by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

July has been given the distinction of National Purposeful Parenting Month. Purposeful. That’s practical and sensible. Something most parents aspire to be.

Recently, Boy Scout Brennan Hawkins’s story gave me pause to reflect on my parenting method in street proofing my daughter from stranger danger.

Brennan’s mother stated that her son told her his biggest fear was that someone would steal him. She added Brennan took their advice about avoiding strangers too literally.

This hit home with me. I’ve often wondered if I’ve emphasized more of danger and warnings to my daughter than solutions in the face of those dangers.

My heart ached to think this little boy could have been rescued sooner if not for his extreme fear of strangers. Or that his fear could have cost him his life.

Martha McArthur of the safety program, Block Parents, says “it’s important to make your children aware how to interact with strangers. ‘Never talk to strangers’ just isn’t practical because we do find children who get lost and are then afraid to ask for help from a stranger.” Such was apparently the case with Brennan.

Clearly, all parents want to alert their children to hazards in the world without overly frightening them. Certainly there are practical and necessary life skills to teach regarding stranger interaction.

We’ve heard again and again that balance is important in all aspects of life and at all ages. What happens when fear outweighs faith and hope? Cases like Brennan’s show how invasive fear can be. How fear can cripple right reasoning with a paralyzing effect on judgment. Brennan told how he hid from search parties. His ordeal illustrates how actions guided by fear can lead to harmful outcomes.

As a parent, I’m heartened by this message of promise from the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy: “. . . God is our Shepherd. He guards, guides, feeds, and folds the sheep of His pasture; and their ears are attuned to His call.” (Part of my daily prayer for my daughter!) And also, “Step by step will those who trust Him find that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalms 46:1).” And finally her instruction “Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust. . . ”

Brennan’s potentially tragic story encourages me to also emphasize to my daughter that she can pray and listen for God’s directing when facing her greatest fears. That she and all children can have faith that prayer will lead them to intuitively make good decisions even in bad situations. That they can be confident with these intuitions. Trust them. And follow them.

Yes, I think developing a child’s ability to problem-solve with prayer-inspired reasoning is surely an important part of purposeful parenting!