Ask Jonathots … May 12th, 2016

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My daughter is in the first grade. She’s always been very shy and insecure, which her father and I have been trying to address with encouragement. But the school psychologist tells me she’s developing a neurosis and I should take her to a psychiatrist. What is a neurosis?

Being neurotic is having a fear of the edge of a cliff which is in front of you.

Psychotic is thinking that the edge of the cliff is chasing you.

But there is a situation where we become so afraid of the edge of the cliff that we keep backing away from it while increasing our trepidation and limiting our possibilities.

Although I am sure there are psychological and physiological reasons for people to be afraid, normally in the case of a child, these insecurities are caused by hesitation, which is accepted by parents who don’t want to “push” their children.

There is a certain amount of jeopardy necessary if we want to grow instead of falling back into intimidation.

What do I mean?

Let’s say your little daughter takes piano lessons. She comes home at the end of the first lesson and says, “I don’t like piano.”

So you ask her to go a second week, but she has even less passion–so when she returns from the lesson and is nearly in tears over being pressured into doing this adventure, you give in and let her quit.

She’s relieved.

You feel you’ve done a good thing because she’s no longer terrified. But terrified is not a position of life–rather, it’s a reaction to it. And if you don’t live enough, you gradually become horrified by things that used to be enjoyable. This is where we develop a neurosis.

You’re catching this at the right time.

We’re not trying to turn all of our children into concert pianists, Broadway dancers or professional athletes. But we are trying to teach them to begin something, muddle through the middle and finish it the best they can.

Success does not go to the world’s most talented people. Success is achieved by those who are still around when the awards are handed out.

So let me make three quick suggestions:

1. Sign a contract.

In other words, if your daughter wants to take piano lessons, make her sign a contract that says she will stay with it for two months. Hold her to it.

2. Encourage what is encourageable.

Children are not stupid. They know when we’re insincere and when we really think they might have done something good. Point out what seems to be growing without criticizing what is lacking.

3. Learn to ask why.

If your child says she’s afraid, have her verbalize the source of her fear and explain why she thinks that is acceptable or why she believes it needs to change.

Fears are not alleviated by conquering them, but rather, by talking about them so we’re in the right mindset to begin to address the problem.

If you do these three things while she’s still young, she won’t become convinced that she’s just not “a particular type of person.”

I can always recognize someone who’s poorly trained. They will begin a discussion by telling you what they aren’t instead of stepping forward with what they are.

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