10 Reasons to Never Parent through Fear

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When raising children, parents have been tempted to use all manner of  options at their disposal in order to maintain discipline in the home. Particularly when raising children in a single-parent home, resorting to fear tactics can seem like a viable alternative for keeping a child in line. If you make children fear the consequences of their actions, after all, they are less apt to behave wrongly. While that technique may seem expedient on the surface, there are myriad reasons to avoid using fear as a motivator for your kids. Here’s a list of ten:

  1. Children who are taught through fear and intimidation frequently have confidence issues as adults. They will question their own decisions and conclusions, having been taught by their parents that their own judgment cannot be trusted.
  2. Fear leads to resentment, which ultimately leads to distance and distrust. A child who continually operates out of fear will eventually begin to look elsewhere for compassion and emotional support.
  3. When the underlying motivator for all of your rules and decisions is fear, your children are liable to wonder if there is no other reason for accepting your decisions. So you can tell your teen that pot is dangerous because it leads to stronger drugs, but what happens when he makes friends with someone who only smokes pot? He’ll need more than the fear you’ve instilled in him to make the right choice.
  4. Fear can paralyze a child from making decisions later in life. If the child is led to believe that every choice entails dire consequences, she may develop an aversion to taking any form of risk, including those necessary for growth.
  5. The natural response to situations that induce fear is the fight-or-flight instinct. A child who is raised in such an environment will tend to react in kind to situations which they were taught to fear, either with hostility (fight), or avoidance (flight).
  6. If you demonstrate a pattern of making every decision and command about fear, then your kids will gradually become desensitized to your admonitions and learn to ignore them altogether.
  7. A certain amount of fear is healthy, when it’s appropriate to the situation and proportionate to the actual risk or danger involved. Too much fear creates a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario, at which point the child will be hard pressed to distinguish between real threats and imagined ones.
  8. An unhealthy atmosphere in the home often prompts children to run away. Living in constant fear creates an environment that suffocates growth and stifles freedom. A child cannot develop properly under conditions of terror and distrust.
  9. In order for a child to develop strong decision-making skills, it’s important that you establish a template from which she can work. That means showing her how to process information logically and rationally in order to determine the proper course of action.
  10. Parenting through fear is really just a transference of your own fears onto your children. This is doubly damaging because it not only leaves unresolved issues in your own life, but perpetuates them for at least another generation.
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