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A Video Of A Dad Putting His Kids To Bed Made A Parenting Coach Question Whether Kids 'Need Fear' In Order To Obey Parents

Photo: TikTok
Parenting coach discussing how kids obedience is actually fear

Many of us grew up with our parents being "good cops" and "bad cops," with one parent being nurturing and fun and the other being the strict disciplinarian.

Oftentimes, these dynamics run on fear, and a parenting coach says those dynamics need to say in the past. But not everyone is on board with her approach. 

A parenting coach says kids' obedience is actually fear, and the dynamic can be damaging.

The discourse began after a video went viral on TikTok showing a little boy refusing to go to bed, as little kids so often do.

As the boy's mother tries to reason with him, he only becomes angrier and more agitated, crying "I don't want to" as his mother tries to get him to go down.

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But the moment his father appears in the doorway, he instantaneously stops crying and goes silent. All his father has to do is snap a finger and tell him to get in bed and the little boy obeys. The mom who posted the video captioned it, "The power of instilling discipline." But parenting coach Marcela Collier saw something different at play.

The parenting coach says 'blind obedience is not a sign of having a strong father figure.'

That is how Collier described the little boy's response to his father in her response to the viral video. She said the way the little boy instantly stopped protesting his bedtime "as soon as daddy crossed the door" was not actually a good sign, and had nothing to do with "a strong father figure."

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Collier criticized those in the viral video's comments who commended the couple's parenting and cheered the way the father "showed leadership" and had obviously "instilled discipline" in his son. She said that a strong father is actually one who demonstrates the opposite approach. "A strong father figure comforts and contains his child's emotions," she said.

She went on to say strong parents are "emotionally present and engaged" and value their children's "emotional needs over compliance," a view that is at the essence of the "gentle parenting" trend, which focuses on children's emotional development.

The approach casts what we often think of as tantrums and misbehavior as what they simply are, according to science — manifestations of a child's limited ability to understand their own emotions. Collier, like other gentle parenting practitioners, urged parents to learn how to "get cooperation from a connected place and not from fear."

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Some parents were furious with Collier for suggesting kids' obedience is actually fear, and some claimed fear is what children actually need.

One commenter went so far as to say "f--k what he needs," a sentiment that should be shocking to even the strictest disciplinarians. He went on to claim that "boys especially need to understand fear" because "fear is what keeps men alive" — a perspective Collier was having none of in her video response to the comment.



"This perpetuates harmful stereotypes about gender and emotions," she said. She likened it to statements borne of toxic masculinity like "boys need to toughen up" which she says inspire many parents to "become their source of fear" and believe that "them fearing us is what is going to teach them to have a healthy relationship with authority."

Instead, she says, this "creates men who fear emotional intimacy" because when they were small and "had a lot of emotions that didn't make sense to them...they were told that boys don't cry... to toughen up... and they were met with blame, shame, and punishment."

And when it comes to teaching kids to be strong, fear has the opposite impact than intended, according to psychologists. Children reared with this approach can end up "fearful of making their own gut decisions, which can potentially lead to decreased self-confidence, anxiety, or lack of resilience" according to psychologist Dr. Danine Dean.

Many other parents thanked and applauded Collier for her perspective on the ways parents using fear impacts kids. One mom summed up the issue perfectly. "There are plenty of other sources for fear in the world," she wrote. "Your parents should make you feel safe."

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers culture, social justice and human interest topics.