Are You a Fearful Parent?

How to Recognize and Avoid Fear Based Parenting

Fear is the emotion behind all negative emotions. Parenting when we have fear, in my own experience, can create a lot of stress and worry. Most of my early years of parenting were racked with much turmoil because I had so much fear while my raising my children and hoping they’d turn out okay.

I love what Duane L. Ostler says about worry as he shares the scripture Matthew 6:25–34, beginning with “Take ye no thought for your life.” “In my case, I felt this meant not to worry about the multitude of comparatively little things that were occupying most of my thoughts and draining my emotional strength. If my children acted up in church, I could do my best to help them but not overreact or fret about relatively minor problems. If my wife and I disagreed on something, I needed to focus on improving communication rather than worrying about who was right or wrong. It seemed unproductive also to worry so much about my shortcomings; instead, I needed to focus on helping others.’

He goes on.

“When I worried about petty things, I was usually thinking of me rather than others; I was comparing myself to them or worrying about what they were thinking of me. But when I focused more on caring about others—especially my wife—life was more relaxed and pleasant for me and everyone around me.”

Checking Anger and Rage at the Door

It is important to stop and recognize why you have the trigger of anger you do. When my child or teen exhibits a certain behavior that reminds me of another child’s behavior that I don’t like, when I react to discipline I am fearful that he will become like this other child I didn’t want my child to emulate. When this happens my first reaction may be to punish my child more or harsher than I normally would because I’m feeling like I should stop this behavior now before it gets out of hand.

In the book Applesauce Needs Sugar, Victoria Case illustrates an example:

“She stood at the door watching them go, and saw that Mr. Reid was taking his cow down to the pasture as if he watched too. They had always been good children, but now, looking at them through Mr. Reid’s critical eyes, she began to see their faults.”

“The old gander, at the head of the flock, thrust out his neck, and threatened Bruce with hisses and beating wings. Bruce, laughing, kept him at arm’s length with a stick. Mr. Reid was watching.

In a panic, Mamma hurried down to the gate.

‘Do the geese bother you?’ Mr. Reid challenged her, with his eyebrows twitching.

‘Oh, no,’ Mamma said, jerking Bruce’s stick away from him. She flung it into the ditch. ‘They sound interesting, in a way. Don’t you think so? Alive and challenging like the geese that saved Rome.’

He made no answer. She hurried the children into the house.

‘Don’t you shake a stick at Mr. Reid’s geese,’ she told Bruce.

‘When he sees you hitting them he thinks we don’t know how to be careful with stock.’”

“Little Janey, almost four, was so frightened of Mr. Reid by this time that she cried when he spoke to her, and Mamma had to spank her for it. She and Bruce could hardly be induced to go after the mail. Mamma noticed that Mr. Reid was spending a good deal of time in his side yard, supposedly working among the gooseberries, but actually watching Mamma and the children. The little shack was close to his property line, so he didn’t miss much inside or out. Mamma grew frantic, remembering that he had no children, and had been a widower for years, with a reputation for being crotchety. The more she tried to keep her brood within bounds, the more faults they seemed to develop until she could hardly believe they were hers.”

Marmee in Little Women was the quintessential mother. After Jo’s manuscript was burned in spite by Amy, Jo’s temper and rage got the best of her. We all have our weaknesses and learning to master them is vital, especially while we are examples to our children as we parent them. We are raising the next generation.

“It’s my dreadful temper! I try to cure it; I think I have and then it breaks out worse than ever. Oh, mother, what shall I do? What shall I do?” cried poor Jo, in despair.

‘It seems as if I could do anything when I’m in a passion; I get so savage, I could hurt anyone, and enjoy it. I’m afraid I shall do something dreadful someday, and spoil my life, and make everybody hate me. Oh mother, help me, do help me!’

‘I will, my child, I will. Don’t cry so bitterly, but remember this day and resolve, with all your soul, that you will never know another like it. Jo, dear, we all have our temptations, some far greater than yours, and if often takes us all our lives to conquer them. You think your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like it.’

‘My child, the troubles, and temptations of your life are beginning and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom.”

When you get angry at your child, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Then choose to let those beliefs, fears, anxieties, etc. go completely.

Avoid Assumptions

Never assume anything.  In the book by Don Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements, he says, “…whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems.  We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.

“All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally.  Take a moment to consider the truth of this statement.  The whole war of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally.”

I’ve found that most of the misunderstandings in our home come when one person assumed something about the other person or situation. Instead of assuming “they know” communicate or ask questions clearly and patiently your request or feelings. Often when we assume we are esteeming that person to be our enemy and purposefully doing or not doing something. When most of the time we were wrong in our assumption.

Should List

Years ago, I made a list of all the things I think I “should” be doing as a parent. Oh, that list was long, and I had a lot of silly stuff on there; that at the time, did not seem silly. Such as, I should play with my kids every day. I should go outside with my kids every day and play at the park. And the list went on and on and on. This list contained many good things. Deiter F. Uchtdorf reminds us, “Sometimes the things that distract us are not bad in and of themselves; often they even make us feel good. It is possible to take even good things to excess.”

You can always tell what you think of yourself by what you think of others. You can always see how hard you are on yourself by how hard you are on others.

Start today and let go of 5 expectations or demands that aren’t serving you or aren’t helpful for you and your life and relationships.

Simplifying our livers and expectations brings peace. Our weakness is in failing to align our actions with our conscience. There is always room for improvement. Let your motivation not be guilt, but let love be a positive driving force. When I look at my children with love, I have more patience