As a father we have tremendous influence on the fears and dreams of our children.
The phrase, “Like father, like son,” directly applies here. Unfortunately, many children are burdened with the reality that their parents’ life influenced many of their unsubstantiated fears. I am working hard to not influence my children that way. Here’s an example of this influence.
We live one block from our local police and fire station and end up spending a lot of time talking about what they do. My boys are even going to be a fireman and policeman for Halloween this year.
Recently, my 4-year-old son and I have been discussing how the policeman are responsible for enforcing the law and that means giving punishments to adults if they make bad choices.
Over the last few weeks he purposely took a few small toys from his pre-school. I explained to him how this was stealing, and that if adults get caught for this they would get arrested and possibly go to jail. We discussed how adults would have to give the stuff back that they took, pay an additional fine, and if it was a lot of stuff, they could spend some time in jail. He quickly starting to cry and said to me, “But daddy, I don’t know how to pay with money.”
While trying to teach him a serious lesson about making good choices, I instantly terrified him. Luckily, I was also able to instantly calm him down and remove his fear.
As soon as his face turned to tears, I quickly but gently pulled him in close on my lap, and told him that it would be okay. Within a breath or two, he calmed down, and I explained to him that it was my job to show how to pay for things and help teach how to make good choices to avoid getting arrested when he is an adult.
I was astonished at how quickly his fear came and went during our conversation. This made me acutely aware that as parents, we strongly influence our children’s fears, for better and worse. We are their ultimate sense of security.
My father has significantly influenced my perspective on fear. He is very comfortable and appears fearless about negotiating. I would actually argue that he rather enjoys and excels at it.
Since I witnessed this as I grew up, I have followed suit. I don’t have any fear and can remain calm in what most find stressful negotiation situations. I find this calm can be a strong advantage. Whether it is negotiating for a big purchase for a house or car, the salary for a new job, or even over a client contract, I find myself enjoying the thrill of the process.
So as a parent, we must be diligent and responsible with how we use and talk about fear.
When we are coaching or disciplining our children, inducing fear is often a great way to modify their behavior. But we also must be careful to not overuse fear. Inducing in too much unnecessary fear in our children may prevent them from chasing their dreams or experiencing joy later on.
I pay a lot of attention to when I sense fear in my children. I engage them and discuss what they are scared of and why. If it is an unsubstantiated fear like my 4-year-old’s fear of being able to pay a police ticket, then I can quickly calm them and explain that there is nothing to fear.
On the other hand, if they are scared of something that does pose a real potential danger, I can confirm that fear and teach them to avoid the risk. For example, sometimes cars drive fast on the road by our house, and this is a legitimate threat they should definitely fear, for their own safety.
So as parents, let’s make sure we’re in tune with our children’s fear. Let’s coach them to not fear unnecessarily, but keep a healthy dose of fear for life’s true risks.