How many times do you find yourself telling off your child each day? Do you parent based on fear?
What is Fear-based Parenting?
Many of us grew up with parents telling us that if we did not behave, the police would come get us. The threat of consequences and punishments, sometimes untruths are methods that arose from fear-based parenting.
While fear can motivate one to act rightly, it can result in a conditioned response based on fear of consequences rather than intrinsic motivation. Fear can also result in a poorly-established relationship and a lack of trust.
Instead of saying “You are not going to get presents this year because Santa will see that you are so naughty”, you can try a different method of using neither carrots nor sticks. “Let’s see if you can try to do the responsible thing of picking up the food so the whole room can be nice and clean.” Or “I know you are upset, let’s put that stick away before anyone gets hurt.” Your child can understand impact of his or her own actions without the fear of mythical figures.
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Use Empathy Instead of Fear
Cooperation doesn’t have to come via coercion. When we take time to explain to the child the importance of his or her actions, cooperation may come more willingly. Even if there’s a lack of cooperation, the relationship can be set right and break generational patterns of using fear-based parenting.
Here are 6 Things You Can Say Instead of Commands Focusing on Fear:
A few tips to help: State what you see, state how you think your child feels and propose an alternative action for your child. We can instruct patiently without resorting to half-truths, sticks or threats.
1. Instead of “If you don’t sit down in your car seat, we are going to be fined by the Traffic Police.”
“You are safe when you sit down properly. Do you need my help to strap you properly or can you do it yourself?”
2. Instead of “If you hit your brother, the Policeman will take you to jail.”
“I know you are upset, but hands are not for hitting. Let’s breathe, calm down and tell your brother firmly in this way.”
3. Instead of “Stop whining! I am going to tape up your mouth.”
“I know you don’t want to do this now, let’s wait for Mama to finish and then you can choose whether you want to go to the park or the supermarket.”
4. Instead of “Stop running! You are going to get knocked down!”
“It is not safe to run here as there are many bicycles around. We will play on the grass instead.”
5. Instead of “You are going to fall down if you don’t listen to me!”
“One step at a time, watch that rock. It is like a big mountain your little foot will need to cross over, I’m sure you can be careful.”
6. Instead of “If you keep telling lies, you are going to be punished.”
“Let’s talk about what happened earlier. I saw Timmy crying, do you know what upset him?”
Parent with Less Fear and More Empathy
We can be perfectly firm and loving with our children and establish boundaries at the same time. Let’s step away from fear-based approaches and parent with more empathy. This way, our children will trust us more and this will grow together with the relationship.