For a long time, parents across different cultures have used “fear” as a tool to instill discipline and obedience amongst the children. However, practical research shows clearly how it is harmful to a child’s self-esteem and confidence in the long term. It is high time that young parents think about this and starts a process to change this tradition.
Research and Science clearly says – “Any kind of fear affects physiology of the body as well as the chemical balance of the brain. Young children tend to actually believe what we say and hence it has a severe effect in long term. To the extent that there are many who grow up to fear dark, heights, ghosts and remain so throughout their life…” explains Pine (a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health).
Here is a sneak peek into the various short and long term ill-effects of using fear as a tool.
Children raised using ‘fear’ as a tool have the following symptoms:
1. Isolation or rebellion: There are only two ways in which the child counters fear – either the child grows up to be a rebel or the child starts isolating oneself from others.
2. Depreciated communication skills: The fear of being insulted due to fear leads the child to isolate and lessens their communication skills. They stop interacting socially.
3. Lack of concentration: It can also lead to a lack of concentration and focus. A child might find it difficult to focus on tasks like eating, playing, studying, etc. Thus the very objective of using fear proves to be counter-productive.
4. Loss of confidence: Fear is extremely powerful! In fact so powerful that it has all the capability of damaging the self-confidence of your child.
5. Anger: Anger is the most common thing we observe in today’s children. The use of fear increases the chance of the child turning out to be aggressive towards his / her parents or people with whom he/she regularly interacts with.
6. Open to exploitation: When a child is subjected to continuous fear at home, there is every chance that even a little bit of “sweet-talk” by a stranger seems attractive to the child. This can result in strangers taking advantage of their children.
However, it is not very difficult to think of a process through which we can stop or reduce the use of fear.
Positive parenting skills to achieve the same goal without using fear as the tool:
1. Use appreciation and motivation instead of fear. The result may get a bit delayed but will be more beneficial.
2. It is important to watch our own actions and use of words. There are times when we do some actions unconsciously that may damage a child’s esteem.
3. Understand the thin line between being rude and being firm. Being firm doesn’t require the use of fear.
4. Many of us have grown up in a much secure environment. Try to take learning from your own childhood and remember the incidents that you did not like and incidents that made you look at things positively as a child.
Let us look at a simple, practical, and daily routine example:
A child is about to fall over:
One parent says – “If you don’t stop you will fall and break your head and then we will take you to doctor who will give you an injection”
Others say – “If you don’t stop it won’t be safe for you. You may hurt yourself.”
As a parent, you need to look at this and many such examples and decide for yourself what process you want to adopt.
About the writer: Ninad is a writer by profession and has worked in the child development & parenting space for more than 10 years. He has experience of directly working with children of age group 3 to 21 and parents facing difficult challenges across the life cycle of a child – academics, creativity, emotional, physical, career so on, and so forth. Ninad has prior experience in the corporate world in the IT sector and has also delved into various creative areas like writing, sketching, photography, and theatre. This information has been gathered, put together and published by child development experts at Kidznest, a unique, scientifically developed online child development App for 2 to 6 years old kids, parents and teachers/educators.
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