Observing Migu has made me curious about how children develop fears. By fear, I dont mean the reluctance or hesitation to get involved in something new. That is quite natural in children and unless children gain comfort in their new environment or with a person, they are understandably cautious. But frequently, children seem to have some over riding fear, some bogey.
So far, Migu does not have that. She is cautious in new situations. She is naturally cautious when she is trying to climb challenging stairs or go up a slide. But once she has gained confidence in it, she will no longer accept any support in doing it. She can be a bit startled by sudden noises, but generally, if she understands the source of the noise she is fine. The other day, when she heard some fire crackers going off, she calmly informed me that because there were monkeys around, people were setting off fire crackers. She is also not scared of the dark, and will confidently walk into dark rooms.
I dont mean to say she is never scared. If a dog or cat comes too close to her or makes to attack her (as has happened sometimes), she does get scared. It would be stupid not to be. But that temporary fear does not translate to a dislike of dogs or cats in general. The other day, when I was feeding her in the garden, a cat got attracted to the food, and really might have attacked us, if I hadnt taken the stick and shooed it away. It was eyeing us quite ferociously. But though she did get a bit disturbed at that time, her fondness for looking out for cats remains. She still goes searching out for every ‘gundu poona’ (fat cat) in campus when we go for a walk.
Around me, I see kids who may be older than her, but who have all kinds of fears, balloons, fire crackers, darkness, monkeys. It really makes me wonder if fear is cultivated with age. Do we then, as parents, encourage and cultivate these fears. I know a lot of us long to have a bogeyman which we can use with them specially if they are becoming difficult to manage. But should we consciously cultivate a bogey for them.
It definitely makes life simpler for us, if they are scared. Of course, if they keep extending the fear to other things, then it kind of stops them from new experiences. And I am sure, as kids grow up, some of them may even outgrow their fears, but continue to use it to get out of chores. WIll you run an errand for me. No, I am scared, there are stray dogs outside. Will you put this in the dustbin. I am scared of going there in the dark. The list can be endless. But who in the first place made them cultivate these fears.