Parenting Secret #2 to Empower Kids: Make Fear Fun! Simple and effective tools to be used daily.
According to the Encarta Dictionary, fear is defined as an unpleasant feeling of anxiety or apprehension caused by the presence or anticipation of danger. The most commonly use synonyms are panic, anxiety, and worry. How often do we hear those words in the media these days?
The key words in that definition are the “presence or anticipation.” There are different types of fear that humans feel. Some are instinctive and helpful while others are invented in the mind and hurtful. The instinctive fears show up in the “presence” of danger. It is your fight or flight response. These fears require little or no conscious thought. The instinctive part of our brain takes over and reacts for us. It is the “anticipation” that is the problem with so many kids (and adults) in our society. Several studies and surveys have been conducted over the years ranking the Top 10 Strongest or Most Common Fears. The fear public speaking is always ranked number one or two, yet the fear of death is always in the middle of the pack. Does that make any sense to you?
So, here is the Parenting Secret #2 for Empowering Kids: Make Fear Fun!
Change the association of fear in the minds of your kids and yourself. When you and your kids confront the things you are fearful of and overcome them - the power of identity grows. When you attack something that you were afraid of and discover, “that’s it? That’s what I was afraid of?” it’s incredibly empowering.
Before I go on, let me make clear the distinction between Fear and Risk. I am NOT advocating for you and your family to seek out risky activities as a means of empowering yourselves. Let’s use a common activity that millions of people engage in every day as an example – flying on an airplane. Fear of flying is consistently ranked at or near the top of the most common fears of people in the U.S.A. Yet, flying is statistically proven to be the safest mode of transportation. So, why are so many people afraid to fly? It is the “anticipation.” Earl Nightingale was a prodigious speaker and author in his day. His publishing company, Nightingale Conant, is still one of the largest publishers in the field of personal and professional development today. Mr. Nightingale conducted a study on the subject of what people worry about. Below are his results:
* Things that never happen: 40%. That means 40 percent of the things you worry about will never occur anyway.
* Things over and past that can't be changed: 30%. In other words, these things can’t be changed by all the worry in the world.
* Needless worries about our health: 12%. These are what if… worries. If you have no history of a disease in your family, why fear it?
* Petty, miscellaneous worries: 10 percent.
* Real, legitimate worries: 8%. Only 8 percent of your worries are worth concerning yourself about. Ninety-two percent have no substance at all.
Human beings are creatures of habit. Generally speaking, we don’t like to change those habits, those behavior patterns. I have found that most people fear change – they fear the unknown - even if that change promises to be for the better. Kids fear changes like… moving to a new neighborhood, going to a new school, making new friends, or trying something they wouldn’t simply because they think they won’t be good enough at it.
So, how do we help our kids to challenge themselves and confront these types of invented fears? We help them by having them ask themselves questions like:
If I know I will succeed, what would I do first?
What will happen if I do….?
What will happen if I don’t…?
It is a simple and important step. These questions change the brain’s focus. No longer is your child focused on the fear which leads to continual reinforcement of the fear. The focus is now on the positive outcome. Now the brain is looking for resources to make that positive outcome a reality rather than focusing on the fear that prevented action from being taken. We have just changed the association in the mind of your child related to that fear. Now they will feel challenged and empowered rather than afraid and anxious. As this is repeated over time, it will create new empowering habits and behavior patterns, while boosting their Belief System.
One of my own personal mantras is, “If I can’t then I must.” If there is something I think is preventing me from reaching my desired outcome or goal, then I must do it. Facing my own fears becomes a challenge, a game of sorts. But by using this secret on myself, I have rigged the game. I win every time simply by confronting the fear and overcoming it. For example, I tried bungee jumping because of my former fear of heights. Now, participating in extreme sports isn’t part of my identity. I don’t go bungee jumping every day, but it was related to one of my fears that I felt I needed to face and overcome.
Stand up to your fears. Don’t let fear hold you or your kids back from the success you are destined for. To quote a good friend of mine, Sarah Victory, challenge yourself and your kids to “do something brave every day.”
Next week well cover Parenting Secret #3 for Empowering Kids: No Means Yes - Framing Your Kids Choices for Positive Outcomes.
Mark Papadas is a nationally recognized children’s empowerment expert and author of the highly acclaimed book "10 Secrets to Empower Kids and Awaken the Child in You," as well as President of The I AM 4 Kids Foundation—a recognized 501c3 charity committed to providing its personal empowering programs to public schools across the U.S. at no cost to the schools. Connect with Mark through his FREE Parenting & Coaching Newsletter.