Don’t Scare Your Children, Prepare Your Children

In my previous column, I expressed my concerns about a 5-year-old girl who had to sign a contract promising that she would not commit suicide or homicide. As a martial arts teacher, who has taught this age group for 17 years, I’d like to share my opinion on how to prepare your children for conflict in a healthy way.
A great driver of conflict, in my opinion, is fear. In teaching martial arts, my aim is not to scare you and leave you in fear, my aim is to remove fear by sharing knowledge.
Fear is typically a reaction to the unknown. It starts with the monster under the bed, moves into the ‘will I have enough money for Ramen noodles tonight’ and into the imaginary ‘bogeymen’ that we create to motivate us from time to time.
Children are already filled with their own fears of the unknown, so why add complicated adult fears when we can simply educate them about their own fears?
Show them ‘under the bed’ during the day. Or show it to them at night, holding their hand with a flashlight for you both. Giving your children the opportunity to face their fears with guidance and a little bit of their own control (their own flashlight) can go a long way towards building a life full of confidence. More importantly, they’ll learn a technique that can last a lifetime: light extinguishes dark and knowledge extinguishes fear.
Tag or hide and seek are great games that encourage awareness, reflexes, ducking, dodging and engage their imagination through discovering ways on how to use their size to their advantage. They can also learn the importance of when to be quiet and finding good places to hide. Or maybe even learn how you, an adult, thinks about ‘getting them’.
Make a fun ‘monster’ game where your children and spouse have to hide and organize a counterattack when the ‘monster’ comes. Exchange roles so that everyone gets to experience both sides. It’s important for them to play-act winning and losing so that they continue developing a mindset of strength and courage under ‘fire’.
When you are out, play observational games that could potentially help them avoid a conflict; include asking them the following:
Where are the exits?
Where would you go if you lost sight of mommy & daddy?
Who here is wearing a hat? glasses? mustache? scarf?
If your child becomes fearful, take your time to creatively encourage them to face their fears, but don’t push them. All of the above can help build context, confidence and questions about protection without ever having to bring up charged words like ‘suicide’ or ‘homicide’. As a side effect, children will become more engaged in the world around them instead of just the world between their thumbs.

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