Fear-Based Parenting

Fear-Based Parenting

Remember when you were young and the world was full of only opportunity and adventure?  Then you became a parent and everything changed.  Every sharp edge, electrical outlet and stranger on the street became a deadly hazard that needed to be safe-guarded against.  Fear started lurking around every corner.  It’s one thing to use wisdom in parenting but it’s another to parent from a place of fear.  What does that look like?  Mark Gregston, parenting expert, identified four elements to fear-based parenting.  Instead of recreating that wheel I am going to repeat some of what he says on this topic.

FEAR #1: Loss of Control

As parents, we tend to think that if we lose control of our kids, they will somehow go off the deep end and wreck their lives for good. This makes sense to some degree.  We know the dangers inherent in the world, so out of love we try to shelter our precious children from harm. But in order to do that, we clamp down on them. We start to dictate every area of their lives—from what they wear, to where they go, to what they do in their free time. Of course, we want to ensure they have the best opportunities as they grow up.  But when we are overzealous in our protection, our high-control techniques keep teens from exercising muscles that will actually strengthen their character in the long run.

Fear #2: Exposure to Culture

Our culture bombards us with an ever-increasing number of suggestive and inappropriate media messages, and it’s easy to fear that our kids will be led astray. Unfortunately, short of wrapping our kids in bubble wrap, blindfolding them and plugging their ears, we simply can’t protect them from every negative influence. It may be tempting to make the boundaries so tight that there is no wiggle room, perhaps by keeping them from all technology. In reality, this is both impossible and unhealthy. The Internet and technology are too pervasive. And really, there are many good uses for them. We do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The desire to protect our children from culture’s negative influence is legitimate. But in the teen years we have the opportunity to move from teaching and policing to coaching and training.  While they are young, children need greater adult supervision on the computer, and this is where Internet filters come in handy.  But teens require guidance on how to deal with the constant stream of information they have access to every day.  It’s not enough to use filters anymore; there’s always a way to get around them.

Instead, let’s have honest conversations with our teens about proper boundaries.  Talk with your son or daughter about cyber-bullying, and ways they can avoid it and help others.  Discuss the dangers of pornography and the reasons they should keep their eyes pure.  Talk about the problems of over-sharing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and the hazards associated with revealing too much to strangers.  These conversations will be more effective than harsh rules. Teaching our teens to have discernment is vitally important.


Fear #3: Conflict

Confronting kids never gets easy but it is often the pre-cursor to change.

Conflict happens in every family. But we should not be afraid of it.  Yes, there is always a possibility that something said or insinuated might be hurtful.  You could make a mistake in your approach to conflict (wrong timing or mishandled accusation) or in the content of the discussion (misinterpreted words or comments wrongly made in the “heat of the battle”). But don’t let these fears stop you from engaging in family conflict! When you make a mistake, be quick to apologize. It will be another good lesson for your kids, and an exercise in humility for you. So don’t run from conflict between you and your teen. Use those times to communicate and work through the problems together.

Fear #4: Loss of Appearance

Parents might also worry that their child’s bad behavior will reflect negatively on their parenting, so they micro-manage the house to erect a façade of perfection. But this fear-based attitude can be devastating for both you and your teen. Concerning yourself with your own good image is one of the fastest ways to build resentment in your home. If your teen has to have the haircut you want, listen to the music you approve of, wear the clothes you pick out, work at the job you chose, or have the friends you like, you’re inviting a rebellion.

Of course, no one is suggesting that you lower the standards for proper behavior in your home. But keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you or your child. It’s okay to admit, “We’re struggling right now.” Teens will make bad decisions. Parents will make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean you’re failing. There is not a parent on the planet who has achieved perfection. Let go of your fears about projecting a flawless image, and parent your teen in confidence.

You can be scared as parents. But you cannot parent in fear.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

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