I believe that a child is inherently unaware of fear. Why / what should a child fear? The child has caring and comforting parents. As the child grows up, innately, s/he knows how to take care of one’s own self and seek refuge with parents, when necessary.
So, how is it that the child learns to fear? When is it that the child loses the intrinsic capability to take a risk? Where is it that the child learns to be afraid? How a child ceases to be fearless?
I, as a parent, do not trust the child’s instincts
I have seen often enough that my daughters know what they are capable of. They have their own sense of what they can climb, how far they can jump, what speed they can run and so forth.
It is not necessary that they will be 100% right in their predictions about themselves. At times, they need prodding and pushing. If they err at all, they err on the defensive side and not at a level where they end up hurting themselves needlessly.
At an overall level, they will do what they are comfortable doing. And, if they really want to do something even though they are not comfortable, they will actually get comfortable with it, simply because they want to do it.
Just that, as a parent, I am uncomfortable with the whole idea that a child can actually take care of one’s own self. So, what do I do? I instil fear.
I am learning to trust my daughters to take care of themselves for what they are capable of.
The focus is on falling down and not on getting up
One of my twin daughters has fallen down and is crying. What is my reaction? I rush, pick up the child and tell her to be careful.
What I do not do is tell my daughter that it was fun to fall down. I do not tell her that it was great to try out the jump/climb/run/whatever she was up to and falling down is a part of it. More importantly, I do not tell her that what is most significant is getting up after falling down. When my priorities are misplaced, what is my daughter going to learn? Fear.
I am consciously telling myself not to rush when I see my daughter falling down. She is learning to get up on her own.
When imaginary fear is a primary tool to discipline a child
The child is not going to imagine a monster below the bed on his / her own. It is just not possible. Someone, for whatever reason, has put it in the child’s mind that there is a monster.
Let’s face it. Why has the child been told about the monster or the police uncle who will punish/take away the child? Invariably, it is an easy ploy to bring order with a child who wants to have his / her way. What does it teach the child? Fear.
We have not done this with our daughters ourselves, but have seen numerous instances wherein they get spoken to about this by someone in the family, and at times, even by strangers.
Fear from Nature
I have seen it from the experience with my own daughters that they are not afraid of darkness. Why should they be? They walk into a room with no lights and are perfectly fine with it.
They were afraid of lightning and thunder. We explained to them that it is fun to watch the lightning and hear thunder, and they invariably bring rain, their favourite, they more than welcome it.
We have a huge peepal tree next to our house. The leaves make rustling sound in the night, bats fly around and our daughters are fine with all these. Rather, they stretch their eyes in the night to find a non-existent owl in the tree.
The girls have touched snake skin (they would have touched a live snake but for my own fear). They have pet cockroaches and earth-worms. They run behind lizards and chameleons calling them cute.
All these are natural and nature herself. If this is not properly explained, what will children learn? Fear.
Medicines and injections are of course not natural, but they are a necessary part of a child’s growing up. Both the girls actually look forward to both these, as they get explained in advance, that too without rewards and bribes. Surely, no fear.
The society does not trust the parent’s instincts
O +ve and B +ve are our daughters. As a parent, we know what they are capable of and even if they are not capable of, it is fine with us. So what, if they fall? So what, if they cry? Even if they bleed? We are learning to trust their instincts.
Not just in the park / any external environment, even in our own home; we are fine with what our daughters are doing; but they will be told by family members, friends and even strangers not to indulge in what they are doing. I tell them that it is fine what the girls are doing, but to no avail.
What is the resultant output with children? Fear.
As I write this, both the girls are climbing on to the sofa. They are going to jump together. What should I do?
I tell myself, I want my children to be fearless the way they have always been, I will not tell them the two words – “BE CAREFUL”.