childhood fears

3 Mistakes Dads Make With Kids and Fear

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Two of my boys are scaredy cats. They will remain nameless. Their childhood fears often get the better of them. The other day, they yelled from outside for me to kill a bug. As their dad, one of my roles is to give them the confidence they need to fight bigger giants. So I told them from inside the house to kill it themselves. Otherwise, fear might have my sons being scared of bugs for the rest of their lives.

I’ve heard it said that fear is F-E-A-R: False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear will make us see things that aren’t even there. We all have fears and it’s important to face them. But what happens if our kids never face their childhood fears in the right way? Here are 3 mistakes dads make with kids and fears.

Mistake 1: They overprotect their kids.

We can’t protect our kids so much that they’re too afraid to do anything.

When I was younger, I played football with guys who made the team but, while standing on the sidelines, with all the pads and protection, were afraid to get on the field and play in the game. What were these guys there for? This is not the mentality we should have for life. We can’t protect our kids so much that they’re too afraid to do anything.

We need to recognize when we’re trying to protect our kids too much. Has your child ever experienced failure? When your child is in kindergarten, you may walk him to class on those first few days. But at some point, you have to let him face it himself. If you step in too much as a dad, you risk leaving your kids on the sidelines, afraid to get hurt. We need to be fine with failure as long as our kids are in the game. Let’s encourage our kids to battle their giants rather than have us do it for them.

Has there been a time when you protected your kids, but in looking back, it was best to let your kids learn instead?

Mistake 2: They don’t see fear as an opportunity for kids to win.

When I was a rookie in the NFL, I tore my ACL. I realized my own limitations quickly. I was afraid to get back on the field. And I could’ve stayed on the sidelines after my injury. I almost felt like doing that. I know from experience that fear will inhibit you.

But I didn’t stay on the sideline. And you know what happened? Getting back on that field gave me more confidence. The next time your child is afraid of something, recognize it as an opportunity for her to win. Yes, fear inhibits, but when you overcome it, it gets less powerful. You can give your child hope to overcome her fear. The dad who gets this right will raise kids who have a healthy confidence to face fear.

Are you equipping your kids to confront their fears? 

Mistake 3: They minimize fear.

When childhood fears come, it’s not time for you to poke fun, make jokes, or be sarcastic. I’ve made this mistake with my boys in the past. Even though they can be scaredy cats, when I’m at my best, whether my kids are afraid of the dark or facing a friend’s rejection, they don’t need me to minimize their fear. They need my encouragement. They need to know I believe in them—that their fear is real.

Dads can keep from minimizing fear by doing several things. At my house, we read stories from books of people who overcome fears. My wife and I tell about past experiences of fear and how we overcame it and what we learned. The point is, instead of cutting our kids’ legs out from under them, we can use our experiences with fear as opportunities to connect and equip our kids for life.

Is there an experience of fear that you can share that will connect with your child in a meaningful way?

Sound off: What do you think is the most important way we can help our kids with their fears?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing that used to scare you that doesn’t anymore?”