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Why It Is Important for Parents to Express Their Fears Rather Than Give Commands

As a parent, one reason it is important to express your actual specific fears is so the child will see (and the parent will see) all the things the parent is afraid of. This helps separate the parent's fears and insecurities from the child or teen's.

An example is a mother who is afraid of the neighbors judging her by how her child or teen is dressed. If the mother admits this, the child or teen has a better chance of deciding for themselves how worried they are of the same thing. Both the parents and the children/teens will have their own set of unique fears and it is helpful to identify them and discuss them specifically.

In general parents are much more afraid of many more things than children are, and they often make negative or dire predictions such as "If you go outside dressed like that, you will never get a job." But it would be more helpful and more honest to say "I am afraid that if you go out like that you will never get a job."

This also makes the parent sound a bit less of an authority on all subjects. I remember once a friend of mine was afraid I would cut my feet if I took my shoes off to walk thru a deep puddle. But he didn't say he was afraid. Instead he made a dramatic prediction that I would cut my feet and have to go to the hospital. He was probably afraid 9 out of 10. But I was only afraid maybe 1 so I kept walking and his prediction quickly turned out to completely wrong. I didn't cut my feet at all. I just got them wet, which I preferred over getting my shoes wet since I could dry my feet much more quickly.

This particular friend was very seriously over-controlled when he was young, so now he feels a need to control others. He tries to fill that need by giving a lot of commands and using the imperative form of verbs, such as "Put a coat on.You'll catch pneumonia." (Tthis, by the way is almost exactly what my mother would say, and, looking back, I realized that most of her predictions were wrong, though some of them were right.) A more direct way to communicate one's feelings while giving information about the weather would be: "It is cold out and I'm afraid you will be cold and maybe get sick if you go out without a coat."

Though my friend has good intentions, I eventually started to see that many of his authoritative sounding predictions and declarations were simply wrong, so he ended up having less influence on me in the end.

Also, if you express your fears, a child has less reason to ever be rebellious or defiant since you are showing that you care more than trying to control.


See also

Fears vs. Commands 2 - Bouncing a Ball in the House Example

Caring vs. Control

S. Hein
Dec 2010

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