Dad Drops His Terrified 15-Year-Old Off At Mall Alone To Help Him Overcome His Social Anxiety

People are divided on the dad's parenting tactic.

scared teen boy in mall Heidi Fin via Unsplash / Asti Mak via Shutterstock

An appreciative son came to Reddit to share his story about how his father helped him overcome his social anxiety. While many people understood the reasoning behind the man's childhood experience and shared their similar ones, others felt the father was doing “the worst possible thing," for his child, possibly causing more trauma than help with overcoming his social anxiety.

The man explained that his father left him alone at a strip mall when he was 15 years old.

In a since-deleted Reddit post, the now 24-year-old man explained that his father told him to “dress up professionally” and took him to a strip mall. Once dressed, his father told him to “go to as many stores as possible, ask to speak to someone in charge, introduce yourself, and ask them for a job."


"I’ll pick you up in an hour," the father told his son. "Here’s some money for a meal or a taxi if need be.”

The man wrote that he went from store to store “shaking in his boots” with nothing but the clothes on his back and asked managers from different stores for a job. When his father returned, he told him that it went okay, “I don’t know if they’ll hire me but I tried.”

His father revealed that he didn’t expect him to get a job but wanted him to get used to talking to people and asking for what he wanted. His father did this multiple times, later doing something similar when he met with clients or vendors and waited in the car while his son went to ask for whatever was needed.


The now 24-year-old claimed that this helped him “tremendously in overcoming any social anxiety.”

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While the father's answer to his son's social anxiety seems unorthodox, it can be seen as a form of exposure therapy.

As Arlin Cuncic, MA, founder of About Social Anxiety, wrote for VeryWell Mind, though exposure therapy is typically conducted by a therapist as a supplement to a cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) program, those dealing with social anxiety can find ways to incorporate exposure therapy into their daily lives. According to Cuncic, exposure therapy for social anxiety is especially useful as it's easy to put yourself in situations that may cause you social anxiety. 

While some people on Reddit commented that this father's tactic wouldn't have helped them as their social anxiety doesn’t apply in professional or clinical settings, but rather social settings “where there is no ‘task’ to be completed,” Cuncic suggests creating tasks for yourself that help address your specific social fears. For example, TikTok creator Tricia Claire challenged herself to complete 30 days of tasks designed to help her overcome social anxiety related to filming herself in public.




"What is so scary about a stranger seeing me do something that I perceived to be embarrassing for two seconds as they pass me on the road?" Claire asks in the second installment of her challenge. "Silly, silly illogical thoughts," she concludes, addressing the fact that social anxiety is often rooted in the "fear of being judged or criticized for your actions and behavior," as Success and Leadership Coach Christine Hourd has said.

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Similarly, in a TikTok video, psychologist Dr. Calvin Fitch, PhD, says practicing social mishaps can help "expose you to the actual consequences of making a social mistake," which can help you face that fear as you become accustomed to the feelings the perceived mishap can evoke.




One commenter shared their experience when their dad kicked them out of the house to buy lunch on their own and walk back. While it did help them gain confidence, the commenter “felt like a disappointment” because they were such a socially anxious being.

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Such tactics may not work for everyone.

A person on Reddit commented on the post suggesting that while the intent was good-natured, it wasn’t the best way to handle a child with social anxiety, suggesting parents start small.


"Start with things like having your kid order the pizza over the phone while you coach. Then up the stakes by having them schedule doctors/dentist appointments. Then pull the 'I’m waiting in the car, go inside and mail this package/pay the bill' or whatever where they have to talk to someone," they wrote. Another person agreed, adding that dropping a socially anxious kid in a mall could "be an extremely traumatic event."

Cuncic noted that exposure therapy may not be the best tactic for those with extreme social anxiety, especially if it tends to induce panic attacks, and suggests working with a mental health professional to find the right therapy for you and your family.

Thankfully the person who originally posted turned out fine.

Ultimately, the man posted to speak on his positive experience, insisting his father's methods helped him learn to overcome his social anxiety. While this post didn’t necessarily sit well with everyone on the Reddit forums, hopefully, the thread provided people with tips on how to (and how not to) get over their social anxiety.


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Ashley Darkwa-Anto is a writer at YourTango who covers News & Entertainment.