Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wrong to Teach About Fear?

I was reading some bedtime stories to Cairo last night when this happened:

Cairo: "Pie-der, pie-der! Keng-keng.... daahhh pie-der (waving her little bolster in the spider's direction)! Jau ah, pie-der!"
(Translation: Spider, spider! Scared... beat spider! Go away, spider!)

I tried assuring her that there were no spiders (having taken a good look even though I was pretty sure).

I even went so far as to carry her over to the corner and had a "spider hunt" just to prove her wrong but she quickly lost all interest in her story books and became fixated and alternated between screaming out her fears about the crawly and showing me how to squash it with her little bolster, Mr Smelly.

My mind began to wonder. Did someone tell her to fear spiders when she has never seen one in real life and had certainly no reason to be scared of it? I was reading Miss Muffet to her last week... could it be that she really understood the rhyme???

Secondly, how did she come across the idea of "beating" the spider? All Miss Muffet did was ran away!

My mind throw up more questions on further reflection:

Question 1:
Say somebody did teach her about fear. Is it wrong to instill fear so early in kids or should we wait for them to discover it at their own pace? After all, one man's poison could be another's meat... are we killing whatever slim chances she might have to become the second Steve Corwin?

Question 2:
Are we subconsciously imparting violence on our kids and if so would a small dose be good for self protection against harm?

Question 3:
And if not now, when is the ripe time (if ever)? - Applicable to questions 1 and 2

I would very much like to hear what you folks think.


jazzmint said...

hmm no comment, cause i do instill these sort of stuff a result of terrible 2

alternative-mom said...

The Angel went through a similar phrase of being 'fearful' of the spider because once, we had a spider in bed, and her face came so close to the spider, she could have kissed it. We overcome it by learning about spiders although she is still not a big fan but at least, we can enjoy our lunch with a spider and its web between us on the bench we were sitting on.

I personally feel that fear/ violence should not be introduced to children at a young age, whether in books, tv, but sometimes, whenn using threats, we are introducing fear and possibly violence (guilty!!).

Humans are suvivors, even without the introduction of violence, I believe that we, so will our children, do anything to protect ourselves in self protection against harm. I don't believe that introducing violence will account for the self protection. Might in fact perpetuate the violent nature.

I personally find that fear and violence is in fact so prevalent that I'm doing more to protect my child from them than to think when is the time to ever introduce it. A mere interaction with another child we do not know, for instance, has taught my child the act of snatching (violence) and I do my utmost to eradicate possible thoughts of such acts by emphasising sharing but at the end of the day, I know that survival instinct prevails. My daughter might (?) just act in violence (snatch back / hit back, etc) if she is victimised all the time.

Let's teach them, make peace, not war. =)

PS : In the case of the spider, teach the true nature of spiders but not necessarily to be fearful. Read books about real spiders. Let her see spiders' webs....

blur_mommy said...

For me, I dun think it's too early to teach abt fear. I'm not talking abt heavy-duty fear but more of fear of little things, like animals, thunderstorm or darkness, the things that they might encounter everyday. At this age, they start to be more conscious abt things around them. The most impt thing is to teach them abt the things that fear them. For eg: Lil' C was afraid of dogs, so I started to teach her more abt dogs & nowadays, when she sees a dog, she will pat it & tells me Mommy, I'm not afraid of dogs! : )

Etcetera~Mommy said...

I think if you could manage it well, it is alright la. Even now I also scare my baby with monster eventho he know nuts what monster is... :P

Sweetpea said...

it is a large grey area. personally i will not instil fear, but depending on how adults react to the situation, the child may follow... e.g. hubby's mum afraid of mice. whenever she saw one, she would shoo all her children onto the table. today, my hubby is afraid of mice.. haha!

jean said...

Hi, me too, personally feel that we should not instil fear in young children. They will know what fear is when it is really scary to them.

I'm afraid of dog, tho' I won't run when i see one but I won't go near it. There was once, I almost said this "grace don't go near it, scary !" But i stopped myself from saying that. Yes I'm afraid but she is not. I can just caution her about it to be careful and not provoke the dog. Now she is getting along with dog pretty well..

For me, I would just explain to her and be there for her if she is afraid of certain things, be thunder, ants (she used to wail. dunno why eventho' we never instil fear in her. Now she is ok) So. really. If a child is afraid, just be there and try to comfort by explaining the truth or fact. Even if it doesn't seems to work for the 1st 2 times, it will eventually gets into them that there is nothing to be afraid or fear. But just don't instil fear in them purposely.

But of cos, when it comes to climbling and fear of falling from high places, we have to caution them beforehand.

Thanks for sharing!

Leelwan's Mummy said...

teaching fear is a lazy way out for parents. for instance, if you don't want your kids to misbehave... lots of parents would go "don't do that afterwards police will come" or "don't do that afterwards uncle/auntie/grandma will scold or monster will come". so what happens? they will dislike their fears and this is a very negative attitude in life.

children are very intelligent and many parents forget that. teach them about the world and they will know that they should not do certain things because of what will happen if they did instead of just telling them that it is scary.

remember when we were young... the more "no!"s we get for no reason... the more we will do it!!!

my two cents.

The New Parent said...

Hi CM--interesting post and some really good questions. I agree with most of the parents commenting.

What I might add is that there are two kinds of fear. Fear that is imaginative (phobias, dark rooms, monsters, horror movies, etc.) and fear that is for survival (something falling above you, someone attacking you, etc.).

The fear that is for survival is generally called the fight-or-flight reponse (when our adrenalin kicks in). Your body wants to either fight the "attacker" or flee from the situation. This is real fear and we teach our kids how to deal with those situations---crossing the street, not talking to strangers, etc. We can teach this without enhancing the fear factor though.

The imaginative fear comes from books, TV, other people, horror movies, monster things, and so on. This is something we teach (or expose our kids to) and isn't necessary. We call it entertainment or fun. But, in reality it instills imaginary fears.

Great post and thanks again for the thoughtfulness!