Who is the biggest creator of fear in our lives?

I met a friend last night for a catch up…it had been at least 6 months since the last time we caught up properly. Most of the time it’s just general chit chat. I am fascinated by her job and the work she does (she’s a doctor) and love asking her lot’s of different questions.

Yesterday however, conversation was much deeper and I left feeling completely enlightened. I haven’t had a conversation like that in a while and obviously I was enjoying myself because we met at 7:30pm and before I even had a chance to glance down at my phone, it was 11pm (and we were given the call of last orders).

One of the topics we talked about was fear and how much it can take over our lives. I went on a Chinmaya camp once and the biggest lesson I learnt was how much of our fears are inflicted upon us by ourselves. We can find so many different catalysts to base our fears on and yet peel away at the layers and we’ll always find ourselves at the bottom.

She went on to send me this very powerful clip from the movie Akeelah and the Bee.

Most of the fears we have come from our childhood. We don’t often remember the memory but our subconscious certainly does and brings it up to haunt us. As a mom, I try my very best not to project my fears onto S. To allow him to live fearlessly…even if that sometimes means I feel like my heart is running around in front of me. While it can be daunting to allow our children to take baby steps towards independence, they are very important steps.

Of course, it’s easy to say we should be living fearlessly but getting out of the rut is difficult for most. I think what I’ve learnt recently is that we need a higher goal, something that’s far more important to ourselves than the fear we hold on to. In my case, it’s S. While having a young child is a huge responsibility and no easy task, he is also my greatest source of courage.

It’s so easy to get sucked into the fear based parenting vortex. How do you overcome your fears and the fears you have for your children?

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Where do our fears come from?

I was at the playground the other day when I saw some early teen boys swinging while holding on to a round metal disc that was suspended 8ft in the air. My first reaction was “that’s crazy!” (they were swinging almost parallel to the ground, going very fast and then just jumping off) until a few seconds later when I thought “Actually, I would have done something like that at that age!” Until about the age of 16, I was quite the tom boy.

So where do our fears come from? I always refer to S as such a daredevil. He’s fearless and such a stuntman on his little motorbike. Is fear genetic or are our fears based on our experiences and the influence of those around us? And if I didn’t encourage him to be fearless, would he be more fearful?

I did a little research and can tell you that fears aren’t genetic. Monkeys born in the wild are afraid of snakes — a useful asset for their survival. But monkeys raised in a laboratory don’t react when they see a snake, whether it’s poisonous or not. Source

It would appear that our fears mainly come from our past experiences and the influences of those around us. As a child, if we watch our mother react badly and with fear when she sees a dog, we will most likely grow up fearing dogs. You’ll often hear parents say “Don’t run, you’ll get hurt” or “Don’t do that, you’ll fall”, “don’t wear that, everyone will laugh at you”, “don’t swing too high, you’ll fall off”. All it takes is a comment, a glance, one moment, to start instilling fear in our children.

I have an irrational fear of sharks…I can’t remember at what age in started but I can pretty much freak myself out in a dark swimming pool imagining there’s a shark. I’m guessing it came from watching a scene of JAWS and other shark attack movies at a young age. Just looking at the picture below makes me shiver!!

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So how can we make sure our children don’t imbibe our fears? Quite simply I think it comes down to watching our reactions and watching our words. We can feel fear but not show it to our children. By watching our words and forming sentences in a different manner, we can let them know of the potential dangers of what they are doing without making them feel the consequence is a given. So if your child is running along the pavement you can say “Be careful running along the pavement because there are cars driving by” instead of “Stop running or you’ll get hit by a car”.

Here are some interesting related videos:

http://www.beejalparmar.com/children-pick-up-on-your-fears/

http://www.parentscanada.com/preschool/understanding-fear-based-responses-in-children

Saying it like it is!

I came across this post by Mother Cusser and she hit the nail on the head with how I feel about fear based parenting.

Here’s an excerpt…you can find the whole article here.

“I know the media scares us. Believe me, I grieve when I hear about those horrible stories of children being taken, hurt or killed. It’s sick. And, like you, I would do anything to protect my children from such horrors.

But does that mean keep them in a box? Does that mean keeping the umbilical cord firmly connected? Does that mean restricting them to the point that they themselves are too scared to try anything new because of what horrible things might happen??

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

(The truth is more abuse and kidnappings happen by the people we already know and trust, folks. Coaches, family members, priests etc.)

Mark my words. August 27, 2013. I am saying that by age 30, 75% of our generation of children will STILL BE LIVING AT HOME. They will be small minded, fearful, and totally dependent on Mommy and Daddy to make decisions for them and to support them emotionally and financially. They will not have the wherewithal to withstand stress and change, they will not have the self-esteem to make good decisions and they will not have the independent spirit to do what it takes support themselves, let alone a family.

What’s my point?

Let them live NOW.”

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Letting go of our fears, for our children’s sake

I was walking into the park yesterday (we’re making the most of the glorious London summer sunshine) when I heard some kids talking and laughing. I looked around but there was no one there. I saw a big green rectangle wheelie bin and thought “could they be hiding in there?” but then I looked up and realised the voices were coming from up a tree. And I smiled!! It was so nice and refreshing to see 2 children had climbed up a tree and were just hanging out. You don’t see it that often these days.

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If you were an 80s child you most likely played outdoors, came home when it got dark or in time for dinner and had minimal adult supervision. Statistically crime hasn’t changed that much. What has changed is the media’s reaction to crime. The over sensationalising of things that are happening out there. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to keep your kids safe but this fear based parenting, as I see it, hinders children’s independence and self confidence.

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It’s ironic that we grew up with so much independence ourselves and yet we wrap our children in cotton wool, constantly looking over their shoulders, making sure they are not getting hurt or bullied or even dirty in some cases!! And where does all this fear come from? Can we simply blame the media or are we creating it ourselves?

A few years ago I went to a Chinmaya camp in Hong Kong. The Swami’s aim was to help us let go of the fear we build up within ourselves. He let us know that before the end of the camp we’d be walking on burning hot coal. To say I was petrified is an understatement. He then spent the next two days “creating” fear in our minds. When it came to the task at hand, he had us all sit in a row (alphabetically). We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, look around at the people who came in having walked on the burning coal or skip our turn. As my name starts with the letter N I was about half way down the line. The 20 minutes I waited was agonising. I built up all this fear (and anger) inside me and when my name was called my feet turned to lead. I very slowly lifted myself up and walked out to the beach. I saw the girl who went before me hobbling (he also got his volunteers to pretend to help the person walking away so that the next person built more fear within themselves). As I approached the coal I started crying. I was terrified but he said I had no choice but to do it. I faced the red hot coal and in that moment I let go of my fears and just walked…twice! And I came out totally unscathed (there were confident people who got blisters because walking on burning coal is about keeping a steady mind – no fear but not overconfident either). I later questioned him about why he chose to do it this way rather than take an Anthony Robbins style approach of motivating us to do it and he reminded me that the whole point was to let go of our self created fears. He may have created the circumstance but we built the fear all by ourselves.

But let me not digress. The point of that story was to elaborate how we are the creators (and also destroyers) of our own fear. And we are, very often, projecting this fear onto our children. Admittedly I do it myself sometimes. We wrap our children in bubble wrap, protecting them from anything that can touch them or harm them. But I worry sometimes that we’re encouraging children to be dependent, to rely on someone to help them at all times, to be rescued. And they’ll grow up into adults who are unable to take care of themselves.

So as it’s the first of the month, I encourage you to spend September trying to let go. And see your child amaze you. Toddlers are so capable, if we just let them. Keep them safe, give them boundaries but let them be explorers, making mistakes and learning the ways of the world through their own eyes.

For some interesting reading on this topic, here are a few sites I came across:

http://www.rogerwaters.org/ed5.html

http://missingsecrettoparenting.com/guilty-fearbased-parenting

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lifelines/201101/tiger-mothers-and-the-case-fear-based-parenting

http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2012/03/fear-based-parenting-and-the-loss-of-simple-joys-with-our-children/