The Consequences of Using Fear to Raise Your Children

If you like to use fear to raise your children, you should change that behavior and think about their emotional security. Keep reading.
The Consequences of Using Fear to Raise Your Children

Last update: 11 July, 2023

Most parents try to do their best to raise their children in the best possible way. However, some harmful strategies have become normalized and affect children’s emotional security on a daily basis. Among them, is the harmful habit of using fear to raise children or, in other words, scaring them to make them obey. It’s a resource that seems effective but has serious consequences.

“If you keep throwing this tantrum, I’ll give you to a stranger”, “If you don’t stop being naughty, the police are going to take you to jail, ” etc… There are so many phrases that are born from the creativity of parents without emotional intelligence, increasing the feeling of terror so that their children will behave the way they want. Even if that means generating insecure, fearful children with low self-esteem.

Why is scaring children into obeying harmful?

Words said lightly are one of the worst enemies of positive communication. This is because they’re said without giving much thought to their meaning and without being aware of their great impact. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not hurtful enough to remain engraved in the memory of a hurt child.

A sad and frightened little boy.
Knowing how to take care of the way we communicate with children is fundamental in all positive parenting and assertive communication.

Because flippant threats or warnings can generate insecurities that end up affecting the emotional development of children. Fear is a very powerful emotion that can take over the body and mind of children, making them feel a deep fear of things or scenarios that don’t actually pose a danger.

For example, imagine a family whose only child was going from kindergarten to elementary school. And, although everyone was excited, they thought it would be a good idea to warn the child with phrases like, “Be good or you’ll get in trouble”, “Beware of bullies who want to hit you,” “Don’t mess with anyone at recess,” or “Older kids are bad, stay away from them.” 

This caused the little boy to feel a deep, physical fear of going to school and he cried inconsolably when he was left there. He felt insecure, terrified, and anxious, and he didn’t know why his parents were leaving him in a place that was full of so many dangers. The most effective solution to improve his behavior would have been to change their speech and encourage him with all the good things about going to school.

The consequences of using fear to raise your children

Like the previous example, there are many cases where internal fears end up developing due to phrases that are engraved in a child’s memory. From the mother who tells her to stay away from dogs because they bite to a father who, through prejudice, implanted a suspicion in his little ones about people of color.

A frightened boy biting his nails.
Children shouldn’t grow up feeling insecure about themselves or afraid of the outside world. It’s better to cultivate their self-esteem and security.

And whatever the unfounded fear that using fear to raise your child brings, it only generates direct consequences in their personality, such as the loss of their sense of safety, confidence, and self-esteem. What’s more, children can develop phobias or irrational fears that produce anxiety. 

So if you want your children to abide by the rules and limits, it’s better to use your daily example and take advantage of dialogue and reflection to make them aware of their actions. It’s useless to scare them into behaving a certain way. Rather, motivate them to fulfill their responsibilities because they’re aware of their commitments.

What can we do to avoid using fear to raise our children?

The first step to avoiding scaring children to get them to obey is to keep in mind the great emotional impact that this entails. Because of this, when talking to your children, think carefully about what you’re going to say. Instead of using fear or emotional blackmail, talk to them with respect and empathy so that they understand that certain behaviors are unacceptable and they must abide by the limits and rules taught at home.

Also, when advising them about something that’ll soon come into their lives, try not to do it from the perspective of being in constant vigilance or fear. Because, although it’s true that not everything in the world is a bed of roses, it’s better to encourage children to give the best of themselves and feel at ease with their environment than to generate fears and phobias that will only affect them negatively.

Because of all of the above, set a good example and guide your children to grow up trusting in themselves and strengthening their self-esteem. And never use terror or psychological violence to make them obey quickly. Instead, cultivate values and limits at home so they understand the consequences of their behavior.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.