Lessons My Kids Taught Me about Facing Fears – By Patty Chang Anker, Author

Jan 2014 - headshot - AnkerHere are some of the lessons I learned from my girls and their little scraped knees:

“Sometimes, you just have to get your face wet.” My daughter Ruby said this the day she floated face down in the pool for the first time at age five. She’d always been afraid to put her face in, but after years of swimming lessons she went for it and discovered it was no big deal. Now seven, she is the first to jump in and race for the penny at the bottom of the pool.

Bring on the ice pops! It is not a bribe, it is an incentive. We all love a treat and a reward for doing something difficult is highly deserved. Promise yourself something fun just for trying.

Get Under the Parachute. When Ruby was a toddler we took a class at Gymboree that ended with parachute time. As soon as the kids saw the colorful cloth parachute they started screaming with delight. When we lifted it over their heads and started the music they were delirious- and then came bubbles. Don’t sit on the sidelines. There is a party going on! Join in the fun.

Teething hurts. Lots of things hurt: bumps and bruises, looking dumb, feeling low. Teething hurts, a lot, for a long time – even babies get through that! We are stronger than we think.

Don’t be a “giver upper.” How many times have we, grownups, said: “I tried it. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t good at it. I have better things to do with my time.” What if we all gave up learning to walk after a couple of falls? Kids are resilient, and if we are too, there is no limit to what we can learn and do.

“If you spend all your time worrying, when will you accomplish anything?” My twelve-year-old daughter Gigi said this. Her time is at a premium. With homework, karate and piano lessons, who has time to worry? Focus on the tasks at hand.

Size doesn’t matter. Little kids are up against bigger forces all the time. Yet they will deploy every resource they have – from cuteness and charm to negotiating and whining – in order to get what they want. If we dig deep we will discover plenty of inner resources too, which we can draw on to weather any storm.
Can we do it, now? Thinking too long about facing a fear is a sure path to giving up and going to the movies instead. Kids want what they want now, and in the case of living a bigger, more joyful life, why should we delay? Seriously, what are we waiting for?

Say “Whee!” Gigi said this when she saw my expression while waiting with her for the twirly waterslide. “Whee! makes everything less scary.” And you know what? She’s right.


Patty Chang Anker is the author of the memoir Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave which Parents magazine called a “Mom Must-Read.” She blogs for PsychologyToday.com‘s Anxiety section and her own award-winning Facing Forty Upside Down. Her work has appeared in O Magazine, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, iVillage, The Huffington Post and in numerous other publications and websites. She has been named a Good Housekeeping “Blogger We Love” and a “Top 25 Funny Mom” on the online mom’s group Circle of Moms. Patty is a former Director of Media Relations for The New York Times and a veteran book publicist for W.W. Norton, Taunton Press and Basic Books. She is a certified yoga teacher, Thai Yoga Bodyworker, and Reiki practitioner who believes in the power of yoga to uplift and heal. She is certified in prenatal yoga and yoga for children with special needs, and she is a sought-after teacher, workshop and retreat leader. Patty lives in a village north of New York City with her husband and two daughters. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.