Are You Scared of Your Child?

5 signs you fear your kids and how you can change their behaviour

Parents fearing their children is more common than you might think. Many parents are so afraid of tantrums and kids' reactions that they bend over backwards trying please them.

Now, there's nothing wrong with giving into kids sometimes and wanting what's best for them. However, children feel more secure in an environment that has boundaries, where rules are gently but firmly enforced, and negative behaviour is not rewarded.

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Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator and author of "Duct Tape Parenting," says, "allowing children to set the guidelines is not conducive for their healthy emotional development." 

Clinical psychologist and relationship specialist Dr. Jeanette Raymond agrees, noting that "maintaining a sense of caring authority at all times makes a child feel safe."

Here are five signs you may be scared of your child, or the child you nanny, and some strategies to help:

1. Do you give in often?

Capitulating to kids' demands because it's easier than dealing with a temper tantrum conveys to children that you're afraid of them. It also makes them feel like they're free to do as they please. "You are the leader of the pack, so act like it," explains Hoefle. "Despite how difficult they make your life when they don't get what they want, your job is to set limitations and to create structure. Living within boundaries will enable your kids to thrive." 

2. Do you avoid setting guidelines for acceptable behaviour?

Having no rules or having very strict rules that can't be enforced won't result in the good behaviour you want from your children. "It isn't wrong or bad to tell your child what is acceptable and what isn't. Make simple, clear rules that you as a parent can enforce, and do so at all times," advises Dr. Raymond. "The child knows where they are when there are clearly defined rules and consequences."

3. Do you create routines around one child?

If you create routines to pacify one particular child and don’t take the needs of other family members into account, you are promoting selfishness and self-centeredness. "In addition, stress and uneasiness will be present in the household because one child has too much power and influence," Hoefle points out. "If a child has to make a small sacrifice to accommodate the needs of others, he will learn to be considerate and consequently, greater harmony will be enjoyed in the home."                                                                                                          

4. Are you consistent?

When you have a rule that no TV is allowed until homework is finished, avoid making exceptions. Try to be consistent in enforcing guidelines, or the child won't have a clear understanding of your expectations. "If a particular punishment or withholding of privileges is associated with a certain offense, enforce the disciplinary action without showing the child you feel guilty," says Dr. Raymond. "Also, don't try to compensate and undo the consequences."

5. Do you withdraw into another room?

"Retreating into another room to avoid an encounter with a child will send him a message there is something wrong with him," Hoefle warns. "Establish weekly meetings to provide a non-threatening atmosphere to solve challenges. This provides a positive venue to discuss chores, fighting, and other issues that need to be addressed." If you have a nanny or babysitter, make sure they are a part of these discussions, so the rules stay consistent.

Being a parent or nanny has its tough moments. Sometimes it seems like requirements for the job are nerves of steel and a backbone of iron. Nevertheless, remember that if you reward bad behaviour and placate your child to avoid a tantrum, you can expect the bad behaviour to continue. The good news is the above guidelines can help you navigate this difficult aspect of raising a child.

Mary West is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in an array of online publications.

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