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