Maybe Fear is Killing our Parenting and Our Children

Originally Published October 30th 2014

Today I spent a decent amount of time walking through the International District of Seattle. After the events of what will go down as the blog blow up of 2014, I needed to clear my head and forget about the 1,000 hits an hour my post was getting.

I was in an Asian grocery store meandering the candy aisle (because I am an eight year old at heart) when a little girl, who was maybe four walked down the same aisle, alone. She asked me in Chinese to help her reach the candy she wanted, I know this because I know the word candy in Chinese and she was actively pointing whilst jumping up. Social work ethics ran through my head, my face as a child kidnapper on the front page of the paper crossed my mind, I pushed it all out and picked up the kid.

Exasperated by the candy effort she looked at me, switched to English and pointed her ANALOG hello kitty watch in my face and exclaimed that she had not been able to find her mother for ten minutes. Could I help her?

I held back horror that she was so calm, and that we could not hear a frantic mother screaming for her child. I met her hand and began to walk with her to the front of the store, on the way we spotted her mother who upon seeing us looked at her watch. Under her breath she said oh ten minutes. My curiosity got the best of me, and when I handed the child off to the mother I asked why she was so calm, most mothers would be running around, panicked, absolutely positive that some 70 year old man had taken their child to live in a hole. "I'm teaching her reliance! And concrete is too hard to build a hole through!"

"Self reliance...?" I asked.

"Reliance on other people. On her community. That people will always be there for her." 15_1

Y'all, that is when it hit me. We are scared, our society is all based on fear.

Fear that our children will get kidnapped, or molested, or hurt. Fear that our children will never become independent if we don't start young. Fear that someone will judge us for almost everything we do. Fear that no one will really be there for us if we take a leap of faith, a step of independence and it fails.

So much of this fear is unwarranted, a child has a greater likelihood of being kidnapped or molested while at a family reunion not while riding their bike down a street. People do not think about you nearly as much as you think about yourself, so chances are no one is really judging you.

But, this experience got me thinking, maybe our fear about our children never becoming independent is warranted. Why? Because our fear has led us to teaching independence and reliance the wrong way.  

Maybe, instead of teaching our children to be self-reliant we teach them FIRST to be people-reliant. Just as the lady in the grocery store said, reliant on their communities and the people around them. Let our children learn that there are people looking out for them. That if mom or dad aren't around that there are other people there to take care of them and to help them! Why be so quick to induce fear into our children? Even more so why be so quick to teach your 2-3-4-5 year old to be as independent as possible? 1413996915s7t01

Maybe, just maybe if we taught our preschooler that they could trust the world and people, that the world and people would always have their back then they would naturally become independent. They would be willing to take risks, to do things themselves, to grow into independent little humans simply because they trusted that if they failed no one would be their to mock them, instead mama, daddy or someone in their community would grab their hand and help them up.

I am sure this scares people, because well, as said above- they are afraid. The media has scared us and tricked us into believing our world is unsafe, people are unsafe and unless we bunker our children down and teach them independence and how to never talk to stranger we might as well just be handing them over to a psychopath on criminal minds.

But, what the news is telling us is simply unfounded. Crime rates are going down friends. There are only 115 cases of kidnappings a year committed by a stranger taking a child, of those 115 children 90% of those children return home safe within 24 hours, and the vast majority were teen runaways. Moral? Your four year old is more likely to be kidnapped by his/her own father than a stranger. (Statistics from Free Range Kids)

Or maybe the fear isn't the media, maybe it is is even closer to home, maybe we are scared that our little 3 year old won't get into college because they can't tie their own shoe yet. Or they will still want you to tie their shoes in junior high. Now, more than ever I am convinced that people-reliance breeds self-reliance and independence and that giving children freedom to be allows both of these reliances to grow. Most four year olds I know can't read an analog watch none the less navigate a grocery store without a hint of panic, yet their mothers and fathers are insisting they are independent. What gave that little girl independence was her trust of people, trust of the world and the lack of her parents ruining her beautiful outlook of humanity with their own fear.  

Trust your children, trust people, and maybe try trusting that this world is actually working for you not against you.

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