When Marina Abromvich was a young girl, she saw a snake in the road. Her first reaction, as it so often is with kids, was not fear but curiosity. She wanted to get closer. To look at it. Maybe even touch it. But then her grandmother saw it and screamed. All of that curiosity disappeared in an instance and was replaced by something much darker.
“That was the first moment in my life that I really felt fear,” she later reflected. But it wasn’t the snake that was responsible. “It was my grandmother’s voice that frightened me. It’s incredible how fear is built into you, by your parents and others surrounding you. You’re so innocent in the beginning; you don’t know.”
That’s the thing. Your kids don’t know they’re afraid of heights. They don’t know that worms are gross. They don’t know that kids music is dumb and that dancing is embarassing. They don’t know that public speaking is terrifying. You think that. And you’re passing it along to them with your comments, with your reactions, with your anxiety.
This is tragic, not just because we’re saddling them with fears that they otherwise might not share…but because as Marina saw, it also overrides curiosity and interest. It destroys potential. It closes them off. You must not do this.