On Monsters & Other Scaries.

Posted in Parenting by
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I recently read a blog post by Tamryn about why some people think it’s ok to frighten children and introduce them to irrational fears. Then this weekend I saw Anita’s Tweets about how her brother was terrorising her child and it really makes me furious that some people think it’s ok to frighten a child for their own entertainment.

We are having a couple of similar issues ourselves with Ava at the moment. She has developed a debilitating fear of spiders and ants, to the point where she totally freaks out if she sees a spider or an ant anywhere near her and won’t walk outside without shoes on now. She stands at the sliding door and cries bitterly if we’re outside and she doesn’t have shoes on because the spiders and ants will bite her feet. I know this hasn’t come from Walter or I as neither one of us has ever said anything to her about spiders or ants that bite. But this weekend after one of her terrible fear induced crying spells, she managed to tell me that it was Loveness (our nanny) who has been telling her this. Now I know Loveness and I know that she did not have any malicious intention, her aim was simply to try and get Ava’s co-operation with things like putting shoes on before playing outside on the wet grass. But still, there are better ways of going about it. So yesterday morning, I had to have a long chat with her about this and asking her not to frighten Ava into submission.

The other issue stems from one of her little friends at school who has been telling her about monsters. More superficially, monsters under her bed. In the last couple of weeks she has started asking to go to sleep with her bedroom door open and herein lies the dilemma.  Spike (our cat) who is Ava’s best day time play mate is her arch enemy at night. She does not want him on her bed when she sleeps and of course, Spike seems to sense this and takes great pleasure out of pushing her bedroom door open and snuggling up to her while she sleeps. This always results in her waking up and totally freaking out which makes it near impossible to leave her bedroom door open when she sleeps. She’s also asked me to look under her bed for monsters before going to sleep at night.

Walter and I do not, in any way, allow Ava to be exposed to anything that could frighten her. She is only allowed to watch Cbeebies and Disney Junior and her movies are all Disney movies.  If she is awake and the TV is on, we do not watch any TV shows or movies that are not appropriate for her to see. We also don’t try to frighten her into submission with imagined monsters.

Of course, we can’t control what other people tell her or what she’s exposed to outside of our supervision. Not all parents are as strict as we are in terms of exposing children to age appropriate media and of course anything that is age rated is not appropriate for a 3 year old to be seeing, they don’t have the intellect to process what they’re being exposed to and this will often lead to them create scary monsters in their minds and sharing this fear with their friends.  Both Ava and her BFF for school, Tristan, are having issues surrounding a monster under the bed and neither we, nor Tristan’s parents have ever exposed them to these types of fears.

I learned from the spiders/ants issue that to tell her she’s being silly does not allay her fears. Heck, I know that from my own fears, even if they seem ridiculous to others, they’re very real to me.  The only way that I managed to get her to overcome her fear of ants and spiders was to show her that they wouldn’t hurt her, this weekend, I stood on the patio where a line of ants were going on their merry way and had to touch them, try and get them to walk over my fingers and my toes in order to show her that ants will almost always run away from her and that she needn’t be so terrified of the harmless little black ants in the garden.

I believe that this level of conscious parenting is what sets us apart from how previous generations parented their children.  There is much more thought that goes into each action and word spoken to our children. We (some of us) ponder the effects of our words and actions to our children and rely less on pure reaction to parent them.

 Image Courtesy of Never Sleep Again

September 18, 2012
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8 Comments

  • Reply Fairy Girl

    Logan has been waking up screaming. It is so bad that you cannot pick her up or even touch her. She sits in a corner and screams for about an hour. She actually looks like she is possessed. I end up lying next to her crying and feeling quite helpless. Its an awful thing to see.

    I’ve been told its “night terrors”.

    She says its the dragon that keeps visiting her. I thought maybe it was one of the Barbie movies she was watching.

    I called my spiritualist and he told me it is probably an entity / friend that wants to play and I must teach her to tell him / her to go away. I’ve put a Himalayan Salt candle stand in her room to draw the negative energy and release the positive. We have had a happy child, no more scary nights.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:08 am
  • Reply Karen

    Last night my 5 year old boy told me: “Did I know that there was people long ago that killed other people and ate them. And there was a bad queen and the poor people chopped off her head (Marie Antoinette?). He definitely did not hear this from us. I think he got this little history lesson from playground. Probably from a kid with an older sibling. I am also very strict when it comes to movies and what he can watch or not. But it is so difficult to control what they pick-up at school.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:11 am
  • Reply Tracy

    We had a problem with monsters under the bed (despite monitoring exposure to scary things) and we have two techniques that got us over them – each method worked with one of our boys. First, a monster spray. This is simply a plastic spray bottle with a drawing of No monsters filled with water or coloured water if needs be. We would take our older son around the room – and under the bed – and he would spray the monster spray so no monsters could come there. He slept with the spray for a while but soon that wasn’t necessary any more. With our younger child, the spray didn’t work – he thought it was a great toy though! With him, we watched Monsters, Inc with him and now when he expresses fears about monsters we discuss what he would say if he actually did see a monster. We decided that he would tell them: “Hey, what are you doing in my room? I don’t want your silly jokes here! I’m trying to sleep. Don’t come with your jokes here!” (That will only make sense if you’ve seen the movies.) We practise those words and defuse the situation by retelling some of the silly jokes from the movie. Good luck with getting rid of the fear of beasties. I think it’s a phase they all go through despite our best efforts to protect them.

    September 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm
  • Reply Melanie Voordewind

    aaaw shame Sharon. Jano is terribly affraid of moths… screams his head of when he see’s one, but i dont know why, I tried to get him to talk to me about it but no awail.. liam the little teazer he is will then make fun of Jano, then it escaltes into this crying maths between Liam and Jano and Jano to me and me warning Liam and liam starting crying… oi oi oi oi!

    but i remember when i was young my dad whould tell me sakabula will gome and catch me if i get out of bed at night, that would scare the bejeebies out of me!!!! i would lie in bed and any shadow would freak me out!!! till this day, i cannot sleep with an open door because it casts shadows 🙁

    September 19, 2012 at 9:35 am
  • Reply Denise

    We have the same cat issue… best thing for it is a door wedge that jams the door so that it remains open enough to allow light in and keeps the cat out!

    September 19, 2012 at 11:36 am
  • Reply TJ

    I’m glad Ava was at least able to communicate the source of the ants and spider scare. Spiders are one thing, Can you imagine how debilitating a fear of ants can be???

    Glad you could lay some of her fears to rest.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm
  • Reply Pandora

    Most of my fears came from what my mother feared, and as a child, my fear of dogs was debilitating. I got over it thankfully. ISo I am very conscious of this, and try not to pass my fears on, I am sure she will develop her own ones through her experiences, and I don’t want to add to that.
    We are also careful about TV, and what she is exposed to. My MIL has been buying her the ladybird books, and I found myself changing the endings, what with all the killing and eating! (How did we survve all that as kids?) so here was being so careful not to mention killing or any variation on it, when one morning, she stepped on an ant and anounced ‘Now he is dead!’ After a long conversation of why we don’t go around stepping on living creatures, she told me this all comes from her friends at creche. This is where she has learned about monsters, dragons, killing etc. So far no major fears have come about, although she now says she is scared of the dark. But I think this is something else that she heard, because she really isn’t. (when she isn’t thinking about it, she is not at all bothered in her dark bedroom) However, because I don’t want to negate her feelings, I leave a light on in the passage now.
    So much as we protect them, often these things come from outside of our control.
    I have also heard plenty of parents over the years bragging about using scaring tactics to control their kids, the bogyman, monsters, etc. and vowed I would never do that. I think it is cruel.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:34 pm
  • Reply Mash

    I think it’s also just a normal part of growing up. For years I used to take a running leap to get on my bed so that whatever was under it (and I was inventing different things in my mind about that all the time) wouldn’t get me. My mom told me that as a child she was afraid of witches hiding behind doors. All three of us girls wanted to sleep with the door slightly ajar until we just about went to highschool! At nursery school, there was a car wreck on the other side of the nursery school fence. We spent hours daring each other to go close to the fence because of the boogey men and “killers” that were hiding in that car (I had plenty of nightmares about that too). My friend who studied to be a waldorf teacher once told me there is a stage that children go through with irrational fears and it’s kind of a normal and important (don’t ask me how) stage of development.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm
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