THE BLOG
05/01/2015 01:29 pm ET Updated May 01, 2016

Question Your Fear So Your Children Can Grow

Courtney Keating via Getty Images

My daughter recently asked if she could ride her bike downtown.

My first reaction to this very simple question was fear. Similar to the first time she asked if she could go to the park alone, attend her first overnight party or head to camp for a week.

Questions like these initially bring up the worst in me -- the stories, the worries, the things that could go wrong.

But once I notice and accept that I am afraid, I actually have a chance to be rational. Her question is not the cause of my fear. My thinking is the cause of my fear.

She just asked if she could ride her bike downtown. I brought in all of the stories from my past, from other people, from the media.

We suffer when we believe all of the scary stories in our head. Suffering is exaggerated worry about what could happen if we had a difficult experience, not the actual difficult experience.

When difficult things have happened in my life, I find that I am quite capable of handling them. I do not like them, but I can handle them.

One day in the midst of a challenge, I wrote this note to myself and put it above my desk: "I can handle all things in the moment. The rest is just created stories and untruth."

This note has remained in the same place since that day, and this assertion has been backed up over and over again.

It's similar to the philosophy of not "rehearsing" tragedy (introduced to me by Dr. Brenè Brown). We believe that if we think through all of the possible negative outcomes, we might be able to side step any future pain. But thinking through all the negative outcomes actually creates the pain and heightens our irrational fear.

Noticing our thinking and questioning our stories allows us to stay here, in this place and time.

Questioning stories doesn't mean the answer to every question is yes; sometimes the no is completely rational and reasonable.

Certain movies may not yet be appropriate, the things they want for themselves may need to be saved for, the newest phone isn't necessary when the old version works just fine.

Questioning stories creates space for intuitive decision making that feels honest and fair. When we talk to our kids with this kind of clarity, they can feel it.

Just like they can feel when our choices are rooted in fear. Our fear disengages us from partnering and communicating with our kids, and this often leads to them lying or becoming more rebellious with their decisions.

When our kids ask for autonomy or space to grow, they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. They need to find their own, they need to create their own, they need some experiences of their own.

Their desire is louder and more powerful than their fear, but they still search our eyes for confidence, they want to know that we believe in what they can do.

The truth is that my daughter was feeling inspired and she was ready to go a little further than she did the day before.

So I noticed, and I questioned.

Then I opened the garage door so she could grab her bike.

Cathy is the host of Zen Parenting Radio and the author of Living What You Want Your Kids to Learn: The Power of Self-Aware Parenting. Follow Cathy on Facebook or Twitter.