What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

We know kids are going to be afraid of things like thunder and monsters and spiders.

But when they’re afraid of all people in costumes (including princesses at Disneyworld!)…

… or brooms or other things that simply move around…

… or tiny bugs that clearly can’t hurt them…

It gets old to have to reassure them all the time that nothing is going to happen to them.

And we worry that they will never be able to handle anything in life if they are afraid of the smallest things now.

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

For most kids, the world is a scary place simply because they’re small. Many learn what’s safe and what’s not, and they start to become more brave.

But for some kids, even things they’ve seen before can be intimidating. They just don’t like those things, and they don’t want to get close to them… and they refuse to “go see for themselves” that it’s safe (as they’re often encouraged to do).

And then their parents get mad at them… or frustrated with them…

which only makes them more hesitant to be near things that they’re afraid of.

They don’t necessarily want to be nervous about everything… But they don’t know how to stop. They feel helpless…. and they feel like no one understands.

 

How It Usually Goes

When A Child Is Afraid of Even the Smallest Things

 

Scenario:

A mom wants to take her daughter Isla to see “The Nutcracker.” Isla’s mom shows her a video of the ballet so that Isla can hear the music and see some of the dancing before they go. Isla sees the nutcracker in its costume and starts crying. Isla then refuses to go see the play.

 

Mom: Isla, what are you afraid of?

Isla: I don’t like the nutcracker when it turns into a person!

Mom: Why not?

Isla: I just don’t!

Mom: There has to be a reason…

Isla: He’s just scary.

Mom: Scary? It’s a guy in a costume! It’s not even real. 

Isla: Well I don’t like him!

Mom: Isla, this will be fun. If you are afraid of everything, you’ll  never have fun!

Isla: It WON’T be fun for me.

Mom: How do you know if you don’t even TRY?!

Isla (starts crying): I don’t want to try…

Mom: Well you might not have a choice, Isla. You may just have to deal with it.

Isla (starts crying harder).

 

A More Effective Way to Respond

When A Child Is Afraid of Even the Smallest Things

 

Scenario:

 

A mom wants to take her daughter Isla to see “The Nutcracker.” Isla’s mom shows her a video of the ballet so that Isla can hear the music and see some of the dancing before they go. Isla sees the nutcracker in its costume and starts crying. Isla then refuses to go see the play.

 

Mom: Isla, what are you afraid of?

Isla: I don’t like the nutcracker when it comes alive! 

Mom: Why not?

Isla: I don’t know.

CALM

Isla’s mom certainly wants to get to the bottom of the situation so Isla can move past her fears and have a good time. But she knows that getting upset with Isla will only make her more anxious.

Isla’s mom slows her voice down to help Isla feel more calm. She focuses sharing her calm rather than on making sure she finds answers and solutions. 

 

Mom (calmly): Is it because you don’t like costumes?

Isla: I hate them!

Mom: You would rather stay away from them?

Isla: YES.

Mom: (Gives Isla a hug): I know that’s something you haven’t gotten used to yet.

 

CONNECT

Even though she knows Isla is being irrational, her mom continues to help Isla feel safe by validating her feelings (without agreeing with her). She knows that telling her how silly she’s being will only upset Isla and make her more irrational.

 

Isla (leans into her mom).

Mom (waits for about 20 seconds) Hey Isla?

Isla: What?

Mom: We’re going as a family to see the Nutcracker. Since you don’t like it when the nutcracker looks like he’s coming to life, what can we do to make you more comfortable while you’re there?

Isla: No! I don’t want to go!

Mom (calmly): I know, babe. It might be easier to stay home. Sometimes that’s an option, but this time it’s not. Would you bring something to cover your eyes when the nutcracker comes out?

 

CORRECT

To help Isla through her fear, her mom stays firm. She knows that avoiding the situation will only make Isla’s fear worse. At the same time, she also knows that Isla needs tools to help her feel more secure when she is facing her fears. She continues to stay connected with Isla’s feelings while giving her tools, including a sense of control.

 

Isla: Like those cool mask-type things?

Mom: Yup!

Isla (sighs): Fine. I might wear it at other parts too, though.

Mom (laughs): That’s fine.

 

 

How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work

 

Though Isla’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 scared of even the smallest things, remember:

 

Depositing into CALM

Isla’s will not be able to stay calm if

a.) her own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low or (if she feels worried herself that Isla is so worried)

b.) he has the expectation that Isla is going to work through her fears immediately just because someone tells her everything is OK

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Isla’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

Isla’s will be able to connect if

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

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, she needs to help Isla feel calm so she can find solutions to help face her worries)

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

Isla’s mom will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool of

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she will focus more on helping Isla feel calm than on “fixing” her

b.) She has made enough deposits into Isla’s emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t make Isla instinctively want to resist.

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