"The child who is disciplined as well as he or she is loved is a happy, healthy child. "

Overly Protective Mom Needs Help With Anxious 4-Year-Old

Question

Hello! I will freely admit that I created this problem, but now need to help my currently 4 1/2 year old daughter the best that I can. I was raised in a very protective family and have a grandmother with severe anxiety who is constantly reminding me about worst case scenarios and every scary story that’s out there. With child trafficking, etc., along with being aware of the crime in our area, I’ve been extraordinarily protective of our daughter. When she would do normal childhood things like try to unlock her door or open her window in the car, wander away from me in the store (it never happened, but she tried), open the door and go outside by herself at our house (we live in the country where we have cougar and coyote activity), I’ve told her to always ask permission first or never go anywhere that Mommy and Daddy don’t know where she is. When she would ask why, out of my own fear and looking back to how I was raised, I told her in gentle terms that there are some not nice people out there who may try to take children or that we do have wild animals out in the woods behind us so that she’d know how serious it is. She is constantly pushing boundaries and wanting to break those rules, so it has come up time and again. Well, now, unfortunately I have inadvertently created anxiety in my child. We were at a local restaurant yesterday and she saw two men and she got very scared (brand new experience) and began clinging to me very determinedly. She said they looked like people who may take her. We do have an issue with men following women and their kids in our area (maybe that’s everywhere), but this was not a scary situation in the slightest. She’s never done anything like that before. She has been afraid of men (except her father, grandfathers and uncles) from a very early age (she was in a very reputable Christian daycare and preschool until age 3 1/2, when I was able to leave work and stay home with her). Along with normal childhood fear of the dark, she now worries about wild animals and potential kidnapping. I only wanted her to obey safety rules and tried/try to use age-appropriate language when discussing these things, but it seems I missed the mark. How can I help her to feel safe and secure as a child should, not burdening her with adult knowledge, but also help her to know that she must obey safety-related rules? Having only been a stay at home mom for one of her four and half years, I’m still figuring all of this out and trying to lay a groundwork for regular obedience with consistent discipline that wasn’t possible when she was with daycare workers most of her waking hours. Thank you so much for any help.

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