As obvious as it sounds, when I had my girl almost six years ago all I could think of was how much I wanted to protect and keep her from any harm. She’s my most precious creation and all I want is for her to feel love and protected; it’s a natural feeling.
What I hadn’t prepared for was the amount of much-needed tough love I was also capable of giving. I realized that as much as it broke my heart, in order for her to learn certain things, I would have to allow her to cry it out, fall, learn to be alone and the such. All of this while coming to terms with the mom guilt induced by all those attachment parenting books I had devoured while pregnant.
Not only did I finally let my girl cry it out when she was a baby and learn to soothe herself as much as possible, now I try my best to teach her to embrace her fears. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about any fears that might put her in danger or damage her in any way. I want her to learn early on everything I didn’t learn about the power of facing straight on any fears that are self-limiting in our lives. Those are the fears that we obsess about in our head without recognizing that they are really an illusion that we have fabricated. The fears that create that little voice inside our head that tells us we’ll fail, or aren’t good enough, or someone can do it better than us, etc, etc.
It might seem like a huge concept for a little girl to understand, but it actually is not because every single day — especially now that she’s in kindergarten and constantly confronting so many new issues and emotions — there’s a learning opportunity that comes up. Our main one right now is her fear of learning to read. She’s actually so scared of not doing it right that she just doesn’t want to do it and says she hates it.
I’m working really hard with her right now to help her turn around her fear of failing in reading because it’s paralyzing her. I want this lesson to help her confront the many, many other fears that will come up in her life – lessons I learned way too late in life, but now live by.
Lesson #1: Recognize and acknowledge your fears. It’s tough for a 5-year-old to understand what is making her feel afraid, but I talked her through her seemingly stubbornness to want to practice her letters, sounds and reading because she thinks she hates it. By asking her questions of the “why” and “how” nature I was able to get her to say she was scared that others would think she can’t read. Together we recognize her fear of failure and I soothe and embrace it for her every single time it comes up.
Lesson #2: Failure is the key to success to anything in our lives. I make my daughter understand that I love her no matter how many times she gets it wrong or how many times we have to try. I keep reassuring her that it’s okay to make mistakes so that we can learn and grow.
Lesson #3: Use fear as a catalyst. This one’s definitely tougher to teach a child, but I use it as a compass to know where I need to allow my daughter to fail. I’ve learned in my own life to ask “What’s the worst that can happen?” and use fear as a compass to where I need to grow. Ever since I recognized that my daughter was not allowing herself to learn how to read out of fear, I’ve pushed her a bit harder to break through it.
Lesson #4: Do that which you fear. Again, we’re talking about self-limiting fears that don’t allow us to grow, not those that put us in any danger. Yes, I push my daughter to practice her reading because the more she does it the more she loses the fear of learning and that will benefit her learning process with anything she needs to tackle.
Lesson #5: Share your fear with others. I’ve learned the power of coming out to my community and friends with my fears. It’s amazing to learn that others share our similar fears and struggles. With my daughter I keep reminding her that most of her friends don’t read yet and that it’s okay. I remind her that if any of them do read, then they can help each other out. She likes the idea, and it gives her some sort of peace to think about it.
I know it’s hard to break down deep concepts like living a fearless life to become learning lessons for kids, but I’ve come to realize that they understand more than we give them credit for. When I started focusing on my girl’s fear of reading instead of forcing her to practice and do her homework, she’s started relaxing more and allowing herself to fail. It’s still a work in progress, but I know these fearless lessons have been planted and we’ll continue to water them for years to come.
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