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“If you can’t sit still, the clowns will come and get you,” we often hear something along this line coming out of a parent’s mouth in order to make their children stop mumbling incoherently in a public food court and just sit nicely to wait for their food, or to make the child eat their food which mainly only consists of boring green vegetables, or just, you know, make them stop talking about that new Gundam or Star Wars lego set. Using a child’s fear to make them obey you sounds like a good parenting method at first, as children will immediately do as told to avoid contact with their fear; be it in the form of clowns, or a good beating. However, there is an important issue to be addressed, the impact of this act of control to the child’s well-being.

Fear is a powerful motivation. When you use fear—or if they fear you—children will do as you say simply to avoid the undesired consequences: being punished. Instill one since they are little, and there you go: authority. Effective to gain control but only when you can maintain it. A psychology major in Maranatha, Javin, elaborated on this by explaining that while it is true a child’s fear can be effective in the moment, once they learn to rid the feeling, they will grow out of it. The ‘source of power’ will then also vanish along the way. This could turn them to rebel since they will also learn that instead of helping them get through it, their parents turn it back against them. Damaging their trust. “In some other cases, these children start to pick up the pieces and conclude that dominance is the way to get what they want. Thus, they apply the same method to others.” We cannot ignore the fact that the biggest part of a child’s personality is their parents’. Children will continue to imitate their parents who are role models to them up until they are old enough to have their own judgment.

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In other cases, what about the children who are still haunted by their irrational childhood fear even throughout adulthood? Even Sam Winchester of Supernatural whose life involves dealing with monsters and ghosts has a phobia of clowns. “Childhood trauma is not something that is small and insignificant. Its impact on someone’s life is huge. Phobias can be a huge drawback in life as they cause severe anxiety, depression, and isolation. To avoid the phobia, people go such length. It is completely possible that one isolate oneself from society, stays inside the house all day, and refuses to go out in fear of facing their fear. Then, how will they make a living? Socialize? Live?”

Nurturing their fear to grow taller causes bad impacts to their emotional/mental state, so teach your children to have respect instead. “When you love or respect someone, you do things for them for that sole purpose, not because you are afraid of the consequences or the imaginary monsters that will come and get you. Fear cripples you down. It shuts you right up. But respect through understanding helps you grow. It is good for both parents and children to communicate through everything. Parents also need to understand why their children would do something they do not approve of. The reason could actually be a good one, but parents just turn a blind eye and insist on their side of things. It is important to address each possible sides, look from the child’s perspective and get them to understand where they are wrong. Because children will not repeat the same mistake when they do understand, but if they do not, then they possibly just avoid repeating it in fear of the punishment, not because they know it is wrong. Children must be taught to fully comprehend the rules, not just knowing the rules.”

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