How To Stop Parenting Out Of Fear
We don’t often fully comprehend the impact of how significant an event has on the heart until we realize the shadows of that fear still remain years later.
We are going to discuss stopping fear-based parenting in this article.
What do you recall of your childhood? Was there mostly joy? Are there fearful experiences?
Most times, we might not even realize what’s subconsciously driving our behaviors until they surface in intimate relationships we have as adults.
Think about it – Why do some people use passive aggressiveness when they’re hurt, or to communicate a point? That’s a learned behavior. This is very common in households. Parents dismiss and ignore the kid’s tantrums, maybe downplay it or even rubbish them.
“Everything is going to be fine,” the parent says. Or they turn against the child’s perception, and it might be something along the lines of: “It doesn’t matter what you think. Your siblings had to go to school, and so do you. Get ready.”
Meanwhile, what this translates to is this: The parent is essentially saying "I will not tolerate your thoughts and ideas".
Where do we get our preconceived notions of the world? The adults in our lives.
Children are innately born to crave togetherness, most specifically from their parents.
So, what would cause us to develop a fear? When there’s trauma when we try to get close to someone.
Denying Your Child’s Reality
We’ve seen this happening a lot, perhaps even experienced this ourselves growing up – When your emotions are responded to with an ‘I will not tolerate you/ this’ attitude.
It could be a kid getting ready for school in the morning and starting to say they don’t wish to go to school. Meanwhile, the parents rushing for time has a big presentation that morning and have to leave – now.
The child is informed that the way he/she thinks, feels, wants, or doesn’t want, is invalid, especially if what they want is in direct conflict with what the parents want. In every scenario, we side with the adult. We think the adult’s right.
But, are we right though?
As children, we decide the authority figures in our lives must be right in order to end the internal anxiety and terror we feel for being in conflict with our parents. As a result, our personal truths are swallowed into the dark abyss.
This example is perhaps intensified in a household where a parent is dealing with mental illness, and the ramifications are even bigger for the child to face. For example, if the parent self-harms and/or is suicidal.
In this case, the children learn never to share their truth, because they’re taught from an early age that that will never be tolerated.
Hence, the fear of intimacy. We learn never to share our realities with anyone. What this leads to however is an adult so closed off to sharing that he/she never experiences the joy of being vulnerable with someone.
How to stop parenting out of fear?
Connect with yourself – If you’re a parent who has grown up learning to dismiss your own truths, and realized you’ve started to practice the same with your kid, what you’ve to do first and foremost, is sit with yourself, spend time understanding yourself, and hearing the truths you’ve got so used to turning away from.
Listen and feel – For some people, especially avoidants, this might be the toughest job of all. Yet, know this – The better we are as human beings, the better we show up for the people we love.
Evaluate past patterns – Before we can progress, we need to learn. And sometimes, we learn most from history. How have your parents responded to your need for closeness growing up? Similarly, now as a parent, how are you responding to your child’s desire to get closer? Are there similar patterns?
Put yourself in their shoes – Before you engage your child in what you deem to be a stressful situation, pause, and breathe. Ask yourself, what could he/she be feeling? Showing empathy is always a good start in bridging a healthy conversation.
Set clear expectations with your child - Set clear expectations tagged to consequences. Enforce rules in a kind and compassionate manner.
- Allow them to feel heard – It’s okay to disagree with your child. At the end of the day though, let’s all hopefully create an environment everyone feels heard and validated.
Television presenter and parenting coach Sue Atkins once said, “There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.”
As difficult and tedious as some days can be, do be reminded to also take a moment to revel in the joys of parenthood, for everything is transient, and time tends to fly by ever so quickly. You can also read our other posts such as important ingredients for a happy married life.
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Deborah Choo loves discussing relationships, platonic or not, as that remains at the heart of human existence. She draws upon learnings from couples’ counselling, and continues to celebrate an incredible journey of growth.