Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Brave Boy

My normally thrill-seeking son has suddenly developed fear. He's afraid. I have no idea where/if he learned this somewhere or if it's just developmentally appropriate. He hasn't had any traumatic experiences involving stairs. All I know for sure is that he is afraid to go up the stairs by himself. My husband and I have wondered what we can do about it.

Is it better to face your fears or avoid them? I've always felt that it is best to face your fears, and I have learned from experience that when you face your fears they often disappear. Except for cockroaches. I try to avoid those on the general premise that they are icky. But that is my way of dealing with my fears, formed from many years of freaking out. How do young children decide what to be afraid of and how to deal with that fear?

The other day, Zane had left a favorite toy on our bed upstairs. All he had to do was run upstairs, walk into the bedroom, and grab the toy off the bed. He just stood there at the bottom of the steps, and whined that he wanted his toy. I told him that if he wanted the toy he would have to get it. My reasoning was that if Zane really wanted the toy, he would go upstairs; if he didn't really want the toy, he would drop the subject and find something else to play with. Zane whined some more, but would not move from the bottom of the stairs.

I then did one of the hardest things I have ever done. All I wanted to do was hold Zane's hand while we walked up the stairs to get the toy. All I wanted to do was hug my boy, keep him safe. Instead, I made Zane go upstairs by himself. If he is ever going to be an independent person, my son is going to have to solve some problems on his own.

I hugged him tightly, reminded him that he was very brave, but that he would have to go upstairs to get his toy by himself. I promised that I would wait at the bottom stair for him. I rehearsed it with him: up the stairs, into the room, grab the toy, and back down the stairs. I told him that he could do this, that I believed in him.

Then I watched him walk up those stairs, and every time he looked back at me, I encouraged him. He got to the top of the stairs, ran into the bedroom and back out with the toy. He ran down the stairs, and as he hit the bottom stair he started crying. It may have been relief; I was crying too. I hugged him again, told him again that I knew that he could do it. I was very proud of him.

I was also proud of me. Of course, after all that mama-trauma, I had to have some chocolate.


  1. My 3 year old son is scared of so much, which is the complete opposite of his older sister. It's hard for us to know what to do, too, but your solution to the stairs sounds a lot like what we're doing. He won't always have Mommy around to do things for him. Unfortunately. He's got to learn to do things on his own.

  2. How old is Zane again? I used to teach swimming to children ages 1-4. I learned in that program and an Early Childhood Education class that a child could learn to swim (as an example) BEFORE age 4 and at age 4 they develop an entirely new set of fears. Often things they were never afraid of before. It sounds like age appropriate behavior to me

  3. You both did a fabulous job working through that one! The sudden fear in this house, that became rather disruptive, was thunder storms. One huge clap of thunder when she was upstairs alone, the power went out (daytime though) and then we had about 4 or 5 years of crying even if the sky looked threatening....interesting @catchat...I think she was 4!


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