting and grace-based parenting.

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Overcoming Fear

With Tim Kimmel
July 28, 2004
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Bob: Trying to raise godly children in this culture is risky.  It feels dangerous.  Tim Kimmel says a lot of parents, as a result, are operating out of fear.

Tim: I think what we do is, based on those fears, we make our plans, and our plans become man-made, human attempts to do what God wanted to do in our kids' lives.  And so we make the bunker, we isolate – try and hermetically seal our kids, and that's fear-based parenting.  And what it almost always creates is a wimp spiritually.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 28th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  All right, pay attention, we're going to talk today about what parents can do so that we don't raise spiritual wimps.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  Don't you think being a parent, raising children, is one of the scariest things alive?  I mean, one of the hardest things, one of the most challenging, one of the things that you look at and you go, "This is scary."

Dennis: You know, there is a frightening side to it, but parenting, I would have to say, challenged Barbara and me more in our Christian faith than any single thing we've done in our 32 years of marriage.  There is no question.  Raising children in this culture with the number of issues that are coming at them, coming at us, challenged our paradigms, it challenged our depth of understanding what God's up to in our lives, in our children's lives, and how He wanted us to relate to our children as we raised them.

Bob: And there is no ironclad guarantee that even if you do everything the way that you ought to do it, which you're not going to do because you're a fallible, sinful parent yourself – but even if you did, even if you were able to do it perfectly, there is no ironclad guarantee that your kids are going to grow up and honor you and live right, is there?

Dennis: There isn't.  In fact, you're not raising robots.  I've said it many, many times here on FamilyLife Today, you're raising children who have to make their faith their own faith, and that process of raising children to adulthood in this culture, yes, it is frightening at points but, more than anything, it's a lot of hard work, I think, if you do it right.  I think there are a lot of moments of prayer and beseeching God and saying, "Oh, Lord, will you help us know how to relate to our children?  Help us know how to respond in wisdom when they need to be encouraged, when they need to be penalized, when they need to be cheered on and built up, and when they need to be rebuked."  It's not an exact science, but we have someone with us who is a parenting scientist.  He and his wife have raised four perfect children – four, count them, four perfect children and it's now moved over in the next generation.  He now has two perfect grandchildren.

Tim: Well, that's true.  That part is true.

Dennis: Dr. Tim Kimmel joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Tim: Thank you.

Dennis: We're glad to have you.  Tim is the executive director of Family Matters.  He holds conferences all over the country – Parenting 101, Home Improvement, Basic Training for a Few Good Men.  He's written a number of books including "Little House on the Prairie."

Bob: No, no, no.

Tim: I wish I'd written that one.  Could you believe the royalties on that one?  Wouldn't that be nice?

Bob: "Little House on the Freeway," that's the classic that he wrote.

Dennis: Oh, oh, I knew it was something like that.  But he's written another one called "Grace-Based Parenting."  We've been talking about what grace looks like and how we are to – well, how we are to raise our children in grace.  And, Tim, I want you to take a crack at what Bob said to me.  Is it frightening?  Has it been frightening for you, as a parent?

Tim: Well, it can be very frightening, because when you look at the world that our kids are being brought up in, it is far more hostile than anything we faced when we were their age.  And so it just makes sense that parents would look at the world and be quite taken back by the adversary there. 

 Here is the problem, though.  It is so easy to make the equation look something like this – well, the world is very evil, my child is very vulnerable and impressionable, Satan is very sinister, therefore, I am going to make my parenting philosophy and plan from these three things.  That's what we tend to do in the Christian movement.

Dennis: Now, what do you mean, these three things?

Tim: These three things – my child is vulnerable, the world is evil, and Satan is sinister – those three things.  I hear this all the time from parents.

Dennis: So we kind of bunker up then?

Tim: We bunker down.  How would you solve the problem that your kid is vulnerable?  Well, you basically …

Dennis: … protect them …

Tim: … make all their decisions for them and protect them.  What do you do about the world that it's so evil and sinful?  Well, you keep them away from it.  What do you do about Satan?  You try and lock him out of your home.  All that makes sense except there is another point in the Bible that trumps all three of those.  I'm not saying it makes them irrelevant, it just takes the sting out of them, and that is that God is mighty.  God is awesome.  God has got everything under control.  He did not give anybody these kids by accident.

Bob: "Greater is He who is in you" …

Tim: … "in you than he that is in the world."  Resist the devil. He'll flee from you.  And so I think what we do is, based on those three fears that we started out talking about, we make our plans, and our plans become man-made, human attempts to do what God wanted to do in our kids' lives.  And so we make the bunker, we isolate – try and hermetically seal our kids, and that's fear-based parenting, and what it almost always creates is a wimp spiritually.  It does not create a strong child; it creates a safe one.  Our call is not to raise safe kids but to raise strong kids, and there's a huge difference.

Dennis: We are called to raise children who have their own faith, who stand on their own convictions, and who are, after we are gone, will carry the truth of the Bible to the next generation.

Tim: Exactly.  See, it's not that they can go into the next generation and not get taken in by it.  It's that they go into the next generation and help change it for God.  We are supposed to be raising kids who make a difference, not just survive.

Bob: And if they're going to be strong, I know, physically, what you have to do if you want to strong is you have to go to the weight room, and you've got to press the weights; you've got to work against the tension of the weight. If you want a child to be spiritually strong, that child has to face some of those weights in life and be able to exercise his spiritual muscles.

Tim: I think we have to create dilemmas for our children, or allows dilemmas to happen in our children's lives, but grace gets them through it, because it has been, as you said earlier in one of our broadcasts, Dennis, grace is about pursuing them at a heart level as a parent, and so they know, through whatever they face – they have a mother and a father that dearly love them, has their best interest at heart, has been trying to bring the best out of them all the way through, has great honor for them, and they're more inclined to respond to our discipline when we have to sit on them, take our advice and also ask our permission when they want to venture out further into the world.  We've got to understand that our kids sin, they fall short, they make mistakes.  That doesn't mean there aren't consequences, but we've got to respond to them in their sin the way God responds to us in our sin.  He never writes us off.

Dennis: You know, I wasn't planning on talking about this, but we've talked all our way around it here, so I want to go ahead and finish the loop.  If we are talking to a person who is involved in a church that is bound up in a bunch of do's and don't's and a bunch of legalistic performance attitudes where that's the only way you can be accepted, then one of the healthiest things you can do for your own grace-based parenting, is to consider breaking free from that legalism.  And I just want to say, it may be a very small percentage of people who are tied up in those kinds of situations, you can't afford to stay in them.  You need to go to a place that will encourage you to grow in your relationship with Christ.

Tim: Well, Dennis, I think that's the way to put the death knell in your kids' spiritual life.  A lot of these kids, they run, and they never come back.  They have been turned so away from the heart of God, from a strident, legalistic, straitjacket type parenting model or church model that does not reflect the heart of God.  We are not saying for a second that truth doesn't prevail in the church; that there isn't clear doctrine; that there aren't boundaries – of course, there are.  But it's when we add to it is when we fall into that trap.

Dennis: Yeah, I really agree.  In fact, in Galatians, the book was written to a group of believers who were legalistic.  They had lost their freedom.  They no longer enjoyed a love relationship with Christ, and if we want our children to catch that picture, they must catch from us – you know what?  "It is for freedom Christ has set you free.  Therefore, do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery."

Bob: You know, you talk about this model of fear-based parenting, where parents try to bunker up and protect their children – your child may arrive at adulthood having been protected from a lot of wrong influences.  I guess the big question is do they arrive there with a heart and a passion for Christ that carries them through the rest of your life, and part of your premise here is they don't become adults who are passionate for Christ if all they ever knew was fear-based parenting.

Tim: Exactly, because it contradicts everything about us.  We should be the last people afraid of just about anything.  In fact, if you take all the pieces of advice that Jesus gave in the Gospel, and you categorize them, which you can do now in computers, the longest list there – He said this more than anything else – "Don't be afraid."  He came to take away our fear, and so if we have fear-based parenting, it's going to cause us, by default, to go into things that automatically creates a strident nature, a hostility. 

 I was brought up in a home where it says rock and roll is evil.  No, it isn't.  There's bad rock and roll, there is good rock and roll.  Our job is to show our kids how to tell the difference.  I was brought up in a home where they said dancing is evil.  No.  There is good dancing and there is bad dancing.  A wise parent shrewdly shows their kids how to tell the difference.  That's grace.

Dennis: Okay, how do you explain the difference between good dancing and bad dancing?

Tim: Oh, now you do it.  Well, don't watch Bob.

Bob: Yeah, that's really bad dancing.

Dennis: No, I'm saying your 16-year-old is getting ready to go to a prom, and she's getting ready to go with a young man, maybe she's a junior in high school, he's a senior.  They're going to prom.  Are you going to let her dance?

Tim: Yes.

Dennis: Okay.

Tim: I may not let them slow dance.

Dennis: You wouldn't let her slow dance?

Tim: I may not let her slow dance.  It all depends on the child.

Bob: Okay, so this child that you're not going to let slow dance – why is that bad dancing?

Tim: Well, it isn't necessarily bad dancing if, maybe, that person is married to them, and it's not necessarily my daughter's problem, it's the guy that's holding her – it's his problem.  Because we are guys, we know what it's like to be a 16-year-old holding a nice, pretty girl up close to us.  It is problematic.

Bob: So here's – you can see how this happens – you can go from, boy, dancing is problematic because of what it incites in the heart of a 17-year-old boy.  Therefore, dancing is bad.

Tim: Right.  We make that jump there.

Bob: But the reality is that what's inside the heart of the 17-year-old boy – that's what's bad.

Tim: That's the problem.  Let's hit one that I think everybody contends with, and that is fashion.  What does the Bible say about fashion?  The primary guideline it gives us is modesty.  Now, there are some practical things about fashion that can affect maybe their employment as a teenager or how people perceive them for good or for ill.

Bob: Striped pants and plaid shirts probably shouldn't go together, right?

Tim: Not necessarily – yeah, right.  But the point is that if my main standard is what the Bible says, I want my sons and daughters to dress modestly.  If they look like they were dragged to school behind the bus, I may not particularly like that style, but it's modest.  And so if that's the style, and I make an issue out of it, and I want them to look like kids in the '70s or '80s …

Dennis: … but it's sloppy, Tim.

Tim: It's sloppy, and it may annoy me, but does the Bible say that you've got to dress neatly?  Does it say that?

Dennis: No.

Tim: No.

Dennis: But I don't like sloppy dress.

Tim: You don't like sloppy dress, great, except you graduated in the same decade I did, and if you are a very smart man, and I believe you are, you have hidden your yearbooks.  Because we '60s kids, we were the ugliest bunch of people ever to go to school – talk about sloppy.  What did God say to Samuel when he was going to anoint David.  He said, "Don't look on the outside.  That's where man looks.  Look on the heart."  And a grace-based parent is monitoring the child's heart, and they don't worry about the superficial things.  They just watch their heart.  And if their heart's right, you don't worry about the outside.  If it doesn't look like you like it to, but there's nothing immorally wrong, you don't worry about it. 

 Let's say it does reflect something that says there's a problem in the heart.

Dennis: Let's say there is a dress or an outfit that you daughter is wearing that is immodest – not that that ever happened in your household.

Tim: I'll give you an example – our oldest daughter wanted to go buy a dress to a prom.  It was like a Valentine's Dance in the eighth grade, and she asked me, "Dad, can I borrow some money from you, because I found a perfect dress?"  Now, people might be thinking, "Why does Kimmel's daughter have to buy her own dresses?"  And the answer could be found in her closet.  Because I had bought several dresses before, and she treated them all like wedding dresses, you know, you only wear them once or something.

 But, anyway, she bought a dress.  She came home with this, and she went up – she said, "I'll go put this on for you and Mom and model it for you."  But we got very nervous when she started going up the stairs because of what the dress was in.  We were expecting a big box or something held high on a hanger.  This thing was in a little bag – I mean – I'm talking, like, a lunch bag.  And when she came down the stairs with her dress on, she walked by Darcy and came over to kind of turn around in the middle – and I looked over her shoulder at Darcy, and Darcy is just shaking her head and mouthing, "No way."

Bob: And you better be the heavy on this one.

Tim: Oh, absolutely.  Well, I looked at her, and the next words out of my mouth, I give total credit to God, because I'm just not that clever on the spot, but I said, "I see why you like that dress, because you look real cute in that dress, but I have a problem with it.  See, girls' dresses are supposed to be high on the top and low on the bottom.  Someone flipped yours upside down."  And I mean, as soon as I said it, her countenance fell.  She was picturing herself, and I knew why she wanted to go to the dance in a dress like that, because we chaperone the dances, and we've seen how many of those girls dress and oftentimes, when I see these girls, I think, "Where is this girl's father?  How in the world did she get past the front door dressed like this?"

 Well, you don't always have time to buy time in a big decision, but in this case we did.  The event was still far enough off, I said, "I'll tell you what.  Let's think about this for 24 hours.  I want to pray about this, too.  And let's just think about this for 24 hours, and then let's decide finally tomorrow."  I caught her when she got home from school, and I said, "Have you thought anymore about the dress?"  She says, "I have, Dad.  I really like it, but here is what I've decided.  I'm going to do whatever you and Mom want me to do, and I'm not going to complain about it."

Dennis: Wow.

Tim: Now, you see, I only believe that happened because of the grace relationship that has gone up to that point, because my kids are like any other kids.  They're perfectly capable of giving their parents a run for their money.  And I said, "Look, you've met me far more than half way.  I'll meet you far more than half way.  I'll take you to the mall, we'll find a perfect dress, whatever it costs, I'll buy it." 

 I don't know why I say things like this, but I did, in that case.  As it turned out, her mother and her went to the mall, they found a perfect dress, and the way they defended the price of it, is that it fit them both.

Bob: It took more material, too.

Tim: But it also fit them both.  They said, "It's like two for one.  When you divide this in half, it's really a bargain."  No, we've had to fight that battle on modesty, but that's where there is no negotiating on this.  We don't mind you being fashionable, we want you to look nice and pretty, but there's a standard, and she had not met it.  And that's going to happen with kids all the way through.  And, by the way, I think we need to keep in mind that boys need to dress modestly, too.  You look at a lot of the music videos, and there's a lot more immodesty in the young men, too.

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: You know, Tim, as I was listening to you, there are parents who heard you go through that dialog and said, "That doesn't sound like grace to me.  That sounds like Tim and Darcy have got some pretty rigid standards about modesty." 

Tim: We do.

Dennis: But that's because it's a biblical standard.  You're saying when there is a biblical standard, clear in Scripture …

Tim: … we're very strict…

Dennis: … that can be defended, you don't bend.  Now, here is where I want to get on my soapbox, Bob, and say for the Christian community – what we allow our daughters to go to church in, not just what we allow them to go to prom dressed in, but here is where we need to be setting the standards in our home clearly based upon the authority of Scripture.

Bob: And that standard shouldn't change, whether it's prom or the church.  We can't have one standard for the prom and another one for church.

Dennis: And if you don't think I don't know what I'm talking about, you can just ask my daughters of how many times I told them to go upstairs and change.  I don't know where they got the clothes that they were wearing – that they were getting ready to wear to church.  Maybe they'd grown longer and taller and so it lacked some material, too, Tim, but I asked my daughters, on more than one occasion, to go change, please.  And, you know, that ought not just to be for church, it ought to be for school, for the prom, and, I want to tell you, some of the most gut-wrenching, emotionally charged and challenging moments I have ever had with any of my daughters has been purchasing a prom dress – going there with them in the store because, I'm going to tell you something, it is not easy to find a dress that passes muster according to Scripture.

Bob: Now, help me here, both of you, because we're talking about grace-based parenting.  How is any of this grace-based?  If we're talking about saying no to our kids who are wanting to push the boundaries on modesty.  Where is the grace, Tim?

Tim: The grace is the fact that our kids know that we love them enough to take the stands on the issues that God said take the stands on, and that we're not making issues out of non-issues.  So when we find …

Dennis: … I want to stop you there, because that's what gives the strength to taking a stand on the prom dress.

Tim: Right.

Dennis: If you take a stand on every little gnat that comes down the road with your kids, and you're firing silver bullets left and right over all these issues with your children, they're just going to get weary of hearing your list of no, no, no, no, no.

Tim: And I think it's, like Paul was speaking to.  He says, "Fathers, don't exasperate your children that they lose heart" in Colossians and in Ephesians.  It puts a seed of bitterness and can create a root of rage in your heart, and it's all our own fault.  It has nothing to do with the Bible or the message of the Gospel, it's just stuff we added on.

Dennis: Grace-based parenting is all about loving your children and, I'll tell you, on more than one occasion, I've left the dress store, where we've looked at the prom evening gown, and I've had my arm around my teenage daughter who is either crying or very sad or maybe even bummed out – just saying, "I love you.  I wish there was a way you could wear some of those things but, frankly, it's just not appropriate.  You just can't do it because of what the Scriptures teach, and you need to know your mom and I are going to stand strong on the Word of God."

Bob: You know, I think for those parents who find themselves kind of picking at too many things, or for those parents who are afraid to take stand on some of these issues, both parents are going to benefit from reading a book like "Grace-Based Parenting."  It helps us get a handle on how we can lean too far to the right or too far to the left as we raise our children.  We've got the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center in either book form or in audio book form, and you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy or go online at 

 Tim has also written a classic book called, "Little House on the Freeway," about living in a culture that is too busy and how we keep our sanity in the midst of that.  If you'd like to order both books, we can send, at no additional cost, either the CDs or the cassettes of our week-long visit with Tim Kimmel.  Contact us at 1-800-FLTODAY for more information or go online at  You can order online, if you'd like.  Again, it's or the toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

 I wonder what Kelsey is thinking about this whole concept of grace-based parenting?  You know, I mentioned yesterday that we'd heard from Kelsey who lives in Charlotte who sent us a contribution recently – sent in $20 to help support FamilyLife Today.  She listens to the program each evening, and that our program has changed her outlook on guys and dating and rearranged how she thinks about boyfriends.  And I was thrilled to get her note.  I know you were, as well, Dennis.

That's what FamilyLife Today is here for.  We want to help effectively develop godly families – moms and dads and sons and daughters – we want all of us thinking differently about marriage and family – thinking biblically about marriage and family.  And it was a treat to hear from Kelsey and to hear that God is at work in her life through FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate the donation that she made to the ministry, and we appreciate those of you who, in the past, have donated so that folks like Kelsey can be tuned in and be listening.

We depend on your donations to continue the work of FamilyLife Today, and if you'd like to make a donation this summer, you can do it when you call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can go online at and make a donation, or if you want to write a check and mail it to us, just get in touch with us, we'll give you the mailing address, and you can send it along, all right?  And when you do get in touch with us, please let us know the call letters of the station on which you hear FamilyLife Today.  We'd really appreciate that.

Well, tomorrow we want to talk about what grace-based parenting looks like if you've got a stubborn, strong-willed child who is dug in and doesn't want to obey.  I hope you can be with us for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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