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I feel that my two-year-old kid is fearful since birth, or it is my own fear. This question arose when I compared him with other numerous children. As a father, I don't want him to fear anything. I want him to be a risktaker.

During the initial months, he used to startle whenever the door opened or closed.

Recently I saw that one of the children (three years) was shouting at him, and he was crying, I don't know how the three-year-old child got hold that shouting will make him cry.

Another instance is that whenever the door gets knocked, he runs and hides in the corner of the room.

He also fears animate toys or RC cars when they are functioning.

One positive thing I saw that he doesn't fear a bop bag of a shark. He goes and kisses it and hits it, and I saw the same three-year-old child fearing the bop bag.

I know that as the time passes by, he will conquer his fears, but how do I make him conquer his fears as a parent?

I don't want him to grow up fearing everything.

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    Some of these things may be caused by confusion or frustration, not exactly fear -- for example, an RC car is moving around completely on its own and there's no obvious cause (confusing!), knocking on the door is a loud noise with no obvious cause (confusing!), another child yelling for no reason makes him feel sad and hurt (confusing! frustrating!). My son was afraid of statues at that age, and our best guess is it was something about the unnaturally still face and strange eyes: he didn't like seeing them and would cry and shiver until we walked away from the statue. – Acire Apr 6 '15 at 16:24
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    A hipothesis: seems that all situations you describe involve noise. Maybe he is not afraid, just has good/sensitive ears ? – josinalvo Apr 6 '15 at 17:14
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    Fears are very useful. For example, you want him to be scared of falling off very high places. Don't aim to make him entirely without fear - that would be wildly abnormal - but rather, help him to learn to fear, to an appropriate degree, things which it's appropriate for him to fear. For example, help him to learn to be cautious around traffic. The misplaced fears you describe are entirely normal for a two-year-old. I'm a bit surprised to find you seem to think that he shouldn't have an emotional response to being shouted at aggressively by an older child. – A E Apr 6 '15 at 20:43
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    "I want him to be a risk-taker..." This sounds like your issue. Why don't you try accepting him for who he is, and through acceptance he might work through his fears? – Lizbeth Apr 6 '15 at 21:15
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    Make him into a spartan -- they know not fear. – hownowbrowncow Apr 7 '15 at 12:50
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It seems to me that being shouted at is likely to make any child cry, particularly by an older child. Shouting is not nice, and intimidating particularly from an older child.

Door knocking i've not seen before, but if door knocking includes fairly loud knocking, it could also be a bit disturbing. More likely to me, he's concerned about some change when the door is knocked on - somebody he's not comfortable with, particularly if you have a lot of people he doesn't know come in after knocking.

In general, it's not particularly surprising for a two year old child to be scared of things he's not familiar with. This goes away as he gets older and experiences more things. The best way in my experience to deal with this is simply to make sure he has a lot of new experiences when he feels safe and comfortable.

When a child feels that he is safe - he's with mommy or daddy, he's in a location like his house that he feels comfortable in - he's more able to process new things. It might seem counterintuitive, that to help him learn not to be fearful you need to help him feel safe, but it is a good idea nonetheless.

When he reacts fearfully, talk to him about it. Don't diminish his feelings - they are feelings, whether you think they're justified or not - but ask him if he's scared, talk to him about it, and then try to give him tools to deal with that fear. (The following is roughly how this would go with my two year old, with the name changed of course.)

Johnny, are you feeling scared about the door?

Yup. I want my mommy.

What's making you feel scared? Is it loud?

Nope.

Are you worried someone will come inside?

Yup.

Johnny, I know that you get worried that someone you don't know will come inside. You know Daddy and Mommy would never let someone come inside whom we didn't know, or whom we didn't feel comfortable letting inside. I'll show you how we do this. Let's come over to the door.

I don't want to!

I know, but I can show you a secret telescope we can use to find out who's there without them knowing! Doesn't that sound fun?

Yup...

(walking over to the door, looking through the one-way hole) Look here, Johnny, put your eye here and you can see who it is.

(puts eye there) Uncle Michael!!

Yep. (opens door, hugs all around)

It's all about making him feel comfortable, making him feel that his feelings are valid, and giving him tools to deal with the feelings. Once children know what to do when they're scared, they have the ability to handle it much better and are much less scared.

So in the other situations (kids yelling at him, RC cars, etc.), talk to him about them and give him tools to deal with them.

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    This is a valuable answer on so many levels. – anongoodnurse Apr 6 '15 at 14:32
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    For the kids, you could tell him what I tell my kid: You should always tell them ' no thank you', if someone is doing something you don't like. If they don't stop, or you don't want to say it, walk away (and get mommy/daddy). I feel this would work both with a fearful child, or one prone to lashing out and escalating. – Ida Apr 6 '15 at 20:02
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Being brave is not the absence of fear, it is doing the right thing even though you are afraid. Fear is good, it is based off of natural preservation instincts and can warn of danger. You need to teach him about the things that are more important than self preservation: Teach him about principles and standing for them, Teach him about chivalry, teach him about doing what is right regardless of the consequences. Then he will learn several reasons to be brave.

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    As true today as it was in the 1970s s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/a0/a5/47/… – Pharap Apr 7 '15 at 18:51
  • True enough, that's why I ask my kids, "are lions really brave?" they're honed killing machines with not a lot to fear! – Jim W Apr 7 '15 at 20:41
  • @JimW Ironically even adult Lions can be afraid of both humans and loud noises, much like the OP's child. – Pharap Apr 8 '15 at 6:44
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Fearlessness is basically stupidity. You can be fearless only if you are stupid enough not to be able to realize the consequences of a serious action or danger.

Strength is doing what needs to be done or what is right, DESPITE fear, DESPITE being able to realize the potential grave consequences of an action which you may have to take or an event which you may have to face.

You should teach your kid to have the strength and integrity to do the right thing when the occasion calls for it, DESPITE fear.

  • Fear is an outcome often associated with lack of knowledge. So, knowledge is a remedy for fear, and a cause for fearlessness. It's insulting, and incorrect, to globally label fearlessness as an act of stupidity. Just because you realize consequences doesn't mean you need to be afraid of them. – user11394 Apr 7 '15 at 17:27
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    No, you can overcome fear of life-threatening situations. Fear causes changes in behavior. But, if you have knowledge (that something isn't actually dangerous to you), or skills (the ability to apply knowledge), then fear can easily stop being a factor and your behavior won't change. If I know there's nothing to be afraid of in the dark, I'm not going to be afraid of it. If I know that I have a 99.99995% of surviving an event, I don't have to fear it. People who still fear things DESPITE knowing better are considered irrational. – user11394 Apr 8 '15 at 2:15
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    So you're using infantry combat as your example of choice to answer a question about a 2 year old's fear? Not only is your answer needlessly combative and insulting, but you've just illustrated to me how far off base your reasoning is. And yes, people in war zones can overcome fear of death and danger. – user11394 Apr 8 '15 at 2:40
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    You can't down vote comments, so I don't know what you're talking about. Do you mean because you get a red notification about my reply? That red doesn't mean a down vote. Reputation changes only show up as +X or -X with the sign explicit. – user11394 Apr 8 '15 at 3:09
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    @unity100 If you know the chance of getting stabbed in a backstreet in the neighbourhood you are in is 0.002%, you are bound to be less afraid than if you knew the chance was 20%. The mechanics of fear are the same in situations where people are afraid, but fear is a matter of perception - people perceive different things to be scary, and as such knowledge is a very important factor in determining what a person is afraid of. It is by no means the only factor but it is a factor. – Pharap Apr 8 '15 at 6:44
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I don't think you should worry too much at this stage. It doesn't seem to me that a child's fears at this age are likely to reflect how their personality will turn out when they get older. It sounds like a lot of your son's fears may be related to his imagination and it can be a good thing that he has a good imagination. My youngest brother used to come up with all sorts of frightening things when he was younger but as he grew up he is bothered by very little.

Other fears may be related to memories of a bad experience. For example a child may be afraid of balloons if they have had one burst in their face but another child may not have experienced that so is not scared. I used to be afraid of clowns, not for the more obvious reasons of their strange appearance but because I was afraid they would make a loud noise or squirt me with water. Perhaps he remembers a time when someone he didn't like came through the door. As you say yourself there are things that he's not scared of that other kids are.

There are also a lot of learned fears which you can try to avoid him picking up on. I used to love spiders as a child but at some point I became afraid and I still don't like them now. Things like that you can teach by example - show that you are not afraid and hopefully your son won't be either (as long as your son knows how to recognise a dangerous spider/other animal if you have those where you are.)

If you want your son to enjoy risky activities it needs to be something he enjoys. Let him experience activities with you in a fun and positive way. I think this type of fear is different to fears from imagination though. You may find that he's much less fearful of a risky activity than of something in his imagination. I think the imagined fears are much more related to his age and they will come and go and change as he gets older.

  • +1 Very true. The older a person gets the less they fear. – Pharap Apr 7 '15 at 19:17
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My son is also 2 years old, and is occasionally frightened by unexpected things.

For instance, he loves to push all the buttons on toys in stores, especially on trucks and cars. However, some of them are very loud and/or have motorized parts. Like your son, he'll sometimes be afraid of them. He'll come to us and hug our legs, or back off from the toy and move on.

He also gets scared around strangers, or family he hasn't seen in a while.

If we turn the vacuum on without warning him, he gets scared by the loud noise.

In most circumstances, our response is the same. We get down on his level, point out the source of his fear, usually smiling, and try to make it fun/not scary.

When it comes to the RC cars/toys, we usually say something like, "Wow! That truck's so cool, look at its wheels spin!" Our excitement and enthusiasm rubs off on him and alleviates his fear. When we want him to adjust to other people, we usually pick him up and approach the other person to talk. We'll often "introduce" the people to him, or make comments about how they missed him.

For us, this is an optimal solution. We want him to be afraid of some things, and come to us to have his fears assuaged. That way he is more likely to come to us first before approaching a dangerous situation.

Once our tone, language, and body language show him that there's no reason to be afraid, that's usually enough for him. But, we still have the opportunity to show him that, yes, he should be afraid of some things.

  • Was just fixing the typos, but you beat me to it lol – Pharap Apr 7 '15 at 19:30
  • @Pharap I saw that! You caught one I didn't, too. That's unusual timing! – user11394 Apr 7 '15 at 19:31
  • I'm not actually 100% sure about that last one, I'm going to double check over at English SE. – Pharap Apr 7 '15 at 19:32
  • @Pharap I'm sure it's correct. "Awhile" can't follow prepositions, such as "in". I did mean it to read "hasn't seen in a period of time". – user11394 Apr 7 '15 at 19:36
  • That's what the comments on the answers I found seem to suggest. I'm going to assume it's correct unless someone else says otherwise. – Pharap Apr 7 '15 at 19:43
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If the fear is caused by noise or strangers it should go away as he becomes older.

A typical twenty-four month old child should be afraid of loud noises and strangers. It would be unusual if he wasn't. Here's a visual showing the fears of young children over time. The left side shows fears that decrease over time and the right side shows fears that increase over time.

Young Children Fear Chart This image is from Jeffrey A. Gray's book The Pyschology of Fear and Stress.

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This is perfectly normal and common for a 2 year old. Don't worry about it. He'll get more confidence as he gets a bit older, and discovers all the new things he can do.

What you should avoid is trying to push him to do things he's frightened of. This will have the opposite effect to what you're trying to achieve.

It's perfectly normal that he would cry if a 3 y/o shouts at him. Obviously it doesn't seem like a threat to an adult, but she would obviously be much bigger, and much stronger than him. For him to stand his ground against a bigger child is not particularly smart. He'll just get knocked down. Also trying to teach him to defend himself against other children could have the disastrous effect of making him become a bully himself. He is much too young to distinguish when a physical response may be appropriate (i.e. another child bullies him), or completely inappropriate (i.e. when another child has a toy he wants).

Fears are not bad in themselves. Fear is what keeps us safe. Your little toddler just hasn't yet learned to distinguish between real and imagined dangers.

Finally the best way to teach your child at that age is to model the behaviour you want him to learn. Be confident in your own daily life, and he will learn to do the same.

Just a comment on your desire for him to "not fear anything", and to be "a risktaker". Is this really what you want for your child? Have you actually considered what this means?

Presumably (I hope) you mean that you want him to confidently take on new (positive) challenges... To apply for that great job, or date the prom queen etc.

The problem is that risk-takers are also those who experiment first with smoking, drinking, and drugs. They're the ones who go train surfing, and pick fights when they're out at nightclubs.

A person who fears nothing, is destined for a short life.

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As I parent of two I understand you want your child to be as happy as possible. But what can you do more than understanding and being helpful and supportive in whatever they experience?

" I don't want him to fear anything. I want him to be a risktaker." Everything has its pros and cons. Here are a few questions, I've numbered them so it is easier to refer to them, the order is random.

  1. Could you find the pros of having fear?
  2. Do you think you have a balanced view of the pros and cons of fear?
  3. Isn't any human (or being for that matter) fearful in certain aspects?

(Maybe you think I am exaggerating, maybe I am nitpicking on your words of don't fear anything.)

  1. Isn't it healthy to have some level of fear?
  2. Do you think that all of the animals and human race would have evolved further without any fear at all?
  3. What if fear can't be excluded from the set of emotions we beings can experience?
  4. Can you think of any risks when your kid has learned to suppress/ignore it's expression of fear?

I don't want him to grow up fearing everything.

What do you want instead?

but how do I make him conquer his fears

How do I make you conquer your fear of your son fearing everything? (Spoiler: the answer is, I can't and I never will be ablo to, you have to do it yourself. The same as with your child. I can be supportive to you, but I can never make you. It is the beauty of self developing consciousness.)

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    While I think your perspective is valid, you're arguing with the question instead of providing an answer. Can you adjust this to simultaneously be providing information about how to help a child deal with fears? – Acire Apr 7 '15 at 14:28
  • OK Erica. The answer is: get rid of your own fear, it causes you tot express ego. You want this and you want that, dont do that. Be supportive in what your child goes through, and seek to understand. You can't make him into anything at all. Only he can do that himself. I like my answer better than this comment Erica... – Mike de Klerk Apr 7 '15 at 16:44
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    I'm just trying to point out that this is not a particularly constructive answer currently, but instead is critical, failing to address what the OP wants to know. I don't think you need to eliminate the idea that fear is an acceptable emotion for children to have, but I do think the existing answer does not stand well on its own as an Answer to the OP's Question. – Acire Apr 7 '15 at 16:51

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