Fear or love: What's your parenting M.O.?
I’m guessing that you’re reading this blog and following what we do here at Mellownest because you have or want to develop your ideas about the kind of parent you want to be and what you want for your child.
You want to be an encouraging parent – you want your child to be confident.
You want to be a supportive parent – you want your child to be resilient.
You want to be a loving parent – you want your child to be happy.
I’m sure you’ll agree with the above, and these are just the start – no doubt you could add several more when you think about your parenting and your desires for your child.
When you think about wanting your child to be happy, you probably do describe yourself as a loving parent – you care for your child, you meet your child’s needs and you keep your child safe.
And yes, if you do all of these things (and all the rest!) it’s safe to say you’d qualify as a loving parent.
But are you always parenting from a place of love?
The reality is that it’s really easy to do the opposite and instead let your parenting be guided by fear.
You may not even recognise it as fear, but it’s essentially those feelings of worry, anxiety or apprehension you feel when you’re not sure what to do or how something might turn out.
Even in the early stages, this fear can take over and completely rule the way you behave:
- You fear that your baby won’t ever be a ‘good sleeper’ so you read every book, article and blog about baby sleep and try a million different techniques, all in the space of a few days.
- You fear that you won’t be able to manage on trips out, so you stay home for the first few weeks.
- You fear that no-one else will be able to take care of your baby the way you do so you try and do it all yourself.
As your child gets older, your fears extend to things that might happen when you’re not around or things that might happen because you can’t control everything and your fears develop a new focus:
- You fear that your child might hurt themselves if they do things that are dangerous, so you stop them from climbing to the top of the climbing frame or from going too fast on their scooter.
- You fear that your child might think they’ve ‘got away’ with doing something they shouldn’t have done if you don’t give them a big enough consequence for it.
- You fear that your child might keep making the same mistakes over and over, so you start to do things for them instead.
- You fear that your child might miss out on the chance to try new things, so you enrol them in lots of clubs and classes to broaden their experience.
What's the impact?
Now there is of course nothing inherently wrong with wanting to protect your child, wanting to give them boundaries. And there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting them to be around positive role models or to have exciting and stimulating experiences.
It makes you feel good to think that you’ve stopped your child from getting hurt or that you’ve been able to book them in for lessons with the most amazing piano teacher you could find.
But here’s the thing – whenever the decisions you make are driven by your fears, those decisions become more about alleviating your own anxieties than about supporting your child’s development.
It’s scary but true – some of the fears you possess might be working against your desires to be an encouraging, supportive and loving parent who is raising a confident, resilient and happy child.
The Clinical Psychologist Dr Laura Markham says that when you parent from a place of fear, it means you’re more likely to do one or all of these things:
- Overcontrol and
Classic helicopter parenting. And not a single one of these things can be said to be helpful when we think about what children need to develop into healthy, well-rounded individuals who can think for themselves, cope when things get tough and have happy, positive relationships.
Dr Laura outlines all of this and, crucially, what you can do about it in her brilliant book Calm Parents, Happy Kids.
So, where do you begin if you want to parent from love?
Above all, it starts with you being aware of your fears and recognising your triggers.
With you regulating the emotions that your fears and triggers stir up.
And what does parenting from love look like?
It looks like keeping your child safe but not going overboard with being protective.
Like responding to their needs with empathy rather than diving in with your instinctive - but sometimes unhelpful - reaction.
Like gently correcting and teaching rather than controlling.
Like sometimes letting your child just be, rather than trying to schedule every minute of each and every day.
It's definitely not the easiest route to take on your parenting journey. To parent in this way takes practice: it requires you to be conscious, mindful and intentional in your actions.
But if you want to be an encouraging, supportive and loving parent who raises a confident, resilient and happy child then it's the best way to go.
To quote Dr Laura:
“Don’t choose fear, choose love”.
Created by a qualified child psychologist
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