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Do your children fear you? Just my own thoughts.

(25 Posts)
imustbemadme Sat 15-Jun-13 08:32:25

I often wonder when reading these topics on here if a lot of the problems we have these days is that children have no fear of authority anymore. Is this because of all the 'childline' type things they have available to them, I do actually know a woman whose 6 yr old rang childline after she'd been told off!

In my house, I know my children still fear us as parents, not in a bad way you understand, but they are held accountable for their actions and even when I recently discovered what my eldest had been up to, she was remorseful, she cried, looked embarrassed and was clearly uncomfortable at having been found out. This is a great reaction. If she'd have shrugged her shoulders and told me it was none of my business then I'd really have a problem.

Likewise my youngest tells me I'm scary when I'm angry which makes me laugh because I never ever even shout, I don't have to. I only have speak more firmly and my kids know I mean it. Is that because they haven't got used to years of me smacking them every time I'm annoyed with them or yelling at them to do stuff. If they've been asked to pick something up more than twice, it goes in the bin !! Simple as.

Let me tell you why I've always been this way. I had a mother who thought that it was okay to slap me around the face/head whenever we argued and a father who took his belt off to my sister once and whipped her. I've NEVER forgiven my parents for their lack of parenting and NEVER want my kids to have THAT kind of fear of us. I don't agree with people who say their parents smacked them and it didn't do them any harm, but maybe they weren't smacked the way I was. My parents hurt my feelings often and made me feel like an inconvenience to them, as though they hated me. My children will never feel that way.

So where do children find the courage to rebel all the time, to not care about the consequences. In my sisters house two out of her six kids are this way, they hang out of the window smoking pot, one of them ran away for a week and was picked up by police only to do it again and then call her mum when she'd run out of money and asked to be picked up !!!! They steal from stores and even from teachers at school, the eldest has been excluded form two schools and yet continues to be the same way.

I only know that when troubles starts brewing I'm not afraid to go head to head with my girls. I want them to be able to make good choices and have a good sense of right and wrong to help them make those choices. I am always here for them and have always told them that they can tell me anything even if they don't want me to do anything about it (unless it was something really major like a police matter).

I hope I haven't offended anyone by writing my thoughts down. Have a good day everyone xx

cory Sat 15-Jun-13 08:39:36

I don't think there is always a direct connection between lack of fear and rebelliousness.

From what I have seen of the world (both now and in the past) some of the most rebellious teens are shit scared of their parents. It is their fear that takes such bizarre forms.
(Not saying in any way that this is true of your sister's family- it is not the only way in which rebelliousness happens).

And some of the firmest and most sensible parents end up with one rebellious teen (often with 2 or 3 perfectly well behaved and dutiful siblings)- because of something that is wrong with that child.

So I don't think those of us who have fairly cooperative teens have any cause for smugness.

cory Sat 15-Jun-13 08:41:24

Also, in some children, answering back can actually mean that they are hideously embarrassed and are going to make sure they never end up in this situation again. My ds is one of those teens: I was one myself. Both of us very well behaved but extremely sensitive to criticism.

Otoh some teens will apologise and cry and be remorseful- and just make sure they're not caught out next time. I've known a few teens like that in my day. Never spoke a disrespectful word against their parents- and couldn't be trusted for a minute out of their sight. Often the parents refused to believe teachers and other adults who complained about their lack of respect.

There's all kinds out there.

OrangeLily Sat 15-Jun-13 08:44:45

You sound horrendous. Please remember these are human beings that you have to have a long lasting relationship with.

Gain respect not fear. There is a difference. sad

Hassled Sat 15-Jun-13 08:51:22

I was a bit thrown recently by my DC3 who seems to have had an absolute panic at the prospect of a teacher ringing me because he hadn't done something he should have. He didn't want me to be cross - but a) I'm hardly ever cross with him and b) I didn't think he'd care particularly. But I was pleased that he cared - found it quite reassuring.

But his response wasn't fear - fear is too strong a word; I'd hate to think my kids to feared me. A healthy respect, not wanting to cause a parent upset etc - fine, but not fear.

Jimalfie Sat 15-Jun-13 12:50:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

flow4 Sat 15-Jun-13 12:51:33

One day when my DS1 was 14, he suddenly realised he had grown bigger and taller than me, and I couldn't make him do anything any more. He was a child who had always pushed boundaries, but I remember this particular day vividly, because I grounded him, and he still headed for the door; I stood between him and it, and he climbed out of the window. It was the start of a few years of trouble...

It set me thinking and watching other kids. I realised that very often they were asked/told to do things they didn't want to do, and basically only did those things because they reckoned their parent would otherwise 'make' them. I came to the disturbing conclusion, like you, that all parental discipline was under-pinned by fear.

However, as time moved on a bit, I realised some kids - many or most of them - were not as driven to rebel as my DS1. My own DS2 grew a bit older, and I noticed that when I asked him to do something he didn't want to do, he wasn't even considering whether I could 'make' him; he was considering the level of hassle involved! He'd try to avoid doing what he didn't want to do, until it was more effort not to do it than to do it!

One crucial difference between my two boys is that DS2 learned to 'make himself' do things very young - he learned to entertain himself, and he learned that effort and attention paid off. DS1 in the other hand is only just, now at 18, learning those things.

It is not about laziness - DS1 has put a huge amount of effort into avoidance, and very often brought a lot of extra hassle to himself. It does have something to do with fear and courage, but not in the way you think - DS1 has terrified himself with his rebellions, and imo he has been 'testing' himself, and me, as if he didn't actually believe he could manage without me, or that I'd let him.

There are lots of possible reasons for this - lots of family details and individual dynamics... But to come back to the original point...

I think a key part of growing up is learning to take responsibility for one's own actions; developing from "I do the right thing because s/he makes me" to "I make myself". Notions of 'authority' can actually get in the way of kids learning to take responsibility for themselves. Parents who find themselves 'head to head' with their teens may be wise to realise that, rather than trying to 'keep control', it's time to start pushing your kids to control themselves.

SuperiorCat Sat 15-Jun-13 12:55:17

I think / hope that the DCs respect, rather than fear, us.

There are consequences for bad behaviour - removal of privileges etc, but this is a rarety as mainly they know what behaviour is acceptable and what isn't.

Of course they push the boundaries, but if the answer from me is a no, with an explanation that makes sense, whether they like it or not, they generally accept it......for the moment grin

lljkk Sat 15-Jun-13 13:08:54

they think we are numpties, we know they are numpties.

I thought my parents were numpties, too.

ps: I mostly have older kids.

MumnGran Sat 15-Jun-13 13:24:43

I agree that "fear" is too strong a word, but surely the essence of raising happy healthy responsible adults is to instil the boundaries that make society tick along.
Adults toe the line because we fear consequences.....we don't steal, because we fear the judicial process. We don't murder for the same reason. We fear getting points on our licences for traffic offences, and ending up in court if we don't pay our bills.

Parents start the process of 'fearing' consequences. It doesn't need to be instilled by physical violence, but we do need to give our children the foundation to be decent law-abiding members of the society we live in. I did not "hit" my children, can count the number of times I smacked them on the hand in single figures (in total!), and believed in talking, negotiation and discussion, and the occasional shout. They were not frightened of me ....but they also never let me reach the end of "counting to five", because they were worried about the consequence of pushing the boundary that far!
By the time children are teens, it is far too late to be talking about fear, because they should already have the framework of self discipline in place - instilled when they are very young.
(and I do accept that not all kids are the same, and there are some very challenging teens!)

flow4 Sat 15-Jun-13 13:37:50

It's an interesting debate, and perhaps I hold a minority view, but I don't think I "toe the line because I fear consequences". I don't steal or murder because I wouldn't like anyone to do those things to me, and empathy lets me understand I shouldn't therefore do them to anyone else. I pay my bills because I want central heating and water and electricity. I pay my taxes because I understand that every society needs some way of funding its shared services, and accept that taxes are one mostly-reasonable way of doing that...

I have always used 'consequences', but much preferred 'natural' ones: from "you didn't eat your tea, so now you are hungry", to "you didn't keep the last promise you made, so I don't trust you this time"...

This approach worked perfectly with DS2, who is pleasant and well-behaved and responsible and happy. It was challenging with DS1, who pushed his luck constantly and fought me often, but fingers crossed is entering his adult life also pleasant and reasonably well-behaved and responsible and happy.

MuchBrighterNow Sat 15-Jun-13 13:53:35

Certain teens will choose their own way regardless of their parent's wishes. I don't think it's always a result of the parenting style be it permissive or scarily strict.

Some kids will defy their parents regardless, even when they know their actions are going to bring them loads more hassle than pleasure. I think It's a need for autonomy more than a desire to rebel.

With teens like this we can only hope that we have instilled enough sense of right from wrong, self confidence, self respect and trust in themselves to make good choices, even when from the parents point of view they seem to be majorly screwing things up !!

I have found the more I respect my Ds' need for independent thought and action the less extreme is his need to rebel and be in oppositional defiance to my wishes.

I have struggled with a sense of this being too permissive but the reality is that being understanding, trusting and empathic has worked far better than sanctions and punishments ever did,

flow4 Sat 15-Jun-13 13:54:59

I agree with that, Brighter smile It's my experience too.

BackforGood Sat 15-Jun-13 14:06:48

Great posts by Cory, and Flow4 and I recognise my ds in Flow4s posts.
I agree with everyone that "fear" is certainly not the way I want my dcs to feel about me and dh.

cory Sat 15-Jun-13 14:14:26

Lots of wise words from different posters here. I think it is partly a question of age. When children are young, there are certainly headstrong children who do need to be kept in check not perhaps by fear, but certainly by parental authority.

But by the time you get to the mid-teens, you do hope that they will be controlled not only be fear of consequences but by respect and consideration for other people and a general sense of responsibility for the society they live in.

I wouldn't steal even if I knew somebody else could get blamed, because I know it would upset and injure the person I stole from and because I don't want a lawless society. There are hundreds of ways in which we could injure and upset people without being brought before the law, and most of us still don't do it.

I am also not enamoured by the thought that answering back is always a sign of things getting out of hand. It depends very much on how it is done. If my teens were unable to listen to my opinions with a modicum of respect I would think we had a problem.

But if they were unable to question my opinions or decisions when they could see quite clearly that I was ill informed or unfair or about to make a huge mistake, then I would equally think we had a problem.

And if they believed I was always right and they were always wrong, then I would think they were plain stupid.

My 16yo pointed out to me the other day that I was in danger of seriously endangering my health and emotional wellbeing because I find it so difficult to make a decision that goes against my own (truly loving and lovely) mother. I have so much respect for her authority (not fear) that I find it almost impossible to man up and point out that once in a while I do know best. Dd, who knows more about me than my mother does, pointed out some obvious truths that should have been staring me in the face. I was grateful.

flow4 Sat 15-Jun-13 14:36:26

That's heartening, cory. I think it's a sign we're doing well as parents when our kids know more than we do. smile

sashh Sun 16-Jun-13 06:10:22


You sound like my mother.

The one I live 200 miles away from and my brother lives 500 miles away from.

As a teenager there was no negotiation, just her word was law.

You would have thought I was the perfect teenager, polite, obedient.

I was at home, I did my rebelling else where.

TVTonight Sun 16-Jun-13 20:36:51

My mother, who had a pile of children that never gave a minutes bother, could write something like you have- but she wouldn't because her faults don't include arrogance.

But having ruled by fear she doesn't get included in decisions or stuff and most certainly not in anything which might be spoiled for me be censoriousness (is that a word?).

There does come a time when you can be your child's friend- well perhaps confidante rather than friend. But fear pisses that chance away.
Parenting is a very very long game!

wordfactory Mon 17-Jun-13 08:52:51

I don't think DC need to fear their parents. Gosh, I'd be horrified if my DC were frightened of me.

But I do think they need to understand that if they behave in certain ways there will be consequences. And some of those consequences may be very unpleasant.

From what I can see of teeneagers who get beyond parental cobntrol, they have generally worked out that if they misbehave nothing will happen. Or nothing of any consequence.

cory Mon 17-Jun-13 09:22:00

Me, I think there are three types of teenagers that get beyond parental control:

the ones who have worked out that there will be no consequences

the ones who are already treated so badly that a little more won't really make any difference to them

the ones who have something wrong within themselves that drives them to self destruction

scherazadey Mon 17-Jun-13 10:00:16

I have a work colleague with one adopted son now in his twenties. She and her husband were older parents and from what she says, the son was bought up very strictly and harshly with almost Victorian parenting rules. A mutual friend has a daughter the same age who went to school with the boy and says she used to be horrified at the way he was dealt with, for basically doing nothing worse than being a normal teenager. My colleague loves to comment in a smug way on stories we tell about our own teenagers, saying how her son would 'never have dreamt of doing that' (probably because he was shit scared of her!) He rebelled spectacularly at 16, left home at 18 and now hasn't spoken to them for six years, no contact at all. The most bizarre thing is that she still thinks she has the right idea about child rearing and everyone else has it wrong..

cory Mon 17-Jun-13 10:13:43

I think there is a protective instinct that kicks in when we are confronted with sad or scary stories concerning children.

A need to tell ourselves that these things couldn't possibly happen to us because we are different. Stricter or more loving or more relaxed or whatever.

Lilka Mon 17-Jun-13 11:12:44

I agree with cory , Flow4 and brighter excellent posts

I especially agree with cory that empathy is the biggest reason that underpins us behaving nicely to others, and fear of the law is secondary to that. I would never murder someone except in serious self defence because I have fear of prison is secondary to that, and if prison is the only thing stopping you from killing someone, then that's a sign of a serious emotional problem.

My 2 older children both have attachment problems (due to very chaotic and abusive early lives) and with them I have found myself at a loss when they would do something wrong, because they thought they wouldn't get caught.

example conversation, with a child aged 8+

Me, "Why is Z (in general) not a good choice to make?"
X, "Because you're so mean you always tell me off"
Me, "Okay, but another reason?"
<blank look>
"Okay, how would somebody feel if you did that to them?"
X, "Uh...nothing?"

and so on

Empathy is something that I have had to seriously teach them. And whilst my eldest has really developed empathy, my DC2 still struggles with this.

When it comes to teenagers, some will go off the rails completely regardless of any parenting techniques you use. But empathy is a huge factor in whether you choose certain actions or not, and if your child is lacking in empathetic, you find yourself a lot more worried about what they might do, if they know they won't get caught doing it

MoominsYonisAreScary Mon 17-Jun-13 11:32:31

Agree with Lilka regarding empathy, we had a few difficult years with ds1, who now admits that things might have been worse but for the fact he started thinking about how his actions were affecting other people especially me.

I remember being similar and it was only the thought of upsetting those close to me that made me think about my actions. I don't want my dc to fear me I don't think it works anyway once they are teenagers and bigger than you, also it's not setting a very good example is it? You can make someone do what you want if you make them afraid of you! No thanks

AMumInScotland Mon 17-Jun-13 11:41:13

I've always aimed for respect rather than fear, and have tried to show respect for my DS at the same time, so while I laid down the law about things when he was small I also tried to explain why I felt it was necessary (once he was old enough to understand, I hate the sight of people trying to 'negotiate' with a tantrumming toddler who isn't in a state to understand a word of it). I also tried to listen to his explanations, and his arguments against my position. And, where appropriate I did change my views.

As he got older there was a lot more listening and a lot less 'telling him what to do'. But he is a basically sensible and empathetic person, so my approach may or may not have worked so well with another personality of child.

I think it's important to avoid extremes - some parents focus on laying down the law all the time, and their children are not likely to turn out as they want - they rebel, or they appease, or they keep their heads down till they can leave home then never look back. And failing to give any guidance is just as bad - children need to know they have boundaries, even when they test them a lot, so just letting them do what they want, or randomly shouting then giving up just leaves them confused.

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