I grew up in a pretty strict home. Respect was required, kids were expected to do as they were told (no questions asked), and stepping out of line came with consequences. There is no question that I was loved deeply, but I also knew what my family expected from me and I tried my best to meet those expectations.
My mother wasn’t much of a spanker. I actually only remember being spanked once by her. But, despite her disdain for corporal punishment, I was still scared of her. I think much of my good behavior stemmed from my fear of my mom.
It wasn’t the type of fear that made me nervous around her. In fact, I was very close to my mom as a child and I wanted to be around her all the time. It was, however, the type of fear that made me feel like disrespecting her was never an option because severe consequences would surely follow.
How are you raising your kids?
Has my upbringing played a significant role in how I parent? To some extent, it has. I don’t spank my kids. I don’t see the point. I understand why some parents spank, and I can’t say with certainty that I would never spank my kids, but I just believe spanking rarely does much to address the real issue.
Do I want my kids to be scared of me? I struggle with that a bit. You see, fear is not a positive emotion, so I don’t really want my kids to walk around feeling like I might say or do something to harm them if I’m upset about something they did.
I think that can have a negative impact on my relationship with my kids. However, if my kid is in a position where he or she is about to make a really stupid decision, I kind of want them to think twice about making the wrong decision—even if that second thought is a result of fears they have about my potential reaction.
Is the fear factor damaging?
I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t share much from a psychological perspective about how damaging it may be to raise your kids to be scared of you. I can say, I don’t think the fear I had of my mom damaged my relationship with her as a child. I can also share that I know plenty of well-adjusted adults who were scared of their parents when they were kids.
So many life experiences can cause damage, so I think it’s hard to blame one childhood experience for the adults we become. But, as with any parenting practice, I think careful attention has to be paid to how your kid reacts to your behaviors.
Different children experience things differently, so don’t assume that what your parents did with you won’t damage your kids just because it didn’t damage you. Or, more importantly, we should always consider the possibility that maybe we are damaged in some way and we don’t even realize it.
What’s the alternative?
Establishing consequences and making them clear is different than raising fearful children. If we are kind, loving and patient parents, I don’t think we raise kids who are afraid of us, but who are actually afraid of the consequences of their poor decisions.
As a parent, I want to have close bonds with both of my kids. My hope is that they feel like they can come to me for anything. That is what matters to me the most.
But I firmly believe that raising children to be honest, responsible, caring, and respectful is critical. In order to do that, we have to establish guidelines, and in doing that, my children have to know that making the wrong choice comes with consequences.
When we are clear with our kids about what we expect and how we will handle situations when they don’t meet our expectations, I think we end up with kids who are not scared of us as people. Rather, they are very mindful when making decisions because they want to avoid the consequences. Consequences can be some scary stuff.
What our kids need most
Children require a lot from us, as they should. But what they truly need from us most is simple. Children need…
- Clear Expectations
- Clear Guidelines
- More loves
If we are able to provide these things, our kids will never be afraid of us as people. When I look back at how I was raised, I guess I never really was scared of my mom because she showed me all of these things every single day. What I was afraid of were the consequences that came with making bad decisions. And considering how stupid we can be as children, I’m glad I had that fear.
BMWK parents, what are your thoughts about raising kids who are scared of you?