Boo! Time To Give Up The Scare Tactics

Don't be that parent who scares their child into submission.

Raising a child is an art mastered only by those of us gifted with an incredible amount of patience, and the ability to anticipate and plan. This is especially true in this day and age when it is getting increasingly challenging to help them grow into responsible, thoughtful and self-confident individuals. We strive to be better parents every day and honestly, a lot of new moms and dads are spending more time on perfecting the skill of managing their kids’ emotional and mental development than ever before.

But quite often, things get hard even for the pros. Like when kids are hell bent on having their way. And yes, we know refusing to let them do as they wish is likely to put them in a foul mood that will probably lead to a temper tantrum. A lot of my friends say they try hard to avoid provoking a tantrum from their young kids. And the method they use is fear-mongering. I understand because I am guilty of it too – sometimes we need to scare our kids so that they understand it when something is dangerous for them. But what is not a healthy practice is to make up imaginary demons and taking advantage of their fears.

When I was a kid, my parents used the boogie man story to scare me into eating my greens or tidying up my room. That turned me into a constantly frightened child who was too scared to fall asleep and often had nightmares which turned out to be a much bigger problem to deal with. For very young children, it is often through the parents that they see the world. Today I find that many new parents are scaring the hell out of their children because it helps to herd them better.

“Eat your food or the scary witch will come get you.”

We conjure up so many negative characters, introducing vivid images into their innocent minds. Lying to kids ultimately distorts their understanding of reality. Between 1 and 2 years, a toddler experiences separation anxiety and a child in the 4-6 years age group begins to develop a fear of the dark, ghosts and monsters. Young children need to be able to feel in control of their little world so that they can grow into confident adults, says Dr. Ari Brown, author of Baby 411.

We forget that when we use a scare tactic on our children, it inhibits their confidence and desire to explore and instead feeds other, more dangerous fears.

I get it. It is important to teach our children to feel ‘fear’, to get them to understand that they must be cautious of danger. Like running across a busy road is not safe. Or going to the playground at half past nine is a risky thing to do. Especially when little kids don’t have the slightest idea of what could go wrong.  I believe that if there are better and simpler ways to make kids quickly change their mind and obey, more parents will avoid using unhealthy scare tactics.

Parenting is all about working with our children, shaping their thoughts and understanding them better so that we know the best way to help them do the right thing.

So here are a few tricks:

1. Inspire wonder instead of fear.

no more scares

They say the worst use of imagination is worry. Your child has an unbelievable capacity to let their imagination run wild with no constraints. Sometimes the only way to get to their world may be to use their imagination. So why not introduce positive images in their mind instead of negative ones? For instance, instead of making up ghosts and monsters, try using a favorite toy as a motivator. Tell your kid that his teddy bear only plays with kids who eat their greens. If he did not, it would make Teddy very sad and you would have to give Teddy away to a kid who eats her food without fuss. This way, your child will not only feel loved but learn to do things for love. Yes, it is still an imaginary story but one that teaches positive values.


2. Give them goals and celebrate their achievements.

replace a scare with curiosity.

A rather holistic technique would be to purposefully reinforce images of progress and development. Kids who are defiant and stubborn generally tend to value their achievements and love recognition and praise. Give it to them generously to see a dramatic change in their temperament.

Tell your kid how her uncle/aunt, her teachers, your neighbors, and friends – everyone she knows and loves – wish to see her become a rockstar (or her favorite action figure) for which she must be healthy and active, and go to bed early every single night. Allow your child to use your phone to message her favorite people good night and have them congratulate her for going to bed early. This could help her experience the feeling of daily accomplishments. If you want to take this further, consider drawing out a fun schedule with your child. Make sure you engage them in creating the sequence of activities for the day and setting the time for each of them. The schedule can be followed by adding brownie points every day which will go a long way in making it easier to help children fall into a routine without having to use negative measures. The prospect of doing a good thing every day to get closer to winning a big prize can keep them on track, provided you also give them little rewards on the way.


3. Be prepared to divert attention.

Divert from danger without using a scare.

Sometimes, kids can be quite difficult to bring into routines. When a big danger is involved, like when your kid needs to be stopped from wandering off too far while playing in the park, there may not be enough time to think of logical explanations to change their mind. Avoid telling the kid something that would scare him like say, there’s a big bad wolf lurking behind the trees. Instead, try distracting them with something else like a candy or a toy to bring them back to safety. These simple techniques can be quite effective and the only thing they need is good planning. Be prepared to deal with an active child who loves to explore. Arm yourself with his or her favorite playthings or snacks. A simple trip to the park can turn out to be a tiring episode if we are not armed with all the right tools to steer your curious little one away from danger.

So use your understanding of your child’s sensitivities and predilections to make your lives easier, happier and positive.

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