Featured Picture Book
LET’S GO, HUGO! by Angela Dominguez
(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)
LET’S GO, HUGO! is about being afraid. Hugo is a bird who lived at ground level because he was afraid to fly. “He preferred walking to flying.” However, when he met another bird named LuLu who invited him to fly to the Eiffel Tower, he wanted more than anything to fly away on the adventure. But, his fear led him to make up excuse after excuse so he wouldn’t have to fly. Hugo finally admitted to Bernard, the local night owl, that he was afraid. “Well, everyone is afraid of something,” said Bernard as he offered to help Hugo overcome his fear. The two of them practiced flying all night long. “There were many ups . . . and many more downs.” When LuLu returned in the morning and “. . . stuck out her wing,” Hugo gathered his courage, trusted his friend, and took off for his first flight.
What should I do about my fear?
The harder question is, how do you know which of those three choices is best for your type of fear? This answer isn’t always easy. It takes an honest, no-fooling-yourself look at the real facts and feelings of the situation. And, I do mean both the facts and the feelings.
Fear is a feeling, and it is not to be ignored. It requires your attention and requires that you listen to what you know deep inside yourself. If you listen carefully to your fear, there will be times when you will know you should run the other way. These are usually cases where safety or health is at risk. When that is the case, we should not talk ourselves into believing nothing is wrong. We owe it to ourselves to pay attention because ignoring the fear under these conditions is dangerous. We shouldn’t be so proud or so focused on self-improvement that we think we can and should overcome each and every fear. Sometimes flight is the best answer. We need to listen to some of our fears and run the other direction for our own protection.
On the other hand, sometimes fear is not threatening our health or safety. It is just getting in our way. This was the kind of fear Hugo was faced with. His answer was to fight. He gathered his courage, got friends to help him, practiced and practiced, and overcame his fear. You can do that too.
Where does learning to ride a bicycle fall? – pardon the pun! Ezzy is extremely reluctant to tackle riding a bicycle. I’m sure she sees it as “fear #1” (fear requiring you to run the other way) She sees it as a safety issue – learning to ride a bike is going to hurt! All the while, I’m seeing it as “fear #2” (fear that can be overcome). I don’t want to push her too hard to learn to ride her bike, but I think she needs to push herself harder. What on earth do I do in this situation?
One thing for sure is that Ezzy will have to want to overcome the fear. That’s not something you can force a person to do. Hugo was pretty satisfied being a “walking” bird until he met LuLu and really wanted to be her friend and do the things she did – like fly off on adventures.
The third answer is not often considered – to outsmart the fear. Don’t attack it straight ahead – that might backfire and what you lose may be more than you gain. Instead, find a clever way to go around, over, or under the fear and get what you want or need. For example, If Hugo stowed away on a helicopter, he could have seen the Eiffel Tower without facing his fear. That is what we mean by outsmarting the fear. If a child is afraid of big dogs, he can have a small dog or a cat for a pet. He doesn’t have to let his fear prevent him from having the fun of having a pet. If you are afraid to drive on the freeway, you can find another route. If a child is afraid to play ball with the bigger kids, he can still be part of the team by being the ball boy.
We spent the early years of her bicycle riding age outsmarting her fear by getting her a scooter. I am afraid that this will now lead to never learning to ride a bike.
Could be. Or, she may someday put 2 and 2 together. She learned to balance on her scooter, so maybe she can learn to balance on her bike. Again, there may come a time when the scooter will no longer outsmart the fear of the bicycle, because she can’t go to all the same places on a scooter or because her friends are bike riders not scooters – pardon the pun.
Bottom line, fear has to be figured out. What is it all about? If it is about a threat to me, I should run. If it is something I need to free myself from once and for all, I should attack it head on and overcome it. If it is something that I can outsmart, I might prefer to be clever and get what I want another way.
Overcoming fear with practice
Practice is important to a lot of things, including overcoming fear. Sometimes you just need to get used to what you are afraid of. You can practice being in the dark and learn that nothing bad happens. You can practice being around dogs and learn how to safely manage them. You can practice swimming in deep water and become sure that you are a good enough swimmer to be safe.
This makes me think about the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” If practice is an important part of overcoming fear, and practice is how you become perfect at things, you would think that perfectionists would be good at overcoming fear. Not really.
Instead, the need to be perfect can keep people from practicing or trying new things at all, especially things they are afraid of. In fact, perfectionists can often be very afraid of failure, and fear of failure is an enemy of overcoming any fear. All learning requires ups and downs, just like Hugo’s flying practice was full of ups and downs. Overcoming any fear will have its ups and downs. The fear can go away – slowly in small steps – but, it will have to be practiced over and over to keep it away.
I think we have a long road ahead of us before we are off and pedaling on our own. I think Ezzy needs to decide it’s ok to fail before she can get to a place where she is comfortable practicing. So, we have to tackle our perfectionism or fear of failure. Then, after that we can practice riding our bike. I think she’ll be driving a car before she is ever able to ride a bike – and once she is driving – why bother with the bike? Oh brother.
You have used a lot of “we” statements instead of “she” statements. Are you both tackling perfectionism before you both can practice riding the bike? 🙂 This is really her problem. You do not need to own it, although you should continue to support her in every way you can just like you have been doing. If she never rides a bike, she will need to deal with that as an adult. We all have things we have not resolved in our growing up years that are left over for us to deal with as an adult.
This is going to be a very interesting journey. You have a few years yet before driving comes into the picture. I suggest you just stay focused on her desire to be able to do what her friends do and continue to offer her opportunities to practice if she becomes willing.
My friend and mentor, Jean Illsley Clarke, talks about “crooked no’s” in her books. Crooked no’s are the things we do and say that make it seem like we are saying “yes’ when we are really saying “no.” Sometimes we use crooked no’s when we are afraid to say “no.” Making excuses when we are asked to do something, being late, forgetting things, ignoring people and requests, or even becoming sick can all be ways that we avoid facing the facts, including facing what we are afraid of. This is what Hugo did. Crooked no’s do not help us be responsible people nor do they help us overcome our fears.
It’s amazing what we can be afraid of. Have you ever ignored your child’s misbehavior or given into your child’s demands?
Were you afraid you would be embarrassed by a temper tantrum?
Were you afraid others would think you were a bad parent?
Yes. I was afraid she wouldn’t love me. I was afraid I would disappoint her and make her sad. (Amazing how so many motivations can influence one decision.)
Have you ever refused to try something because you were afraid?
Ziplining! – For me, that is a “fear #1”- a health & safety issue – PERIOD!
Were you afraid you wouldn’t be good at it? Were you afraid you would look silly?
Not so much. But singing would probably fit in that category!
I want to especially talk about one type of fear – fear of anger. We can learn this type of fear very early in life, if we have had many experiences being around the scary sounds and behaviors of angry people or with being treated badly when we were angry ourselves. The reason I want to make special mention of this fear is because it can affect our parenting.
I think that you can also be afraid of angry people when you have had little or no exposure to people that display their anger. When you have no experience with anger, you don’t know how to react. You don’t know how to handle angry people. You don’t know what to expect.
Great thought about how fear of anger can develop. You may not have ever seen that anger can be a quick flash and be gone or that people who are angry get over it, make up and continue to live and work together as they did before they were angry.
Being afraid of your child’s anger is one of the reasons you may not set rules for children or not stick to them when rules aren’t followed. When it comes to consequences for misbehavior, parents who are afraid of their child’s anger will often make up excuses for their child or ignore the misbehavior and pretend it isn’t happening. Think of how dangerous that can be when the behavior is drug or alcohol abuse, and the parent is so afraid of their child’s anger that they are looking the other way.
How do you “practice” overcoming this fear? Can you practice and overcome this fear? I would think you would need to be aware of your fear and make a conscious decision to stick to the rule or consequence even though you know what the resulting behavior from your child will be. Seems like you would need to plan out their response and your response ahead of time so you know what you are going to do in the heat of the moment.
You have the right idea. By sticking to the rules, you are practicing. This should help you get used to the anger and not be so upset by it as time goes on. You also will begin to expect the anger to happen and then go away – and not lead to your child “hating” you – no matter what the child might say in the heat of the moment.
Use our “Daily Parenting Tips” to get started making decisions about fear. Come back each day for another good parenting decision and how to practice it.
Read All About It
GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson
SELF ESTEEM A FAMILY AFFAIR, Jean Illsley Clarke
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- overcoming anger