Family

How to Know If You’re a Courageous Parent

If we live bravely — from below the surface — we're giving our children one of the most valuable lessons ever

I meet a lot of people in my work and travels, and I must say, meeting Bob and Maria Goff has been one of the highlights of my career. Many of you may know Bob from his popular book, “Love Does,” in which you read about his dear wife, sweet Maria. Not only are Bob and Maria just a joy to talk to, but they have an irresistible depth and understanding of the things that really shape us the most. And they have some of the most incredible parenting stories you’ll ever hear.

Maria recently released her first book, “Love Lives Here,” and I had the pleasure of speaking with both Bob and Maria about the book, their marriage, their family, and about what it means to parent courageously. It is one of my favorite interviews I’ve done.

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They left me with a lot to think about. Here are just a few nuggets from our talk that I believe are very important to grasp.

1.) We are not the things we’ve done — or the things that have been done to us. As adults, we have the unique ability to look back over our lives and assess our actions and the actions of others. Unfortunately, we can also get sucked into playing all the negative situations over and over again in our minds, working us into an anxious, painful or regretful state. Parents, this can become a detrimental habit. If we are unable to move on from our past mistakes or wrongs of others toward us, it can adversely affect how we parent our kids.

When we choose to be brave, we give our kids permission to be brave and live courageously, too.

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Though we may not like to admit it, we easily allow our mistakes (and other people) to define us, and we are quick to compare ourselves to others. It’s almost as if once we’ve failed or caused someone else pain, we let those things tie us down. When that happens, we often unwittingly find ourselves parenting in the past, and ultimately our kids lose. Mom, dad, listen to me …  you cannot allow your past mistakes or choices to prevent you from moving and parenting forward!

One of the best ways to do this is by living in the present and facing the future with courage. When we choose to live courageously, we parent differently. The best thing that you, as a parent, can give your child, is a healthy you! If you can give your child a real sense that you enjoy who you are, are content, and are not weighed down by the mistakes in your past — guess how your kids will grow up? They will grow up more content, they will like themselves, they will be able to give themselves grace, forgive themselves, learn from their mistakes — and move forward with courage.

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What we don’t always realize is that when we choose to be brave and live courageously, we give our kids permission to be brave and live courageously, too.

2.) Don’t settle for living on the surface. Many times we are so afraid to let people see who we really are. We get wound up in what other people think and give them a “surface” picture of ourselves. When we do that, we allow ourselves to be shallow people and deprive those around us, especially our family, of knowing the real “us.”

In her book, “Love Lives Here,” Maria says, “There’s another version of ourselves that lies somewhere under the surface. It’s the one shaped and scarred by tremendous joy and painful loss. It is equally us — it’s just a different version. This version of ourselves is not one we are accustomed to letting other people see because it resides in the recesses of our lives. It takes time and energy and moments of deep reflection for us to see this version of ourselves. It’s not the depth that blocks our view; it’s the clutter on the surface that does. It’s our instinct to flee, to escape pain rather than confront it — but it’s in the engagement that we continue to grow.”

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Friends, living and parenting courageously is embracing living below the surface, not on top of it. Don’t settle for living on the surface.

3.) Let God in. Many of us are afraid to be alone. We are afraid to sit alone, to look back and confront our failures, our feelings, and our past. We are afraid to sit in stillness because all we are left with is ourselves. And many times in that stillness, we cannot escape certain pain, whether it’s bad relationships, abusive parents, divorce — that’s where God meets us, where it hurts the most. It’s a scary thing for us to think that perhaps God is real and that perhaps He will meet us in our stillness and hurt.

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In “Love Lives Here,” Maria talks about a pond and about how our lives are not just about the surface of the pond or just what is on the bottom — it’s really the middle place between the surface and the deep, where all the muck, the highs and the lows, the joy and the bad collide.

It’s in that middle place in the pond and in our lives where God meets us.

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the best-selling book, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

meet the author

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

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