What scares you the most? Speaking in front of an audience or jumping off a boat into the middle of the ocean, without a life jacket? I’m not comfortable with either myself, but I would certainly talk to an audience before I would jump into the ocean. Many reading this would choose the opposite and jump in the ocean. In my case, however, I am not a strong swimmer and the power of the ocean has always frightened me. It may be irrational for me to be afraid of speaking to an audience, but it is smart for me to be afraid of the ocean until I have the talent and know the precautions to deal with its threats.
Fear of the unknown is the most common fear, although fear of the known is not too uncommon either. Most fears are developed when we are children and can be conquered by facing them straight on! Parents are key in that parents can minimize the fear of the unknowns while emphasizing the fear (respect) of the dangerous knowns.
Fear of what?
When your children resist doing something they need to do, you can bet fear is more likely involved than stubbornness. Fear is the most common cause of resistance. I changed schools quite often and because I was so shy, I hated being introduced as a new kid in a classroom. I would put up such a fight to put off the inevitable that I surely wore my mother out, and I was just one of six! Strangely, this is a fear I faced multiple times; and even though it was never as bad as I imagined, facing it never made the next classroom introduction easier. There is something to be learned in that. Maybe, the fear was not meeting new kids and a new teacher in a new environment. Maybe it was that I never faced the fear that I was not good enough? I think that was it, but who knew and what could they do about it?
Had I heard encouraging words about myself, not that I was special, but that I was the kind of kid that other kids could like and no one was better than me, then I possibly wouldn’t have had the fear of being shunned or talked about. My fear of new situations would never go away no matter how many times I faced it because the real issue was my overall confidence when I was a kid. I needed to face the issue of confidence and experience success in social situations.
The point of this story above is to be open to what the cause of the fear may be. What seems obvious may be wrong. The fear of the new classroom was real, but the root cause was my fear of not being good enough. Too often we try to fix the wrong fear. When we that see our efforts to diminish the fear is not working, we should look deeper. My fear of the ocean is really my fear of being able to handle the dangers of the ocean. If I learned to swim better, knew how to use swimming gear and trusted those around me, my fear of the ocean would subside to a more reasonable and respectable level.
Fear can work for you.
That brings me to another aspect of fear. Fear is good too! Fear can keep you, or your children safe. Children should be taught the dangers of drugs, the appropriate fear of strangers, or the dangers of texting while driving. Fear of these and other threats will serve to help your children understand they should not take chances regarding things they can’t handle. My fear of the ocean may have prevented me from drowning until I was better prepared. This kind of fear is more accurately called respect for dangerous situations.
Fear is the beacon the shines on what you need to work on. As mentioned, I don’t feel all that comfortable speaking to an audience. Knowing that is a weakness, I joined Toastmasters a couple of years ago. I wish I had done it much sooner. The exposure of Toastmasters gives me a chance to gain confidence as a speaker in a supportive atmosphere. I now know I can speak to an audience, a far cry from my days of sheepishly walking into a new classroom. For children, fear of bullies is a particularly common fear tells them something must be done to counter that fear.
What can we do? I recall being bullied as a kid. I avoided bullies any way I could, but once confronted, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to run, nor did I want to fight. I tried to talk my way out of it and sometimes I did. The bullies were often satisfied by that fact that you were scared of them--boosting their fragile, misguided egos. It seemed the bullies I dealt with always came in twos, which shows you who the cowards really were.
There are things parents can do. I highly recommend a book to help your children with bullying, one of the greatest fears of children. It's title is: “Bully, Victim, or HERO: How to Assert Yourself Without Being a Target for Bullying or Violence” - By Ray Amanat
This book has rules, tips, and scenarios to avoid being a victim. It also teaches how to stop self-sabotaging which attracts bullies, how to stand up for yourself non-aggressively, and how to be assertive without being violent. It is a must for bullied kids!
“Caution befriends the adventurous and betrays the meek”- The Power of Dadhood
Introduce your children to as many different people and situations as you can. No doubt personality plays a huge role in what kids fear and how they overcome them. It is not unusual to have one child who has to be talked into things and another who needs to be talked out of things. Spare judgment on either and be careful not to compare. No one knows your kids as well as you, the parents do. Who better to protect them from dangers they don’t understand or to mentor them through fears that are irrational. Facing fear is the quickest way to defeat it. Teach confidence to your kids in small manageable bites. I will discuss confidence in my next article.
As I mentioned earlier, parents can minimize the fear of the unknowns while maximizing the fear of the dangerous knowns. If you don’t do it, who will?