To help see the process of helping our kids feel safer we will have to walk through some hard to face facts first. Read with me through the whole process, we will have the light shining bright on us before the end.
As a young father of two girls the fear I had was a powerful motivator to protect them. As I train and coach families across the country I find higher levels of fear than when we started our parenting journey 20 years ago. My fear caused me to make some major mistakes with my oldest daughter. It took several years to overcome them in our relationship and longer for her to begin to develop self-confidence in her amazing gifts, abilities, and potential.
There are Obvious Reasons for our Fear.
The crime among children receive a great deal of attention as do all the other pitfalls that can snare them as they grow older. Fear alters life more than we realize.
Recently I was talking to a mom, whom I am coaching, who is seeking to reconnect with her teenage sons. She spoke vividly about her fear of her 16 year-old son having freedom and of trusting him in a dating relationship. Later in our session she said that her son made good decisions when choosing friends and described him with a natural gift of discernment. As we talked I helped her see that because of her fear, she was not showing trust in him and his natural gift.
Imagine if your mom did not trust you to make good decisions, even though you do and she knew that you have the gift of discernment. Is that a mom you would remain close to, listen to and with whom you would share openly?
Fear causes us to believe we must protect our kids, and that most often converts into over controlling. We control what they can and cannot do so that they do not get hurt. If we look at it objectively, do we as adults like being controlled?
Does control draw us closer to the person controlling and make us more cooperative and compliant? Control is at the root of so many issues between parents and adolescents today. Unfortunately my research with 3,500 kids confirmed what we intuitively understand. People do not like being controlled and when in a controlling situation they are often very creative in finding ways to subvert the control. This was on full display in my research as kids shared the many ways they got around their parents’ control and entered into the very things their parents were seeking to keep them from.
So is our Fear Justified?
It certainly seems like it is with all the stories we read or see in the news: drugs, sex trafficking, social media, school shootings and all the many ways kids can end up off track. It seems like a day does not go by that we don’t hear about some horrible thing that happened to a child or teen.
Recently there was a string of multiple female teachers caught having sexual relations with young men between the ages of thirteen and sixteen.
When we hear these stories our fear naturally increases for our kids but there are always two things we need to consider before letting our emotions determine our actions.
- Is it more dangerous today for kids?
- Will my action work?
1. While it seems unlikely, crime statistics against children and teens do not support the seemingly dramatic increase in danger for today’s kids. In fact Department of Justice Statistics show a 30% decrease in crime against kids today versus the 70’s and 80’s. Some try to attribute this to the increased control of parents, but given the percentage of kids leading dual lives that our research uncovered, this does not seem to be the case. If anything, with 70 to 90 percent of kids leading dark dual lives, one would expect an increase in these numbers. Simply put, society today is much more sensitive to crimes against kids and places a huge stigma on them which has led to a real decrease in the number of these crimes.
One exception is living in a high gang activity area where the rates remain about the same or a bit higher due to gang violence and drug related issues.
2. While it seems like we should be able to prevent all harm from coming to our kids, we cannot. Just take the case of these female teachers grooming these boys to end up in sexual relationship with them or a male teacher doing the same with our daughters. There is no way to control everything that might happen to our kids. In fact controlling our kids may make them more vulnerable.
When they are frustrated with us and become distant, a hole is created in their lives that they need to fill with someone who thinks they are special and a good kid.
So what is the answer? (Here’s the Sunshine)
In our home and many other parents’ homes, who have taken Influential Parenting, it simply is not giving into fear. Fear is almost always:
The person who is most able to protect your kid from harm is your kid himself or herself. Kids do not want to be hurt. In fact every kid we talked with wanted to succeed.
Far too often our research found that they were making bad decisions due to the lack of relationship, closeness, trust and belief of their parents. The answer is a relationship that grants us access to talk deeply and candidly with our kids.
When asked the right questions to engage their brain and given information like they are adults, kids consistently make better decisions and reach better conclusions than parents expect.
Here are examples of questions you might ask:
- How are you feeling about the decision you made?
- How are you feeling inside? Are you feeling negative or positive
- How do you view this friend?
- What are there strengths and weaknesses?
- What are you hoping to get out of the relationship?
These questions are designed to help our kids process there situation in an open handed lade back manner that will help them make better
Needing help to keep the conversation going:
- Interesting. Is there more I can hear about?
- And this is making you think….?(have them fill in the …)
Parents are amazed at the results. They say, “Now that I am trusting and talking with my kids instead of telling, lecturing and controlling them, I am finding they are much smarter, more capable and are making better decisions than I ever thought possible!”
So the answer is not to allow fear to take over how we view and approach our kids. When we give into fear and rely on control, our kids are more vulnerable not less. It is that they can and will protect themselves if we make them aware and help them understand what to look for. Then they will come to us and share their thoughts and feelings especially when they feel something is not right. Too many kids I have worked with had those feelings, but were not in a relationship with their parents where they felt free to share their concerns.
Many charged ahead in spite of uncomfortable feelings as they tried to fill the void left by parents with whom they once felt close. If we help our kids remain close and equip them to protect themselves, we are much more likely to prevent harm.
If you are finding yourself in the midst of being overtaken by fear, please contact me at ReviveFamily.com. I will be all ears and help you work through the whole process.