Nine-year-old Ethan was afraid to leave home. The school bus was terrifying, other kids were scary. Ethan was even fearful of the wind!
Ethan’s story came to my attention when his parents shared their wonderful success story. As they began to learn more about the Love and Logic approach, they realized that children learn most of life’s big and important lessons in three ways… what we often refer to as the “Three E’s of Love and Logic.”
Kids take their emotional cues from the adults around them. Ethan’s mom and dad discovered that their anxiety about his anxiety was part of the problem. They realized that all of their reassuring words were actually suggesting to Ethan that his fears were legitimate. Therefore, they replaced their frantic attempts to calm him with consistently modeled confidence and a business-like attitude.
Ethan needed to face his fears and experience the fact that he was strong enough to cope. Rather than allowing him to stay inside when it was breezy, Mom and Dad took him to the park and drank hot chocolate together in the wind. Instead of allowing him to avoid other kids and the school bus, they taught him how to share his comic books with other children on the bus.
We all learn best when we’re around patient people who demonstrate love and high expectations. Unlike sympathy… which communicates pity… empathy communicates an “I-believe-in-you!” attitude. When Ethan became fearful and tried to avoid things by saying, “I’m scared!” or “I can’t do it!” his parents calmly replied, “Aren’t you glad that we don’t believe that?”
While Ethan made great strides in facing his fears and overcoming them, Mom and Dad admitted that part of the solution needed the involvement of a skilled therapist who helped the entire family remember this eternal truth:
Fear can only be mastered by facing it… not by avoiding it.
In the book, I've Got What It Takes, Jim Fay will give you plenty of practical ideas for helping your kids develop an I can do it, I've got what it takes attitude.
Dr. Charles Fay