She looked up at me and screamed. Tears were streaming down her face.
She then said words I’d been dreading to hear. My fear was confirmed. I’m sure you know the feeling.
Fear is powerful.
Have you ever wondered why? I’m not talking about the science behind fear but the nature of it.
What is fear?
Fear is simply the strongest negative form of belief.
Fearing something is the same thing as believing in it very strongly. You simply have a very negative feeling about this strong belief.
And here was one of mine, coming to life. The story unfolding before me.
What did she say?
“This is your fault! You’re supposed to let me win!”
Wait, what? Maybe you need some context.
This was at a family member’s home. We were throwing a birthday party for my two year old daughter. The crying girl? My other daughter, five years old.
All the other adults were on a patio, worshiping their cell phone gods. Pretending they aren’t ignoring each other. Pretending they aren’t ignoring their kids.
That’s not the kind of Dad I am.
I was playing a game with all the kids. I was throwing a big bouncing ball. The ball would bounce off the ground and into the air. The kids would chase it when it landed.
What was this fear I was just forced to face?
You could call it “Snowflake Syndrome”. You could call it a lot of things. I call it “unhealthy entitlement”.
See, entitlement can be a healthy thing. Ask any man who used to have low testosterone. You damn well should be entitled to what is yours.
Unhealthy entitlement is expecting things you don’t deserve. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand people like that.
Every father’s fear is that his children will grow into a person he doesn’t like.
Disagree? You only think you do.
If you’re a Christian, you don’t want your kids to be Atheists. If you’re a Marine, you probably want your son to be one. The list goes on.
We like to think our kids will take after us.
You could say it a lot of different ways, but there’s no need to. We don’t just want our children to learn from our mistakes. We want them to learn from what we consider to be other’s mistakes.
I was absolutely horrified that my daughter harbored this unhealthy entitlement. My unspoken fear had come to life. How had this happened?
I’ve always taken care not to instill this kind of belief in her.
Most Fathers Compound or Create Society’s Problems.
That’s right. Most fathers don’t just compound society’s problems, they actively create them.
Allowing your sons to be weak creates weak men, which weakens society. How does this happen? Unhealthy entitlement. You give them the belief that they deserve to win, to be safe, to be provided for.
Well, the same is true for treating your daughter like a princess. You will give them the belief that they deserve to win, to be given everything they desire, to be dominant.
This is the worst thing you can do for them, because its the opposite of your job as Dad. Your job is to give your kids the best head start.
To prepare them for reality. Not to skew their perception of reality.
I’ve always taken care to do this. So where did my daughter get this unhealthy entitlement?
It doesn’t matter where she got it from. She was experiencing it, and I had a duty to do as her Dad.
What did I do to confront this fear?
I took my little girl aside, knelt down, and spoke calmly.
“You aren’t supposed to be given a win. If you want to win, you have to try. If you stop trying when you don’t win, you’ll never win.”
Then I gestured to her cousins. They consistently won this game over all the other kids. There’s a good reason for this.
These cousins come from a very poor home. They have no television, no internet, no gadgets. These kids are anomalies. They spend every moment of every day either in school or running around their yard.
“They are faster than you. They’re faster than you because they have practice. They run more than you do. If you want to win this game, you have to learn from them.”
She stopped crying. She sat out a round or two, and just watched these other kids run. Before, she had been leaning backwards as she ran and leading with her legs. She realized these kids were leaning into their stride.
I know this because when she rejoined the game, she copied their stride. Thankfully, though, these kids weren’t going to let her win easily. It was a closer race this time, but she still lost.
This time, when I asked her why she was crying, she said she did her best and it wasn’t good enough. I sighed and said, “But you tried.” She nodded and her crying turned to sniffles.
Now I said something my Dad used to ask me at times like this. “What are you going to do about it?”
She looked me in the eye and said, “I’ll run more and try again next time.”
That made me smile.
Lessons learned from confronting this fear:
Its one thing to use anger as fuel when you’re psyching yourself up to do something physical. Its another thing when you’re confronting your fear. This is especially true when the situation involves another person.
If you get angry at them and yell, they’ll shut down. Nothing you say will matter once you allow your anger into the picture. Stay calm and find your solution.
Do Not Lie.
If I had told my daughter that she would win if she tried, I’d be lying. I knew there was no way she’d make up for the difference in speed. It would have been an outright lie if I told her otherwise.
The same is true of yourself. The last thing you need when you confront your fears is unrealistic expectations. Lying to yourself about what is realistic is setting yourself up for failure.
Bruce Lee said to be like water. Lloyd said to be like stone.
At least, be like stone when you are confronting your fears. Flowing through a situation is almost universally useful. Take the form of the situation like water filling a vessel. This doesn’t work when you have no vessel.
You must be calm, steady, enduring, and stable. This is especially valuable if others have to rely on you. Being someone they can lean on will help you lean on yourself, too.
Be your own damn rock, boy.
You’re not the only one with fear to overcome. Especially if you’re a Dad.
Maybe you are one of those boys who was allowed to be weak. Maybe you don’t know how to be stone. You expect safety, comfort, and ease.
You’re gonna be sorely disappointed. Especially if you see what’s happening in our culture and think you’re going to do something about it.
Your kids are going to be who they’re going to be. The best you can do is be an influence and let them make their own decisions.
Crying about it, getting mad about it, whining about it won’t do anything but show them what a broken man looks like.
Be your own damn rock. Harden the fuck up.
It isn’t just about you anymore.