Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fears - yours, not theirs

What am I afraid of?

I was one question into writing this when I got a text from my 13 year old daughter. She and her 10 year old sister were going to hang out at a park in Portland with some other teens, then go to a friend's house, and some time later in the evening my husband would pick them up again. My response? "O.K. try to avoid sunburns and drink enough fluids. :) I Love You!" What would your response have been?

What are you afraid of?

When it comes to our children, often our fears are based on something that might happen in the future. The future that is so far away we have no idea what it will look like, a future that is ultimately beyond our control. Our fears are based on something that might happen in our children's future, did you notice, it's not your future.

Many parents today parent from a place of fear. The decisions they make about how to parent are based on fears about possible negative outcomes. If I don't do make my child do chores, go to bed on time, and say please and thank you then my child may not grow up to be a socially acceptable, responsible adult." or "If my child doesn't do their homework, get good grades and play a team sport they may not be able to get a good job when they grow up."

Parents control their children in the belief that if they hold onto their kids tightly enough the things they fear the most won't happen. Parents try to protect their children from certain influences while trying to expose them to others. Parents try to make their children behave, teach them lessons, and prepare them for the realities of life.

I'm going to share a truth with you. If it makes you uncomfortable, upset, or defensive, take a moment to ask yourself "What am I afraid of?"

Parenting the conventional way, with rules, punishment, rewards, bribes, chores, bedtimes, getting to school on time and completing homework, playing team sports and taking piano lessons, going to church and singing in the choir does not guarantee anything except that your child will have been parented more or less like the majority of the children they know.

In fact, parenting with all of the above may actually guarantee that your children are more likely to struggle in many different ways through out their life than children who are parented unconditionally with respect and freedom, who don't go to school, and who are supported in following their natural patterns of learning and exploring their interests and passions.

Are you mentally justifying the way you are raising your children? If you're saying "My child is doing fine," or "But you don't know me and my life is complicated," let me assure you that parents of all income levels, married, single, gay, straight, religious and atheist parent their children unconditionally , respectfully, and without requiring their children to go school. They have gotten creative, been brave, stopped making excuses and made a commitment to respecting the person their child is.

What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid that you can't handle having your children home all the time? Are you afraid that people will think you've totally gone off the deep end if you take your kids out of school? Are you afraid you'll be judged if you leave your child in the school system? Everyone has to make the choices that are right for their family. Those choices may look differently in each family and even in the same family during different periods of their life. The most important choice is to listen to your children, be involved in their lives, respect them as people, support them and hear what they are telling you is the best fit for who they are. Working together you can figure out how to meet everyone's needs.

To find out more about how children learn and how school affects children visit Peter Gray's blog, it's a great place to start:

If you are interested in unconditional parenting and how rewards and punishment affect children, visit Alfie Kohn's site and check some of his books out of the library:

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself" Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear is the parent of cruelty.
- James A. Froude


  1. man - you on a roll! this one rocks and rolls in the best of challenging our mindset kind of ways!

    have included it in my next Monday Meanderings post :)

  2. hmmm - I can tell you what I am afraid of, among other things: that my children will grow up to do some or all or more of the stupid, inappropriate, unethical or dangerous things that I did or my friends did, or that people do e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y

    So I do restrict/control/prohobit certain influences, yes.

    I was brought up with "no" and no further explanation. I try to bring my kids up with "no, and here's why". And most importantly: try to offer alternatives!

    Issues such as eating less candy, going to bed at 9pm, doing chores or not wearing beach sandals to church are NOT on the same level as issues about violence, sexual conduct or honesty for instance.

    Sorry, but I really think it's inappropriate for an 8yo girl to be walking around singing suggestive lyrics from a popsong. Or for a 10yo boy to be playing video games that are filled with sex or violence. Well, yes - I am THAT mom! I also think these things are inappropriate for adults btw - which is why I make a big deal out of it.

    I am not afraid of any of the things you mention in the post - but I am afraid that my children will be influenced negatively by certain things or desensitized to certain issues if immersed in it. What we fill our minds with shapes our worldview and who we are.