What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

Part of the enjoyment of life is experiencing new things: Going to amusement parks for the first time… going to a new friend’s birthday party… beginning a new school year…

So when our children view most new things with dread instead of excitement, we worry about whether they’ll ever be able to have fun.

And we get frustrated because their fears aren’t logical. Come on… who is afraid of a play area with games and toys just because they’ve never seen them before? 

We feel helpless to make our kids accept that there really is NOTHING to be afraid of.

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

For some children — especially children who are really affected by their environment — the world is a big place…and there’s a LOT to get used to.

For these children, feeling a sense of control and predictability is comforting; they feel genuinely frightened without it. 

So when they go to a new place and they’re not sure what to expect… their fear of the unknown can spiral out of control.

And when someone tells them that their fears aren’t real, that logical language only makes them feel less understood and more out of control.

 

 

How It Usually Goes

When A Child Is Afraid to Try New Things

 

Scenario:

Nadia loves to dance and sing at home. She loves doing performances for her parents and little sister, so her mom signs her up for a dance class. On the first day of class, Nadia refuses to go. Nadia’s mom tells her she’s already paid for the class and has to go.

 

Nadia (screaming): I am NOT going.

Mom: Nadia, you love dancing. All they’re going to do is teach you to dance!

Nadia: I know everything already! I don’t want to learn more!

Mom: If you want to learn even MORE than you already know, you have to go to this class.

Nadia: That teacher can’t teach me anything. She’s a dumb teacher.

Mom: Nadia, you don’t even know what she teaches yet. 

Nadia: I can guess and I am NOT GOING! You can’t make me.

 

A More Effective Way to Respond When

When A Child Is Afraid to Try New Things

 

Scenario:

Nadia loves to dance and sing at home. She loves doing performances for her parents and little sister, so her mom signs her up for a dance class. On the first day of class, Nadia refuses to go. Nadia’s mom tells her she’s already paid for the class and has to go.

 

Nadia (screaming): I am NOT going.

Mom (notices that she is not getting through to Nadia): Nad…. You really do NOT want to go.

Nadia: NO!

CALM

Nadia’s mom is frustrated that Nadia is being so stubborn.

And she also knows that if she becomes frustrated with Nadia, that will only make her dig her heals in more. She reminds herself that she can focus on seeing Nadia’s point of view, and her plan helps her feel calm enough to support Nadia.

 

Mom: You won’t know anyone there.

Nadia (doesn’t say anything).

Mom: You aren’t sure how the class will go.

Nadia (remains quiet).

Mom: And you’ve only met the teacher once.

Nadia (starts to look at her mother).

Mom: Going somewhere for the first time can be scary.

 

CONNECT

Instead of telling Nadia all of the reasons that she is wrong, Nadia’s mom connects with her by recognizing the things that Nadia might be afraid of. When she sees her perspective, Nadia can start to get out of Yuck and  eventually become more open-minded. 

 

Nadia (still a little upset): It IS!

Mom: I know. (Stays quiet for a few moments.)  Nadia, what’s something you remember about the dance studio?

Nadia: The floor is made of wood.

Mom: Anything else?

Nadia (thinks for a minute): It has a mirror in it.

Mom: OK, when you look into the mirror, I want you to think of me.

Nadia: Of you?

Mom: Yeah. I’ll be right in the waiting room and will be watching you. And I want you to know I’m there with you. And if you get nervous, I want you to think of me.

Nadia: What if that doesn’t help?

Mom: What else do you think you need?

Nadia: What if I want to go to you?

Mom: Would it help for you to have a signal with the teacher if you’re really scared and need me?

Nadia: Yes.

Mom: OK. Let’s go a few minutes early and talk to the teacher about your signal.

Nadia (sighs): Fine.

 

CORRECT

Nadia’s mom stays in her boundaries and helps Nadia start to think more cognitively and less emotionally by asking her to remember things from the dance studio.

Then she helps her find a solution that will help her feel more secure when she does go to her new class.

 

 

How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work

 

Though Nadia’s mom used Calm, Connect, Correct, the “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If your child is afraid to try new things and you want to help them through their fear, remember:

 

Depositing into CALM

Nadia’s mom will not be able to stay calm if

a.) her own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (if she is tired of dealing with Nadia’s fears) or

b.) she has the expectation that Nadia will naturally be confident going to a new place

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Nadia’s mom is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.

 

Depositing into CONNECT

Nadia’s mom will be able to connect if

a.) she respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, that Nadia is low in her need for security and needs some respect AND some strategies to help her through that)

When she becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, she will be able to connect more effectively.

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.

 

Depositing into CORRECT

Nadia’s mom will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she cares more about Nadia feeling secure than about anything else

b.) She has made enough deposits into Nadia’s emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t make Nadia feel even more upset

When she demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into Nadia’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct Nadia’s behavior more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.