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Is Fear Based Parenting Hurting Kids?
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.
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