“Raising a Fearful Child,” by Nick Hilbourn

Mar 26th, 2014 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

My name is Nick Hilbourn, professional English major and, regrettably, a father.

If you’re like me, then you dearly regret having children.  Although they are precious and wonderful when they first claw their way out of a woman’s vaginal cavity – by age one, they are detestable.

How do you deal with a human being for whom you have reserved unadulterated hate?  A human being for whom you specifically redirect any kind of irritation or derision you have during your day job at the Atlanta Bread Company into a special reservoir set aside for your child?

But also, a human being utterly reliant on you.

How do you ensure that you raise an idiot who will never question your authority during the disgusting period of puberty when sinful body parts suddenly come to fruition?

The answer begins with an annoying question that all kids ask, “Why?”  Like any parent, I’m filled with a murderous rage toward my child when this question occurs.  However, I’ve learned to channel that rage because I see the long-term benefits of abusing it.

Instilling a good sense of fear in a child is not just fun but also beneficial for the well-being of the parent.  The best way to do this with children is through storytelling.

Now storytelling seems harmless but that’s because most parents don’t do it right.

Consider this scenario: in the midst of working on your novel, your child bursts into the room to ask an inane question about the sun.

“Where do the sun go night time, daddy?” The question is usually phrased something like this.  Grammar is nonexistent.  Critical thinking, forget about it.  Now, the usual response is to say something like, “Go away.  I’m busy.”

Sometimes this works, but, of course, the kid will come back.  Eventually, you’ll break down and say some nonsense about the sun being a king or a great warrior or something highly dismissive of science and rationality.

The child, being an idiot, swallows it hook, line and sinker.  They will believe anything!  So, why not take advantage of this kind of situation?

Recently when my child interrupted me as I was working on highly impressive chapbook of poetry, I explained that the sun was actually stolen by a gang of horrific demons who, in their off-time, wait beneath the bed of talkative children in order to rip their arms and legs off and, while they’re still alive, dig their entrails and feast on them.

Guess what?  No more questions that night.

Now, side-effects will occur.  The particular story above ended with a serious bedwetting episode and my child screaming in the corner of his bed, holding his stomach and saying that “they try to eat my insides”.

But side-effects are part of the business.  I sat down with the child, the murderous rage barely held at bay by the knowledge that it would take more time away from my chapbook, and told him the story of the serial killer with one eye who lives in the closet of children who wet their beds.  The only way to avoid his wrath was for the child to wash his own bedsheets.

Boom.  Not only do I now have a child who no longer bother me but will clean-up his own mess.  And, the best thing, I’m free to work on my own projects.

Now, many people, like my ex-wife, scorn such practices and say they’re dismissive.

Well, let’s hear her say that when, eighteen years from now, she’s getting a mouthload of bullshit from some teenage know-it-all, while I receive the silent (but respectful) scorn of a kid who has internalized my story of “The Mouthy Kid who was dragged away by The Night Mexicans.”

Now, I understand a lot of you are nowhere near as creative as I am.  You haven’t published a single poem or chapbook or even started on your novel.

But it’s all about forming a tool kid.  Pay attention to your kid when you feel like it.  I always sat down with my kid after a nightmare.  Don’t just dismissively comfort them.  Ask them about the nightmare.  Here’s how I approach my kid.

“So, you had a nightmare.”

“It was a scary.”

“Not “was a”.  It was scary.  Say it right.”

“It was a –”


“It…was scary.”

“Good.  So, you had a nightmare.”

“Yeah, it was scary daddy.”  (Tried to hug me.  I push him away.)

“Alright, alright.  It’s over, but tell me about your nightmare.”

“Monsters chasing me.”

“Yeah, yeah, but describe the monsters.” (Pull at notepad here)

“I can’t.”

“Listen, did I ever tell you the story about the little boy who was eaten by wolves because he wouldn’t describe his nightmare?”

You’ve got to collect a toolbox, ammunition to use in any situation.  You want maximum terror.  Control.  And to do that you’ve got to mine your child’s subconscious.

Being a parent is responsibility.  You’ve got a kid that you have to feed and clothe and drive to school.  But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your dreams.  Most people would say that this method is selfish.  “Brutal” is a word my ex-wife said to the lawyer.  But I see it as an important indoctrination into the word.

We live in a world of fear and your kid has to learn that sooner or later.  We fear the government, we fear our boss and we fear not having a smartphone, which is why we work at Atlanta Bread Company.

A kid can’t expect to demand the precious time of everyone around them.  To learn that, usually, people just don’t have time to deal with them.  But, of course, they’re kids.  Stories speak to them in ways that news articles speak to the rest of us.

Learning to communicate with your children through stories (through the right kind of stories) will not only make their transition into the world a smoother one, but also free you up to deal with your own dreams and aspirations.


Defenestration-Nick Hilbourn 3Nick Hilbourn now owns eleven Apple iPads.  He lives in the Lower East Side and writes haikus for Yaffa Café.  His favorite food is biscuits.

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