There were a couple of factors involving my fear of worms (it still sounds silly!). One factor was that I had never gone fishing and had been raised in the city. My cousins were all country boys who fished all the time. But what about my brother? He was raised with me. Why wasn’t he wary of that slimy little creature? The answer lies in factor two, that all kids have their own personalities and that fact must be taken into account. While I was quiet and more studious, my brother was an adventurer and tougher.
I tell this story because it is so important to understand that, 1) all kids have different needs, fears, strengths and experiences and, 2) the need for parents to recognize this reality and have methods to help them through their needs and fears while also taking advantage of their strengths.
To get over my fear of hooking a worm, all I needed was someone to encourage me to try it. I found that it felt strange, at first, to have the worm struggle and twist in my hand, but it didn’t bite! Once I knew the experience and lost my fear, I could hook a worm myself. Similarly, with just a gentle introduction, you can help reduce any fear a child may have, including fear of dogs, fear of the dark, or fear of social situations. Of course, it’s not always easy to remove a fear, but the stronger the fear, the more likely it needs to be addressed.
Helping your children often means not helping them. If my dad always hooked a worm for me, he’s not really helping me with what is important. Teaching and mentoring are the important things, not making everything easy for your kids. Parents can train their children to be absolutely helpless. If you always tie your toddlers’ shoes, you’ll be tying them long after you should be. If you dress them, brush their teeth for them, react to every whimper, you will be setting them up to be helpless and spoiled. It takes patience and valuable time to let your three year old learn to dress himself, but by age four, your only task of dressing your kid is quality control.
A parent must also be observant! You can’t correct what you don’t notice. Kids can be careless, lazy, afraid, or simply oblivious! Those qualities may not soon change without your help. Both fearless and fearful children present problems. You could have one child that you have to hold back from trying things too dangerous, and another child that you have to push into trying anything.
Kids, like anyone else, learn best from first-hand experience. Let them try, fail, succeed, and get frustrated to a point. The best lesson to be ingrained is that not everything is easy, nor will someone always be around to bail them out. Always have in mind the best interests of your children. The long term benefits usually outweigh the short term conveniences.
Now if you are a stay at home mom, or dad, these thoughts and suggestions may be obvious to you. But if you are a working parent, coming home tired with only a few short hours to be with your family, it’s important to be reminded of the huge responsibility of raising kids with all the advantages you can afford them!
And, as quoted in my book, The Power of Dadhood, “Now I fear no worm!”