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June 2014

Is Fear Based Parenting Hurting Kids?

2021-07-27T22:32:10-04:00June 6th, 2014|parenting|

There is a very interesting article that has been making it’s rounds on social media this week. This mother left her son in the car when she ran an errand and was reported to the police. The story was fascinating enough on how the system worked and her story on how the situation happened. However, what I find really fascinating is how this mom talks about being the overprotective mom. She made this one bad decision but overall she reports she is a a hovering helicopter mom. She really talks honestly about how cultural values and parenting have changed enough that if you take your kids to the park and just sit on the bench while they run around you will be judged.

I know my upbringing was not so different from many middle aged people who were sent out to play. When you were sent out to play you were allowed to come back to use the bathroom and have lunch but other than that you were expected to play outside until dinner time. If something happened with another kid you dealt with it. If another parent saw you doing something you shouldn’t be they yelled at you and called your mom. And your mom thanked them for doing that. This attitude forced us to learn how to be bored, how to interact with other children, and how to be independent. All qualities that serve us well as adults.

Now kids are wearing helmets while on their big wheels. They don’t play outside they have structured “play dates”. If they aren’t involved in the thirty activities most kids are and they get bored they get given a device. Another parent would never yell at a kid that isn’t theirs because you can’t yell at children nor can you be involved with other parents children.

So what has changed? There has been a cultural shift where parents let their entire lives be run by their children. Parents are naturally afraid of making parenting mistakes so they are very susceptible to parental peer pressure. If other parents are doing it, whatever it is, many parents then feel like they should be doing it. But what if the “it” is wrong?

There are many safety things that are good for kids to learn. However, you cannot no matter how hard you try, protect your child from all danger. It simply isn’t possible. So the parenting focus should be instead on resiliency. Raise your child so that they can deal with failure, with danger, with adversity. That doesn’t mean you don’t protect them in every way that you can but it does mean that you also let them fail and take some risks. Protecting your child from failure is something parents do because they cannot tolerate their own feelings when their child has failed. That is done for parental gain not to raise a stronger child. Letting your child fail and take risks means as a parent you have to tolerate your own fears around them being hurt.

If you don’t let these things happen then when your child becomes a young adult they can’t tolerate failure. They can become anxious and/or depressed. The goal of parenting is to raise kids that become successful adults. Parenting from fear hinders that goal. Limits with children are great, just make sure those limits are there for the right reasons.


Let me know your thoughts on how to raise resilient children in the comments below.




Copyright: primus1 / 123RF Stock Photo

August 2013

What are we teaching our children

2014-07-16T16:17:08-04:00August 14th, 2013|parenting, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

The day after the Trayvon Martin verdict I saw a picture of a young African American boy holding a sign saying “I am Trayvon Martin”.  Seeing that picture hit me in the gut.  This child’s parents were going to have to have frank discussions with him on a multitude of topics such as how people may react to you if you wear certain clothes or how you need to respond if the police stop you. And even though the child looked to be about 10 my guess is that those discussions have already begun with him.

I think about what a burden these parents have to carry. They have to teach their children that they are always at risk of being treated differently than others. And not only that but by being different their life maybe at risk. I listened to a mom on tv describe how she was teaching her teenage daughter how to respond if a boy she was with was stopped by the police. She was teaching her ways to de-escalate the situation. In order to keep their children safe, parents of children of color have to teach them hypervigilance and de-esclation skills.  And I can only think of how sad that is.  For the parents, for their kids, and for society as a whole.

There are no easy answers here. I can only hope that recent events have started a meaningful dialogue. I know that this dialogue is scary for people. But I challenge people to find a way to have these discussions.  Even when it is hard. Because nothing will change if we can’t own that there is a serious problem here and it is a problem that affects all of us.

November 2011

Effortless Parenting

2017-03-25T23:08:07-04:00November 30th, 2011|parenting, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

I found this wonderful article on effortless parenting.  I found it to be a great list of some of the most important aspects of parenting.  I have written before on the danger of raising children that are not self sufficient.  Many parents are now so protective of their children that they do not want to let them fail.  This has disastrous consequences when a child becomes an adult that can not deal with any adversity.

This article also brings up spending time outside and not over scheduling your children.  I have seen children that have not a minute of time free during the week.  Again how do children deal with down time or being bored if they never experience it?  I grew up in a different time and a non-urban space but in the summer we were sent outside in the morning, could come in for lunch, and than were sent back outside until dinner.  We learned to play creatively and with others.  I understand that those in urban environments have some challenges with the outdoors part, but your child should still have time with no activities.  There should be no such thing as “I am bored”, they need to learn to be with themselves.

I love number #9.  I think one of the best gifts I got from my own mother was my love of reading.  I see so many kids now that hate reading and it really saddens me, so many worlds that will be left unexplored.  Like anything else your kids need to see you doing it, if they only see you on the computer or in front of the tv, that is what they will want to do.

Love them is the given rule at the start of the article  and the one I will end with.  Your child needs your unconditional love.  They may have aspects of their personality that challenge you, but no matter what they need to know that you love them.  Without that, nothing else really matters.

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August 2011

Children need to be disappointed

2017-03-25T23:08:08-04:00August 9th, 2011|parenting, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

I was recently forwarded this excellent article which articulates the damage of helicopter parenting. While I appreciate that parenting needed to evolve from children being totally powerless, I feel like we have swung to far the other way.

Children need their parents to be parents, not friends. It is okay to not validate their every feeling and to tell them no sometimes. I have seen parents negotiating with their toddlers about what they will and won’t do. That really is unacceptable. I am not saying parents need to be authoritarian, but to instead set limits and keep them. I have worked with more than one teenager who has told me that they couldn’t work at Starbucks, because it was beneath them. We are raising narcissistic and overly entitled children that are going to become narcissistic and overly entitled adults.

As this article talks about it also leaves these children totally unequipped to deal with the disappointments of their lives. I do not believe that not keeping score in a sports game, because some one has to lose, is teaching children anything positive. Sure we all have memories of those tough moments as kids where we were devastated about some loss or difficult moment. But what did that teach us? It taught us to deal with adversity. Our world and our lives will be filled with difficult moments. If we don’t learn how to deal with that as children, when will that happen.

Parents need to think about what characteristics they want their child to have as adults. Then think you about what creates those characteristics. Parents are so caught up right now with the guilt that gets piled on them for not spending enough time with their kids that they overcompensate. You should absolutely be there emotionally for your child. You should validate their feelings and allow them to have difficult emotions such as anger so they learn to do that. You also have to let them go and learn. That includes the bad stuff. You should protect your child, but not from life’s experiences, because that will leave them feeling unfulfilled and lost as adults. It may be one of the hardest things you do as a parent but you need to let your child be disappointed sometimes.

June 2011

Acceptance of Children

2017-03-25T23:08:09-04:00June 22nd, 2011|LGBT, parenting, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

Recently I was directed to a blog Raising My Rainbow. A mother writes about her gender non-conforming son. What struck me the most is how accepting she and the boy’s dad are of their son as he is. They aren’t trying to make him into something he isn’t. It got me thinking more about that level of acceptance in children, not just LGBT children but all children. The overweight child, the child with the learning disability, the non-athletic child, the list can go on and on. Parents want the best for their children, but sometimes in that effort they push their children to be something that they aren’t. This leads to self doubt which can lead into other things such as anxiety and depression. There was recent research that showed that parents that accepted their LGBT children had children with better outcomes. Duh! But at that same time it again goes back to the overall importance of parental acceptance.

Take this opportunity to look at your child and see what you might be trying to change about him/her. It may not be something you are very conscious of. It may be that you want a happy child and you try to make your child happy even when they need to be sad or angry. I work a lot with children and adolescents and they all want their parent’s acceptance and they all want to be listened to. In parent’s effort to protect their children from bad, they talk more then they listen. Listen. Try a conversation with your child where you just listen and acknowledge their feelings without trying to change them or their feelings. It will be hard but it can establish the open and trusting relationship that helps kids move successfully into adulthood.

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