I Taught My Daughter to Fear

I taught my daughter to fear


I. hate. grasshoppers.

They have those big, bulgy eyes and they always wait until the last millisecond to hop away from you and…just…ugh.

Spiders? Unless they’re huge or venomous, not a big deal.

Snakes? Meh. (see the note on spiders).

But grasshoppers? They send me running back inside. Or at least give me an excuse to avoid yard work.

However, my daughter spent all summer catching them out in the woodpile, much to my chagrin.

Until last week.

I was fiddling around in the garage, and suddenly I heard this unearthly scream. Followed by, “Mama! Mama!”

And then, the words that made my heart drop.


I turned the corner and Chicka Chicka was frozen, with her bare foot at a funny angle.

My first horrible, terrible thought was ” She has stepped on a grasshopper with bare feet.”

Then I saw her shorts.

Apparently a grasshopper had hopped itself right onto her shorts and she panicked. Which, I can’t say I blame her.

I helped her brush it off (ew) and we went on with our day.

But something struck me.

I had taught my daughter to fear grasshoppers. 

I had never told her to be afraid of grasshoppers, and yet she went from delight in catching them to being terrified when one jumped on her.

What had changed?

She saw my fear. She saw the way my nose wrinkled every time I had to walk through the unmowed back lawn. She heard every time I said, “O I hate grasshoppers.”

Until she feared them herself. 

Now, here’s the point I’m trying to make: I accidentally taught my daughter to fear something. Granted, something kind of silly that hopefully will fade, or maybe just be a quirky thing about her.

But imagine what else I might be accidentally teaching her.

What about every time I sigh a little when I look in the mirror, or when I try to explain why I wear makeup? 

What about when I am having a bad day, and grab a huge Dr. Pepper because “Momma needs it?”

What about when I shy away from doing certain things or reaching my goals because it might be too hard or uncomfortable? 

What is she learning then?

I certainly don’t want to pass on my insecurities to my children. I want them to know that they have so many positive attributes and great capacity to make this world a better place (as I hope most parents desire as well).

But to do that, I think we all need to reflect on if what we want our children to learn aligns with what we are passively teaching them.

We can’t act one way and expect them to learn the opposite. 

Luckily, there are so many opportunities to influence our children. Much in the same way I accidentally taught Chicka Chicka to fear grasshoppers, I can also teach her things like:

  • We are a family and we work together to run the house.
  • We need to speak kind words, even when we disagree.
  • Always do your best.

But this time, it won’t be on accident.

P is for Rocks

P is for Rocks final copy

Tonight, Boom Boom and I went walking around our neighborhood. He had some definite wiggles and grumpies and that means we go outside if at all possible. We found (of course) the ONE house that has some pebbled rocks right next to the sidewalk. And Boom Boom plunked himself down and played with them. When I tried to move on, he wriggled out of my arms and just marched himself right back to the Rock House. As in, he walked a block and a half. My kid has a better sense of direction than I will ever have. What is it about rocks that all kids love? I’m not sure- but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the fact that they are almost always dirty. Kids and dirt go together like…kids and dirt.

Anyway, it got me thinking about a behavior often seen in children with disabilities, especially autism: perseveration. That’s the fancy term for when a child obsesses over something; it can be a motion or an item, and can be caused by several things or for no reason at all. This isn’t typical child obsession; it is usually a repetitive motion (like opening and closing a door), or talking about a subject for an inappropriately long amount of time. Depending on the severity of the perseveration (try saying that 3 times fast!), this can greatly hinder social interactions or the ability to process big feelings.

So how do you work through perseverations with young children? For this, we have to dig into the toolbox and try to stretch the boundaries of that perseveration. First, try distraction. The distraction has to be a serious gamechanger, like a favorite game or toy. Try to include physical space between the distraction and the perseveration. For example, if the child is turning the light switch on and off, put Mr. Greatest Toy Ever in the middle of the room so the child has to leave the light switch.

If distraction doesn’t work, the next thing I pull out of my toolbox is my CCCs. For me, these stand for Clear, Consistent, and Calm. See HERE for more information on this. I get down on the child’s level, and make sure I have the child’s (somewhat) attention. For me, this means they are making eye contact, with the behavior paused. I use a quiet but firm voice, and tell them it is not okay to be doing this. It is crucial that you find a phrase that is used in several disciplinary situations. In my family, we say “___________ is not okay.” This lets the child know exactly what is not okay, and they know mom (or teacher) means business. As parents, it is SO easy to try to explain ourselves, to get too wordy in an attempt to get our point across. But kids of all abilities respond much better to simple, black-and-white communication.

From here, I like to move into the Cha-cha-cha. It means you give the child a chance, a choice, and then a cheer! In this case, I would first give the child a chance to express any feelings they may be having. Perseverations can be triggered by overstimulation, so it is important to work through those feelings in a positive way (instead of the perseveration). Then, you give the child a choice.

Now, repeat after me: Do not make the perseveration a choice! The choice may be between a new toy or a new activity, a new game or a new book, etc. The choices need to physically and emotionally move the child away from the perseveration. Once your child makes a choice, go with it! Give them a cheer (see here for my thoughts on positive reinforcement) and move forward with your day. You can also treat yourself to a Dr. Pepper because, well, good job to you too!

So in conclusion, I have a feeling that rocks will be a big part of my life for the next few years. And for those struggling with perseverations, they will most likely be a part of life, though they may transform over the years. I hope that this post gives you some positive strategies to work through a difficult and tricky situation.