Should Dads Stop Freaking Out About Their Kids?

by Kristopher Schaal

man holding his head in his hands and screaming at the camera

I recently read Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung.1 It is a great book, and it helped me a lot. However, one chapter in particular stood out to me. The title of the chapter is “You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids.”

Highlights from Crazy Busy

Here are some of the highlights.

“We live in a strange new world. Kids are safer than ever before, but parental anxiety is skyrocketing. Children have more options and more opportunities, but parents have more worry and hassle. We have put unheard-of amounts of energy, time, and focus into our children. And yet we assume their failures will almost certainly be our fault for not doing enough.”2

“As nanny parents living in a nanny state, we think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable. Both assumptions are mistaken. It’s harder to ruin our kids than we think and harder to stamp them for success than we’d like. Christian parents in particular often operate with an implicit determinism. We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children.”3

We must reject our well-meaning but misguided spiritual determinism. As it turns out, it doesn’t all depend on us. The Bible is full of examples of spiritual giants producing rascally children and noble kin coming from polluted loins. While the proverbial wisdom of Scripture (Prov. 22:6) and the promises of the covenant (Gen. 17:7) tell us that good Christian parents and good Christian children normally go together, we must concede that God is sovereign (Rom. 9:6-18), salvation is a gift (Eph. 2:8-9), and the wind of the Spirit blows where it wishes (John 3:8).”4

“I worry that many young parents are too sure that every decision will set their kids on an unalterable trajectory to heaven or hell. It’s like my secretary at the church once told me: ‘Most moms and dads think they are either the best or the worst parents in the world, and both are wrong.’ Could it be we’ve made parenting too complicated? Isn’t the most important thing not what we do but who we are as parents?”5

“[T]he longer I parent the more I want to focus on doing a few things really well, and not get too worked up about everything else. I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say “sorry” when I mess up, and pray a ton. I want them to look back and think, ‘I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me, and I knew they loved Jesus.”6

“Maybe we are overparenting.”7

Some Takeaways

On the last page of the chapter in my copy of the book, I wrote, “How can this chapter help us at Growing Fathers? Are we needlessly heaping heavy burdens on dads?” These are really good questions for a writer at a dad blog to consider!

So here are my takeaways. These are the four most important lessons I was reminded of by this chapter.

1. Dads must lead in scheduling margin.

DeYoung cites a survey in which children said what they wanted to change most about their parents’ work habits was for them to be less tired and stressed.8 However, instead of relieving stress, many parents add stress to their lives by trying to do too much. We cram in the sports seasons, music lessons, and trips, thinking we are doing our children a favor. However, in reality, our children would be better served if we were to do less, be a little saner, and spend more “downtime” with them. It’s hard to teach “by the way” like Deuteronomy 6 talks about if there’s no time “by the way” to talk. Dads, let’s help our families take control of our calendars.

2. Dads must lead in setting priorities.

DeYoung says that parenting may be the last bastion of legalism in our culture.9 Parents are shamed for allowing their kids to eat Happy Meals or play Angry Birds. Therefore, they “freak out” about lots of minor issues! Instead, parents should focus on what God emphasizes in His Word, like teaching their children the Bible, taking them to church, loving them, and disciplining them. We also must leave room for other good parents to differ in their application of biblical principles.

3. Dads must not ignore “shaping influences.”

One pushback I have against DeYoung’s chapter is that it could be taken to downplay the significance of what Tedd Tripp calls “shaping influences.”10 Shaping influences are things like who our kids’ friends are, where they go to school, what they watch on TV, etc. Although we must not overemphasize shaping influences, we must not underemphasize them either. Psalm 1 and Romans 12:1–2 are two examples of Bible passages that deal with shaping influences. Psalm 1:1 talks about friends, and Romans 12:1–2 talks about being conformed to this world. It matters what influences you allow into your children’s lives.

4. Dad must have a right view of God and the gospel.

This is the solution to the “spiritual determinism” DeYoung talks about. Determinism says, “It all depends upon you. If your child ‘turns out,’ you take all the credit; and if he does not, you take all the blame.” However, the Bible says, “God is sovereign.” This truth allows you to rest, even though there is always more you could do. The Bible says, “God is gracious.” This truth gives you hope when you’ve sinned. The Bible says you could do everything right and your children still reject Christ. This truth causes us to cry out to God in prayer for our kids.

Christian Dad, is your life filled with unneeded stress and anxiety? Maybe you need a healthy dose of the medicine DeYoung offers. Maybe you need to stop freaking out about your kids and rest in truth about God and the gospel. As DeYoung says at the end of the chapter, you will never avoid being busy with kids, but you can avoid being “crazy busy.”


  1. Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2013).

  2. DeYoung, 65.

  3. Ibid, 68.

  4. Ibid, 71

  5. Ibid, 73.

  6. Ibid, 74.

  7. Ibid, 74.

  8. Ibid, 70.

  9. Ibid, 67.

  10. I wrote an article last year summarizing Tripp’s view on the relative importance of shaping influences vs. what he calls “Godward orientation.”

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