What is Fear-Based Parenting?
Worries and anxieties about your child and their future all stem from fear. These fears lead to repetitive parenting actions that undermine your child’s general sense of well-being. We often have elaborate excuses and justifications for these fear-based actions, yet the data become evident over time. We propagate anxiety and fear when we respond to our families out of fear. Let’s examine how this works.
We Keep Repeating Ourselves, Thinking This Will Help. It Doesn’t.
When parents fear mistakes, missing out, or the kids not ‘getting it,’ we try to teach them with words and discussions. We question and probe, then answer and lecture and discuss our concerns repeatedly. We aim to teach and prepare, thinking the words are urgently necessary. And yet, the most crucial teaching piece has nothing to do with words (more on this later).
In these moments, we tend to forget to trust everything else we have done as a parent. Instead, there we are, reminding them again, then questioning them again. And, of course, the repeated words of wisdom, stories from the past, or threats about what bad outcomes flow effortlessly from our lips. Forget that we have said this 78 times this year already. It just keeps happening.
If this worked to prevent mistakes or poor choices, great. It would be worth it. But it doesn’t work. If it did, parenting would be much easier, and many therapists would be out of business!
And Who Is This About?
Let’s be honest: It’s about you. It makes you feel better BECAUSE it’s as if you did something to prevent the feared event or outcome from happening. Yet, in reality, this repetition rarely prevents anything. Research confirms that most of our repetition of the same messages with our children is about stress relief: for mom and dad!
We want to think it’s about protecting or guiding them. But none of the research, and common sense observations, support this. It doesn’t protect them. It doesn’t help them learn. It doesn’t stop stupid choices.
What Are We Passing On?
And there’s more to this negative role of fear: You pass it on. Yes, unknowingly, you are passing on your fears and worries. Repeating redundant questions, comments, nagging, and reminders teaches something; focus on what you don’t want! And then repeat that every day.
And here’s the real rub with this approach. The more we focus on what we don’t want in life (always stemming from some fear), the more that fear grows inside our minds. The more it grows in our minds, the more we express it, and the more it consumes us.
On an emotional level, we are also teaching our children about emotional and state management. They will resonate with the states we bring to breakfast, homework, or playground.
Little room is left for the positive, and life is consumed with worry-related chatter.
Fear Precludes Executing a Great Parenting Plan
Amidst all this, we miss out on a critical piece; having a robust focus-forward parenting plan. When we invest heavily in worry and fear, we are often consumed with controlling the uncontrollable. And such efforts inevitably lead to more repetition of instructions and direction. If we pay attention, we will notice how these repeated instructions do not work well, and how children get annoyed, aggravated, or anxious. Regardless, there is no long-term value when we repeat ourselves constantly. Such an approach is not a plan.
We can discuss our fears and worries with our husbands, wives, partners, friends, and parents. But often, these well-intentioned friends and relatives will do little to relieve fears. Instead of a planful, comprehensive approach, they often leave these discussions with more worries and fears and more to discuss with our kids. Little of that will have anything to do with good parenting practices.
Remember that nothing about this article argues against good discussions with your children, family, or friends. It’s about the useless repetition of the same stuff, over and over, and the delusions that such discussions are necessary or helpful. Without a more comprehensive strategy, it is not helpful. Instead, more likely harmful. And this is true regardless of a diagnosis or limitation on the part of your child.
This is not to suggest that a great parenting plan will always suffice. At times, other modalities, such as Neurofeedback or therapy, are potent in helping children with focus, anxiety management, and motivation. You can learn more about what we offer at CapitalDistrictNeurofeedback.com.
Next week, I will follow up with an article on trusting your parenting by developing a game plan that gives you a reason to have confidence in what you do and say. Until then, do your best to relax more and repeat yourself less. When you do, notice how your children respond when life is more relaxed.