Are you guilty of fear-based parenting? Not sure? Have you ever thought about negative circumstances that occurred in your life which caused you to declare “My child will never experience that!”? And then went on ever so mindful watching for signs pointing toward anything that resembled red flags ready to jump in?
If that question resonates with you and makes you feel a bit uneasy I want you to pat yourself on the back right now! Not because you are guilty of fear-based parenting, but because you have recognized that you are!
Awareness is the first step to change, healing and learning.
So, now that you have recognized this and are aware of it take a deep breath and know that you are among millions of other parents who are also fearful for what might happen to their children. This is one of the most common mistakes parents inadvertently make that can derail their children’s happiness. On the flip side you are among an elite number of parents who have the opportunity to do something about it. Bravo!
Fear-based parenting is very simple. It is raising your children based on the negative effects and experiences from your own life. Although your motive is commendable and no doubt out of the immeasurable love you have for your children, it is also without a doubt one of the most damaging thing a parent can do to their children.
The good news is that fear-based parenting is very easy to recognize and understand and the even better news is that it can be remedied.
Let’s begin with a breakdown of the concept of fear-based parenting.
Parents who are afraid that what happened in their life will happen to their children relate, respond and react to their children in a way that assumes there is a good chance that the negative situation will repeat itself. This fear is always in the back of their mind. It is an underlying factor that influences their choices and decisions in relation to their child. They project this fear onto their children, many times subconsciously, because it is so ingrained in their own mind and in how they see themselves.
Case in point:
I once worked with a mom, I will call her Rebecca, who came to me hysterical when she found out her 15 yr old daughter was pregnant. Rebecca was devastated because she too had gotten pregnant at a very young age and blamed that for all of the unhappiness in her life.
Rebecca shared that she was forced to drop out of school which squashed her dreams of going to college and becoming an attorney. Because of the pregnancy she married someone who turned out to be the opposite of what she wanted and needed in a partner. Admittedly, although she loved her daughter more than anything, Rebecca had not had a very happy life.
She said that from the very moment her daughter was born she vowed this would not happen to her and did everything she knew to ensure that it didn’t.
Her daughter, Leanne, in a very subtle way, was encouraged to steer clear of boys from a very early age. In her adolescent years when boys and girls typically play together without regard to gender, Leanne was only allowed to be friends with and play with girls. As she reached the preteen stage when it is normal for girls and boys to begin paying more attention to the opposite sex, her mother explained to her that she was not going to have her become “boy crazy” and therefore was not allowed to attend social functions such as birthday parties if boys were invited.
Rebecca was also very controlling of the way Leanne dressed. She was adamant that her daughter would not participate in any of the fads (at that time the thing was to wear hip-hugger jeans) stating girls only dressed that way to attract boys! She made sure she wore “respectable” outfits. As her friends were doing the typical normal thing as they entered junior high in “liking” boys and socializing in mixed groups, Leanne found herself alone a lot.
Seeing Leanne’s loneliness, Rebecca encouraged her to join the youth group at the local church. Although it was boys and girls, Rebecca knew the youth minister and felt comfortable and confident that nothing bad would happen.
Apparently this is where Leanne met Ryan. Ryan was 2 years older than Leanne and was a soft-spoken boy who was a bit of an outcast. He and Leanne immediately connected and although they only saw each other at youth group and youth group related events and activities, within 3 months, at the age of 15, Leanne announced she was pregnant.
“How could this have happened when I did everything I could to prevent it?” cried Rebecca. “Her life is ruined just as I was afraid it would be. She will have a life of misery just like me.”
Over the years I have worked with countless parents with hundreds of similar situations only with different specifics. The common theme is always the same. What the parents feared and worked so hard to prevent is exactly what would manifest.
We live in a universe of attraction. This is not a wild theory or new age fad. Aside from the scientific evidence that states “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”, or the biblical reference that states “What you sow, so shall you reap”, it just makes sense when you look at the mountain of examples all around us and for some right in our own lives. When we pay attention to the fears people express and then witness these fears manifesting in their lives we must accept that what we think, feel and focus our energy on is what will become reality.
There are two truths that we must recognize. One is that we are all a product of our experiences, negative and positive. The effects of these experiences are held deep within our beings, many subconsciously. And those are the most damaging to our children. Often, without even realizing it, we project the results of our negative experiences onto our children.
The second is that the negative experiences and effects that we are fully aware of get a huge amount of attention because in our conscious mind to be the best parent means to protect our children emotionally and physically and what comes to mind first is to be leery of is what harmed us. Our instincts dictate our actions of protection.
So, how do we stop this? Parents must heal and release their own negative experiences and hurts, not only for themselves but also for the well-being of their children. As I have stated many times, and go into in great detail in my book, “The Missing Secret to Parenting”, no one is immune from having buried emotional scars that hinder our ability to create exactly what we want. It is the design of our human existence to take certain experiences and circumstances and file them away from our awareness.
A quote from the renowned Psychologist Carl Jung sums it up perfectly…
“Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
~ Carl Jung
What this means is that we are in control to the degree we choose…we have the choice to explore, uncover and release those things that interfere with what we desire or to accept them as if we are powerless.
Parents who have gone through the process of releasing any residual negativity both conscious and unconscious are then and only then in a position to develop a healthy parenting mindset that empowers them to raise their children as individuals who are here on their own journey to create their own life based on their own experiences. A healthy parenting mindset erases fear and sees only the amazing endless possibilities in their children’s lives.