Parenting With Trust Rather Than Fear

We’ve all heard the saying “parenting should come with a handbook”. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking or saying this, you’re in luck. The number of available books on parenting is numerous. Out of curiosity, I recently did a search on Amazon. The search phrase, “books on parenting” yields hundreds of options including books on discipline, communication, mindfulness, education, playdates, technology, sleep patterns, just to name a few. If you have a parenting question, there is a book for you! Admittedly, I own parenting books on specific topics and have found them useful over the years. In my work with families however, I have discovered that, in general, an overall parenting philosophy is often the contributing factor to problems or conflict between parent and child and that a single area of concern, such as toilet training or discipline, is just a symptom of the overarching parenting approach.

To say this, is not to disparage parents and their whole-hearted efforts to be the best parent possible for their child. Instead, it is to point out that because parents love their children so much, many parents, when ineffectively responding to conflict or issues with a child, are actually reacting to feelings of fear, a fear that their child may get hurt, may not succeed, may get made fun of, may make the parent look bad, or may not need the parent anymore, for example. Parental fear is often at the root of many parent/child conflicts and is an important factor to consider when addressing childhood development and family conflict.

Here are some examples of fear-based approaches, along with alternative methods based more in trust than reactive emotions such as anxiety and fear. Every parent, at one time or another, has most likely utilized fear-based parenting approaches. The key is in limiting fear-based methods and understanding that parenting from a place of fear often robs children of opportunities to learn necessary skills, can cause family conflict, and can certainly harm a healthy sense of self-worth in the child.

• Helicopter Parenting: Over-involved in the child’s life in an effort to ‘protect’ the child from perceived harm and/or disappointment. In contrast, trust-based parenting recognizes that reacting to exaggerated fears of danger or failure often constricts a child’s ability to develop resilience when faced with disappointment or hardship.

• Snowplow Parenting: Relying on privilege and influence to clear a path to perceived success for the child, often without the child knowing. Instead, trustful parenting acknowledges that success looks different for everyone and that when the child utilizes his or her own skills and abilities, important skills are developed such as executive functioning skills and critical thinking skills.

• Fuel-injector Parenting: A focus on competition and achieving in the hopes that the child will acquire skills that will ensure success in adult life. Emphasis is on winning. Trustful parenting, however, recognizes a child’s true strengths with little or no concern for winning and utilizes an understanding that self-worth is developed through accomplishing goals, as well as experiencing hardship and disappointment.

• Tiger Parenting: An attempt to exert complete control over the child’s activities and accomplishments, with an expectation of perfection. Tiger parents will utilize extreme measures to motivate their children to succeed, such as screaming, threats, lies, insults, and shaming. In sharp contrast, a parenting approach based in trust involves setting developmentally appropriate rules and expectations for the child, while also allowing room for the child to guide his or her own development. Trustful parents avoid utilizing anger and shame-based tactics to motivate, as doing so can hinder self-worth and personal growth.

• Defensive Parenting: Aimed at protecting the parent more than the child from the judgement of others. Defensive parents have difficulty seeing themselves as separate from their children and apply judgement to the child’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, in relation to themselves. On the other hand, trustful parents can accept their child as an autonomous person and offer sincere praise and support. In this case, parents are not concerned with the opinions of others and do not view their child’s actions or choices as a reflection of themselves.

There are many moments in a child’s life when a parent or guardian must step in and offer assistance. But too much assistance, worry, or over-involvement is often ineffective and can lead to conflict between parent and child. Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, writes this about parenting, “Somewhere buried deep inside our hopes and fears for our children is the terrifying truth that there is no such thing as perfect parenting and there are no guarantees… the heated discussions that occupy much of the national parenting conversation conveniently distract us from this important truth: Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”.

I find these words comforting as a parent. We often worry so much about the day-to-day parenting struggles, that we forget the important point that as parents, how we behave in front of our children and on behalf of our children will be the greatest factor in their development. Children learn by watching, listening, and then doing. Simply being the adult we want our children to become is often the best approach to parenting.

If you are experiencing problems or have concerns in regards to parenting, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors.

Brown, C. B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, N.Y.: Gotham.

Gray, P. (2019, March 25). The Many Shades of Fear-Based Parenting. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201903/the-many-shades-fear-based-parenting


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