When Parents’ Fears Escalate

Written by NPN Guest on February 11th, 2014

Carnival of Natural Parenting, Gentle Discipline
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Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.

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When Parent Fears Escalate

One of the major fears parents have is: “I’m afraid my infant/child/adolescent will embarrass me.” This can only be topped by: “I’m a failure as a mother.” And, by the way, dads feel the same.

As a psychoanalyst who works daily with parents and their infants, children, and adolescents, I’ve noticed that parents’ fears escalate all the time by their own doing.

Here’s a simple example. When their child throws a temper tantrum at Costco, ashamed and embarrassed, they tell their child quietly: “Pleeeeze stop, now.” Of course then the child screams louder and longer because she doesn’t feel heard emotionally. Whatever she wanted on the racks is no longer the point, though she’ll say it is. Her point is, “You don’t get me!”

Then the caring parent says, “Here are two choices, pick one and I’ll buy it.” Then the child starts spinning around in a whirl of indecision, “I CAN’T decide!”

The same thing can happen with a teenager at Marshall’s. The exact same scenario only now the epithets begin about what an out-of-step mother you are. Since you actually aren’t totally in-step with all the fashions of sixteen-year-olds (because no one over sixteen is), you then think to yourself the BIG fear: “I’m a failure as a mother. I haven’t kept up with what’s cool to wear and I don’t know if tight skirts are really what all the other girls are wearing–and–those other well-dressed, skinny moms are looking at me!”

Both fears are not actually born out of these situations, but precede the events.

Fears of being embarrassed often come from an insufficient support group where caring parents honestly confess what goes on with their kids and find out that what their kids do can be topped by what other kids do. That’s where they learn the norms of the behavior of their child’s stage of development and share tips of how to manage in confusing, chaotic situations. That’s where parents feel understood, not embarrassed.

Fears of being a failure as a parent run deeper. Even really good kids can touch on it several times a day because it comes from inside the best moms and dads. It often comes from feeling like a failure in other ways because the parent hasn’t been validated and accepted at different periods of their life and now the big test–being a good parent–is going to show the jig’s up.

There’s no fast answer to this fear because it’s so individual, except, for the time being, an emphatic reminder to the self-doubter that they really do fit in to the parenting world where all parents get anxious, worn down, exhausted, and confused and this does not mean failure–it means being a hard-working, loving parent.

If we didn’t self-doubt, we probably wouldn’t care enough about our children to struggle with trying to get to know them and understand them. It may seem to them that we’re just trying to make them like us, or for some, not like us, but the good stuff that makes a parent not fail is to remember to indicate somehow, in one’s own way, to their baby/child/teen that you know your child is an individual with a mind that has thoughts, wishes, feelings and intentions that you’re trying to understand. Parents can’t be on the same page as their kids, even most of the time, but it doesn’t make them a failure if their kids can eventually feel that.

Editors’ note: We’d love for you to find your own virtual community at Natural Parents Network through our active Facebook page and our Facebook group if you’d like a quieter forum. We strive to connect parents so they can empower and inspire each other as they share information about their own parenting experiences — in a nonjudgmental and open environment, we often find out that certain behaviors are age-appropriate and learn new ways we can parent gently and mindfully.

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Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., psychoanalyst with infants, children, adolescents and their parents and adults on their own, writes articles about child development in parenting magazines (liparentonline.com, Growing Years 6-10 ) and international psychoanalytic journals and about divorce and co-parenting (Family Law Journal), as well as being in the midst of a writing a new parenting book. She is also an accomplished painter who enjoys doing art work with children.

Please feel free to write to her with your questions and thoughts, as well as, send pictures of your children’s art work to: dr.lauriehollman@gmail.com.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • When Parents’ Fears Escalate — If we didn’t self-doubt, we probably wouldn’t care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama’s family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I’m a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Proactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son’s future?
  • I Don’t Homeschool to Manage My Kids’ Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household – that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent – that most parents share – looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit…Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear…
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren’t anywhere near as scary as she’d thought.
  • Don’t fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to future parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me… — Kristen at Country Fit Family discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.

Photo Credits

Enokson via Flickr

12 Responses to When Parents’ Fears Escalate

  1. Dionna  

    Embarrassment is such a big motivator. But when we feel confident and comfortable enough to simply interact with our children – the way we intend to – without worrying about what others think about us, that’s when we can really have a respectful, meaningful interaction in the middle of stress. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  2. ukash

    Both fears are not actually born out of these situations, but precede the events.

  3. Kristen B  

    I agree that it is very important for parents to have other parents that they can be completely open and honest with. Where they know they will not be judged. I find that many parents pretend that everything is perfect when it is not. This just perpetuates the feeling that perfection is necessary and attainable.

  4. Lauren Wayne  

    Yes! I find some of my worst parenting decisions come as a reaction to fears about other people judging me. If I can tune that out and focus on my kids, it goes so much better, even if there’s still a meltdown happening.

    • Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.  

      Lauren,
      I love the picture of your family! I’ve found one of the ways to help with the judging factor when there’s a meltdown is to step back and take a moment to see how you feel. Kind of reconnect with yourself instead of the onlookers.Even with a meltdown there can be a moment of time for yourself. If you find you try this, let me know how it goes if you wish.

  5. Justine Uhlenbrock  

    “…an emphatic reminder to the self-doubter that they really do fit in to the parenting world where all parents get anxious, worn down, exhausted, and confused and this does not mean failure.” Yes. This is a lovely reminder.

  6. Jaye Anne  

    Wow these are all things I have been thinking and feeling a LOT lately. It’s difficult to get a handle on them in the moment and that is something I am working on.

    “It often comes from feeling like a failure in other ways because the parent hasn’t been validated and accepted at different periods of their life and now the big test–being a good parent–is going to show the jig’s up.” Thank you for saying this out loud!

  7. Hannah  

    I think that I focus too much on the “now” parenting fear and tend not to remember that I will equally be unable to understand what my child(ren) are “saying” when they get older. I see this as an adult child with well meaning parents who frequently don’t understand my and my siblings needs.

    • Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.  

      Hi Hannah,
      I think one of the keys to understanding young and older children is first stepping back before reacting. Suspending judgement about behavior or what is said and noticing your own reactions first often leads to the time needed for really listening.If you try this, let me know how it works if you wish to write back.

  8. Tarana  

    I never worry about the first (because kids are kids!), but sometimes, the second fear can creep into my mind. I wish we shared our fears and mistakes as parents as often as we share our proud moments. I wish we didn’t create an aura of perfection about our parenting ways, so that we could all relax and find our way.

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