mother and daughter

Parenting with love and not with fear by Anne Andrew PhD –

(Chapter Nine of What They Don’t Teach in Prenatal Class: The Key to Raising Trouble-Free Kids and Teens by Anne Andrew PhD)

Anne Andrew, PhD
Anne Andrew, PhD

“There is really only one decision that underlies all other decisions concerning our children. Whether we will choose love or fear.”

— Peggy O’Mara

Imagine a world in which leaders work together to solve problems and wouldn’t even think of hurling insults at each other.

Imagine a world where the predominant drive is to help each other—not to try to get ahead to get more for ourselves.

Imagine a world in which sports activities are actually fun and athletes are not tempted to take performance-enhancing drugs because playing the game is more important than winning.

Imagine a world in which addictions and depression are nonexistent and in which high gross national happiness is the most sought-after goal of every country. You might call me Pollyanna, but I can’t give up on that vision yet. There is already one country (Bhutan) that measures its gross national happiness—surely more will follow.

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I don’t think this is as difficult to achieve, nor as far-fetched, as you think.

What we are seeing in the U.S. and around the world in the form of unkind, ruthless politicians is the result of years of politics of fear, and fear-mongering, fueled by media outlets that are hungry for advertising dollars. Love is the antidote.

We have to start somewhere so why not with us and with our children? All we really need to do is raise our children with love and not with fear. That may sound obvious, but it is not as simple as it sounds.

At this point, it will be helpful to check in with whether you are parenting  predominantly from fear, or from love by having a go at the quiz below. Details of how to score it are given at the bottom, but try not to look at that before answering all the questions. Don’t over think this – you are just getting a general sense of your fear-based or love-based orientation. There are NO grades 😉

Are you Parenting with Love or with Fear?

Circle your answers:

1) Did you agonize over which was the best high chair for your child?  Yes / No

2) Are you curious to find out who your child is and what they love to do? Yes / No

3) Did you look for the school or preschool program that will give your child an advantage when he or she grows up? Yes / No

4) Do you allow your child to fail? Yes /No

5) Do you have an image of your child in the future—a career path, or a major achievement? Yes / No

6) Do you stay calm while your child is having a tantrum? Yes / No

7) Do you get embarrassed when your child misbehaves? Yes / No

8) Do you allow your child to solve his or her own problems when possible? Yes / No

9) Do you choose all your child’s toys based on how intellectually- stimulating they are? Yes / No

10) Do you allow your child to express difficult emotions? Yes / No

11) Do you make sure your child’s clothes are coordinated before going out? Yes / No

12) Do you allow your child unstructured play time every day? Yes / No

13) Do you worry that your financial status will inhibit your ability to help your child get ahead? Yes / No

14) Do you trust that your child wants to be good? Yes / No

15) Do you attempt to shape your child into the person you want him or her to be? Yes / No

16) Do you accept your child unconditionally and act accordingly? Yes / No

17) Do you praise your child’s art attempts automatically? Yes / No

18) Do you talk to your child with respect? Yes / No

Score 1 point for every odd-numbered question you answered “Yes” to and 1 point for
every even numbered question that you answered “No” to.

1-5 points indicates a loving approach to parenting – let’s bring this down to a zero!

6-18 points indicates a predominantly fearful parenting style.

What Does It Mean to be Parenting Out of Love?

Earlier in the book, I explained that loving unconditionally is harder than we tend to think it is. I also gave some strategies to help to clear the way for unconditionally loving relationships. On a day to day basis for individual parenting decisions, ask yourself, “Does this lead to closeness rather than to separation?” and “Does this help
my child to a better understanding of his or her Inherent Worth, and connection with his or her essential nature?” If you can honestly answer “Yes” to these questions, then you are parenting out of love. The key to parenting in this way is to be vigilant with your own thoughts about yourself and to keep processing upsets using the Choose Again Six-Step Process described in Chapter Five.

The best example of love-based parenting from my own life came after I had been using the Six-Step Process for several years while my daughter was in crisis. One situation tested the work that I had done. I received a phone call that no parent wishes to receive. At the time, I was driving north on I-5 from Seattle back to Vancouver with two of my colleagues. We’d been at a conference and had stayed for dinner and I knew I had to get back that night, because my daughter, still a teenager, was home alone. About half an hour before we reached the border my cell phone rang. I had my hands on the wheel so asked my friend to answer for me.

“It’s the police,” she said, pressing the phone to my ear. I kept my composure and focused on my driving. I had to concentrate because the roads were wet, and it was very dark and difficult to see the lines.

“Your daughter’s OK,” he said. “There’s been a party at your house. And it got out of hand. Some people came with baseball bats and now your windows are smashed. Do you want to speak to your daughter?”

Still driving, staring straight ahead, I said “Yes, go ahead, put her on.”“Hi, Mom.” I could tell she was drunk.

“Hi darling, I love you!” I could hear her starting to cry. “Can you ask a friend to find a twenty-four-hour glass repairman? The windows need fixing. I’ll be home by the time they come.”

The parent I used to be would have screamed and yelled, blaming her for being irresponsible. But I no longer was repeating to myself “I’m a bad parent” or “I’m stupid.”  None of my old buttons were pushed. And so, the windows were just a neutral problem to be solved. I had taken emotion out of the equation.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I had changed. Recovering my awareness of my Inherent Worth had changed my behavior and transformed my life. I went from being a scream machine to being an effective love-based parent, from being chronically depressed to finding joy in every single day. The ripple effects transformed my daughter’s life too. This was the moment that she let love in and it was a real turning point in her healing.

So, parenting out of love happens naturally when you maintain your peace by using the Six-Step Process at every opportunity to keep your emotions out of your interactions with your children.

What Does It Mean to be Parenting Out of Fear?

We are parenting from fear when our negative beliefs are dictating our responses to our child’s behavior, and to our own needs to establish our worth. To give you an example: if I want my child to be a professional athlete or a virtuoso violinist, I may sign them up for lessons and be disappointed when they do not perform according to my expectations. Having expectations of them will inevitably lead to disappointment somewhere along the line and disappointment is the result of a negative belief about myself.

On an everyday level, this simply means that if I expect them to say “thank you!” to Grandma for giving them an ice cream and instead they just grab it and run outside, I’ll be upset and angry because my belief that I’m a bad parent was triggered. That then needs to be processed. Of course, it is appropriate to help a child to understand the advantages of being polite, but this can only be done when the emotion has been taken out of the situation and it is merely a point of information, which could be practiced in a fun way at a later time.

Your own beliefs interact with your child’s beliefs in a co-dependant “tango.” Your child will provide evidence for your beliefs, and your reactions to your child will provide evidence for your child’s beliefs. We lock each other into a cycle which is our comfort zone, but which is not beneficial to either of us! Many of us have a deep-seated belief that we are bad parents—a belief that grew out of a much earlier belief that we are not good enough, or just simply bad. That belief demands repetitive, ongoing evidence and our children are more than willing to provide it.

The irony is that we need our children to be perfect to cover up the belief that we are bad parents, and they need to fail at it to provide the evidence that strengthens the belief instead. Our children believe they are not “good enough” or “bad” and they will gain all the evidence they need for these beliefs when they don’t live up to our expectations of their behavior or their achievements in our eyes. It’s a perfect set-up, but there is a way out.

We undo this set-up or trap when we process all our upsets and undo our beliefs by reminding ourselves constantly that our Worth is Inherent. This is not something that we do once, but a continual practice of catching our negative thoughts and feelings. We are rewiring our brains with different thought patterns and it takes a while!

When we use the strategies that I gave in Chapter Three to strengthen our children’s awareness of their Inherent Worth, we free them from the need to provide evidence for use of our and their own misconstrued beliefs. It is obvious that some of the things we may do deliberately or inadvertently as parents are coming from fear-based thinking.

Here are a few:

Blame

Blame is always coming from fear. Step Two of the Choose Again Six-Step Process (Chapter 5) is the step that does away with blame completely. Any upset or reaction I have to any situation is always about me—not about my child or the incident at hand. Blame deflects the attention from me, which is where deep down, I think it belongs. I am likely to blame others if I will look bad by taking responsibility for something. I’d rather deflect the blame than trigger my belief that I am not good enough, bad, guilty, or a victim. In fact, any time I am tempted to blame others, I am playing out my role as a victim. Something went wrong, and it wasn’t my fault!

This was a tricky one for me. I have a knee-jerk reaction to blame others because I have a need to look perfect to protect the image I project of myself to cover up my inner monster—the monstrous person I subconsciously believe I am. I would even blame my children rather than have my imperfections exposed! Taking 100 percent responsibility for my actions and reactions has greatly enhanced my experience in life and overall happiness.

Punishment

The word “punishment” tends to evoke a visceral reaction because of its connotations with pain and fear. In days gone by, parents would use the phrase “This is for your own good” before administering a spanking. On some level, they must have thought that it was a loving thing to do! Here’s the thing: Punishment is never loving. Punishment hurts a child and leads to separation rather than closeness. It contributes to a fear-based system of behavior. It worsens a child’s behavior and contributes to mental health issues in the long term.

A child who appears to be acting out or misbehaving is issuing a cry for love, and an extension of love is the appropriate response to that call. As a school principal, I informed my staff that to be helpful to any child acting out we needed to “Love them more!” In practical terms that meant giving them the necessary attention to find out what was going on behind the scenes and what was driving the presenting behavior. If teachers and principals would all be familiar with the Six-Step Process, they would be able to diagnose the hidden beliefs driving negative behavior and they’d be sure to promote the Inherent Worth of every student as the antidote. It is something to aim for! The same thing goes for parents.

Time-In Versus Time-Out

Fortunately, in many countries around the world, spanking is no longer legal. However, children can also be traumatized by “time-outs” because of the isolation it causes. Parenting experts Laura Markham (Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids), Rebecca Eanes (Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide), and others advocate for “Time-Ins”, and that is a great idea. Spending time with a child who is out of control will be far more productive than isolating that child and feeding the negative beliefs that drove the behavior in the first place. Rebecca Eanes suggests having a “Time-In kit” with such things in it as paper to tear, a glitter jar to shake to help in calming down, or a feather as a visual cue. Taking a young child onto your knee and giving a hug will help them to understand that “We’re on the same team–I can help you!”–rather than “It’s me against you.”

Shaming a child for behaving a certain way will also make matters worse and will feed stubborn negative beliefs. Relieving children of the shame they pick up throughout their lives, particularly during toilet training and again at puberty, will be very helpful. Talking openly and age-appropriately about feelings, sex, and puberty will help to decrease feelings of shame that children accumulate.

Judgment

All judgment is of ourselves, and it is always coming from a fearful place. We see only perfection when we are operating out of a loving place—when we know who we are. Our children don’t enjoy being judged, and neither do we. It simply reinforces negative beliefs. The only use for judgment is to find out what you believe about yourself—your judgments of others point directly to the beliefs that you have buried the deepest. Make sure you look at them and process them—how does it feel when you have that judgment about yourself? Take that back to an early memory and figure out the belief beneath it.

Resentment

Resentment is a nasty emotion that can build up over time. It is the unfortunate result of love which has been given conditionally. Parents believe that they are giving out of love, but if there is any resentment whatsoever, it points to that love as having strings attached. “I’m happy to fund your education, or help you get started on your own, but I need you to show your appreciation.” When that appreciation isn’t loud enough or sincere enough or given in a particular way, resentment is the result. Process the feeling of resentment to discover where it is coming from. It is not about your child’s lack of appreciation, it’s about you—a belief that you are not worthy or some such hidden
belief in play. You can heal it!

There are several situations in which fear masquerades as love. Here are a few of
them:

Worry

I have an elderly friend who lets me know whenever she worries about me because to her the worrying she does shows me that she loves me. The problem is that worrying is not a loving thing to do. It causes distress to the person doing the worrying and serves no other purpose for them, except perhaps to prove to them that they are weak and powerless—victims of the circumstances they are worrying about. It contributes to bad health (and grey hair!). Consider worrying as a prayer for the worst outcome. It focuses emotional energy, time, and attention onto the outcome that is not wanted but does nothing to achieve the preferred outcome.

The other problem with worrying is that it gives a negative message to the person being worried over. If I know that someone is worrying about me, I get the message that the person doesn’t think I am capable of taking care of myself in whatever situation I am in, and that I’m not safe. Neither of these things is true! Worrying feeds negative beliefs—providing evidence of their veracity.

Worrying about my daughter when she was in crisis seemed like a very natural thing to do and I certainly made myself sick with worry for years. Learning not to worry was a huge relief and a big first step in healing for us both. I actually find it easy not to worry about anything now by recognizing how damaging and how futile it is.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice is another fear-based idea that comes from believing that something had to be given up to achieve a particular outcome. Parents will often tell their children of the sacrifices they had to make for the welfare of their offspring—such as moving to a bigger town, a better school district, scrimping on the money they had so that shoes could be bought, or any number of possibilities. These gestures can all be done out of love, but when presented as a sacrifice, they are held against the child in the form of resentment. It suggests that the parents would rather not have done these things—they only did them for the sake of the child. If these were gifts that were truly given, the parents would have received the “energy” of the unconditional gift they gave and the idea that they sacrificed wouldn’t enter their consciousness.

Expectations

There are a good many parenting experts and psychologists that firmly believe having high expectations of a child is a good thing. It is entirely appropriate to see the potential in every child, but having high expectations of them is the result of fearful thinking processes. “If my child doesn’t get into university, he’ll never be able to support himself. I’ll be looking after him for the rest of my life!” “If my child doesn’t get a gold medal, my investment won’t have been worth it!” “If my child doesn’t do well, it’ll show me up as being a poor parent, or not as smart as her friend’s parents.” The kindest thing we can do for our children is to let go of our expectations of them—they are stressed out enough as it is!

Love-Based versus Fear-Based Chart

Here’s a chart summarizing some factors that are love-based and some that are
fear-based so that you can compare the two lists:

Love Fear
Nonjudgment Judgment
Hugs Punishment
Time-In Time-Out
Smiles Sacrifice
Acceptance Worry
Circle of Humanity Ranking
Innocence  Guilt
Freedom Blame
Joy  Shame
Unconditional love Resentment
Problem-solving Expectations

Is Love-Based Parenting Too Permissive?

The question that is being asked is coming from a fearful place. That fear is of being judged for having spoiled children. Accusing a parent of spoiling their child is a damning judgment of their ability to parent and no parent wishes to hear that from anyone, least of all their own parents. If this is an issue for you, please note the feelings that come up in you when you imagine hearing this accusation, then process them using the Choose Again Six-Step Processs. This is not about being accused of spoiling your child; rather, it goes back to a belief that you are bad, guilty, or not good enough. It isn’t true!!

There is a common misconception among parents that if they parent solely out of love, they will spoil their children. The characteristics of a spoiled child are:

 Ungrateful
 Entitled
 Demanding

Children who are raised to know their Inherent Worth are unlikely to display any of these traits. In fact, gratitude, which is a cornerstone of this loving approach, is the antidote to spoiling.

This loving approach to parenting is definitely not permissive. Permissive parents are parenting out of the fear of losing the love of their children if they don’t give in to their every demand. A parent who knows who he or she is will not be a pushover but will be firm and calm in stating their requests. They will also be secure in not reacting angrily to pushback and capable of “holding the space” for their children. Keep asking the question, “Is this the loving thing to do?” and remind yourself that the answer is “yes” when the decision being questioned brings to light a greater awareness of the Inherent Worth of both parent and child.

Key Takeaways:

 We can examine our interactions with our children and partner to discover how much fear
there is in our approach to parenting and to life in general.

 Ask yourself if your parenting decisions are fear-based or love-based and favor love-
based decisions as often as possible.

 Make a conscious decision to move from fear-based to love-based parenting.

 Use the Choose Again Six-Step Process to move gradually from a fear-based way of
thinking to a love-based system by applying it to as many upsets as possible every day.

 Banish blame.

 Be nonjudgmental—accept your child as he is.

 Stop worrying!

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Anne Andrew

Anne Andrew, PhD is the author of What They Don’t Teach in Prenatal Class: The Key to Raising Trouble Free Kids and Teens. A proactive parenting coach with a blog at www.anneandrew.com, she spent twenty years working as a school principal at Temple Sholom in Vancouver, Canada. When not leading parenting workshops or facilitating Choose Again healing circles, Anne can be found at the park with her granddaughter. She lives in Vancouver with her husband.
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