I’ll be honest, I’m not actually sure if fear is a modern phenomenon that drives our parenting, however, I do feel that the way we parent is essentially fear driven and this is exacerbated through technology. Never before have we been compared to complete strangers across the world in a way that we are today. Sure, we were compared to our peers, family members and others in our local communities, but now that has expanded on a unprecedented scale. Technology has also meant that it doesn’t stop when we get home either. It is now 24/7.
Yet this isn’t the only thing that I believe drives our parenting in a modern world. When I asked the question ‘what do you fear, in regard to raising your children?’ the responses I received varied widely. They ranged from worrying about if our children will do the same things we did as teenagers, to worrying about bullying and body image. We fear things that we can only imagine may happen to our children later in life. We fear that we are hugging them too much or too little, if we let them cry what are we doing to them long term, we fear that we work too much or too little, childcare is another huge one.
Yet where are these fears coming from and are they actually useful?
Will they drive us to be better parents or are they making us focus too much on the future and we forget to be in the present?
I believe that we should try and plan for our future. Be that our own and our children’s. However, when do we stop to think – are we are “planning” too much?
When do we allow for natural consequences to happen and allow our children to fall when playing in the playground and experience the consequences for not paying attention in class. When do we allow our children feel the pain of relationships failing through not only others doing but their own, when do we let them make decisions (we know will end badly) but let them go through so they can learn not to make those decisions next time. After all, don’t we learn more from failure than success? I also fear that not allowing our children to make small decisions such as climbing that bit too high, not wearing certain clothing or riding a bit too fast how are we equipping them to make life changing decisions later. When you really think about it we learn through exposure and experience that is how we are made. Doesn’t allowing those small decision making early on help our children to trust themselves to make bigger decisions when they matter?
When do we stop projecting our own fears of failure or pain and let our children experience these when they are small enough to use us to fall back on and help them heal and most importantly learn how to cope and build resilience. I am not talking about letting your children stupid risks that will
I believe we all parent in ways to ensure that we are protective of our children. Watching your child in pain is horrendous however if they do not learn to cope and learn from mistakes when they are young (and generally they will be much smaller mistakes also) how can we then expect our children to cope when they are real issues that can affect them forever?
This is a scary notion and one that I frequently consider with my own children. Resilience in children has and always will fascinate me. Allowing your child to build resilience and confidence in themselves is truly a lifelong gift. Some children are born more resilient than others, however as a parent it is our job to provide our children with the foundations to allow this to flourish. This will, in essence, allow them to take more educated risks. After all isn’t this what we want for our children?
I truly fear that as the modern world becomes increasingly risk averse how are we meant to teach our children otherwise. We frequently see in the media acts of vile child abuse by strangers (when in fact this is quite rare and most likely going to be perpetrated by someone who knows the child/ren), we see backpackers being killed that are in their teens and early 20s, we see radical movements being targeted at our children and the list can go on. Due to our overwhelming protective instincts, these stories only act to exacerbate our fear, overcome our rational brain and drive our decision making to prevent such incidents happening against our children.
Yet how to do we find the balance? How do we allow our children to take risks when we now know the consequences of some of these decisions? Unfortunately, there is no answer. There is no way we can predict if what we fear most will in fact happen. Yet should our children pay the price of that?
The only advice that I can offer is to trust your gut. Trust yourself to make the right choices for your children and not be guided by what you see on the news, internet, what the local down the street told you and even what your family may say. You know your children better than anyone and don’t allow fear to be the biggest driver in your decision making. You will not always be able to protect your children from being hurt but teaching them how to cope with it will reduce the impact any trauma may have in the first place.
After all how you were as a child and or teenager landed where you are today. Is that really that bad?
Never forget children are smarter than we give them credit for.