Should children be afraid of their parents? It’s a question that triggered mixed feelings from our listeners when Vinny and Nikki spoke about it this morning. Is some fear of authority reasonable, or is it intrinsically unhealthy?
Fear as a Control Mechanism
These days, in Western culture, children are arguably treated better than ever. Even a light spanking is forbidden for a disobedient child, and parents can and do get into serious trouble for anything worse. As such, far fewer children in Western cultures fear their parents than 30, 50 or 100 years ago.
But what is the result of this? Many parents can’t wrap their heads around their children’s disobedience and attitude. They were raised in environments where obedience and reverence of older generations were expected and sometimes enforced fearfully.
One commenter on the online forum Quora, Jane Chin, answered by reversing the conversation: “The real question therefore isn’t whether children should fear parents, but why parents use fear to control their children.”
Parenting author and professor Jim Taylor‘s daughters always end up doing as he says, but “every day I wish my children feared me even just a little bit,” he says. “I am quite sure they would be much more cooperative and life would be a lot easier for my wife and me.”
Fear as a control mechanism is known to be effective. But are there other ways to control children? Fear of parents can easily trigger deeper emotional stresses when a child grows up, so does the use of fear to ease tension early in a child’s life come with costs later on?
Morning show producer Paul Awad raised an interesting point about parents’ role in providing advice and support: “when you’re scared of them, you don’t want to come to them for advice…”
Fear of parents leads to obedience and reverence, but does it also lead to emotional detachment? Will children raised in this way grow up to be adults lacking in certain areas because they weren’t shown emotional support from their parents?