The fears we teach our children

Teaching our children what to fear is important if we want them to stay safe.

Watch out for cars. Don’t touch the stove. Don’t accept rides from strangers.

A healthy fear of potential danger is what will keep them alive which, as a parent, is generally priority number 1.

As humanity learns more about the world, the list of things to fear can grow. Smoking cigarettes, drinking water from ditches, etc. All things that should get added to the list for good reason.

But it’s also tempting to help our children stay safe by avoiding the the things that have hurt us (or people we know or have heard stories about) as well. These aren’t necessarily rational, but are formed by our own experience.

Don’t get up on stage, you’ll just get laughed at. Don’t put your heart into that dream, you’ll probably wind up disappointed.

It’s tough to separate healthy, proper fears from our own subjective ones, especially when it’s our own precious children we’re talking about, isn’t it? We don’t want them to get hurt, and seeing them suffer hurts us as parents as well.

But maybe, while we’re at it, we should be sure to add one more fear to the list:

The fear of regret.

I was once asked if I had any regrets. I found myself answering that it was things I hadn’t done that I regretted more than things I had. Generally, I regret listening too much to the voice of fear, the one telling me to protect myself and stay safe.

That’s the voice that kept me from climbing as high as I wanted to in our climbing tree as a kid. It’s the one that nearly stopped me from expressing my feelings to a friend (the woman I would later marry).

I realize this is my own subjective fear, the one that I gleaned from my own experience, but chances are you have also had times where you regretted listening to this over-active inner voice of fear as well.

As a dad, I hope to teach my kids healthy fear of danger, but I’ll also include lessons on the fear of regret. I hope that they will learn to (as Brene Brown writes) dare greatly, knowing that their parents will be there to help pick up the pieces if it goes wrong.

Because safe isn’t always better than sorry.