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How to teach your kids to make fast choices when facing fear, discomfort dash

Apr 11, 2019

Gentlemen, I want to spend a couple minutes with you sharing with you and very important topic called the freeze.

This is something that your children are going to encounter from their young early childhood, all the ways up to their adult life. It doesn't make a difference if you're a kid or if you're a seasoned professional law-enforcement officer who's exposed to the potential of violence daily.

Freezing, and there are a number of different ways that a person freezes, is something that happens and it's something that the professionals train for. The good news is, it's something that we as dads can take ownership of and train our children through it, so it’s less likely to happen to them. 

I'm going to share with you a couple of exercises that you can use daily with your children, activities that you can do with them and to encourage fast decision making, to get them to a point where they unlock themselves so that they're not frozen when fear arises in their life.

They will be able to quickly take an assessment and then respond with logic and reasoning, or fall back on their skillset, whether that's martial arts or verbal diffusion. The first step is simply identifying that they're frozen.

Now why does this freeze happen? For a number of different reasons, here are three.

  • Predator freeze, when someone is pursuing or in hunt, and freezes to prevent detection.
  • Prey freeze, when you feel as though there's an imminent threat in front of you that's life threatening, you stop, you lock, you freeze, you simply don't know what to do. Your brain can't transfer the information of fight or flight to your body fast enough resulting in a freeze, you don't know what to do.
  • Ethical freeze, happens when you just don't know what to do in a situation that you can't make sense of it, but you need to because the survival window is closing quickly and you must make a sound ethical choice on what that next step is. Examples here include possibly leaving someone behind in a survival situation, or responding to a violent threat of an unstable child.

We can all relate to a child seeing a dangerous dog approaching and their immediate response is to freeze. Well, this same response is going to happen whether it's a bully, whether it's someone who's punching your son repetitively, or it's a situation where your daughter gets grabbed by the head and thrown into the ground.

It doesn’t have to be physical, as a group of girls can target your daughter with social exclusion. They target one girl, that little girl will freeze up and not know how to respond within a storm of humiliation.

Or, it could be a situation where a boy goes hands on with a young girl and she's never experienced this, she freezes. She doesn't know what to do.

I want to introduce you to some basic tools that you can introduce right now with your children. Take that leadership role as their trainer and at the same time have some strong bonding experience they will never forget. Most of all, as with all of my exercises, have a good time.

Find Discomforts.

First, we want to identify your children’s discomforts. What activities, what actions, whether it's in their day to day life or something occasionally that they do that you can immediately identify that they find discomfort in.

Not something like making their bed, (that’s just a laziness issue and we can get around that). But something that they're genuinely intimidated by, they're afraid of, or maybe even embarrassed for doing. We are looking for some genuine fear that we know is there.

The next step is called a discomfort dash. This is precisely where you will assume that leadership role, demonstrating that it is possible to get through the discomfort and fear, and you are the one who's going to do it - regardless of what the situation is. You, Dad.

This is important. You're just going to do it. You're not going to say, "Oh, well look what I can do”.

You cannot come off like that.

The only thing that you need to do is be first  to face their discomfort or fear. Whatever it is, their Dad will get through that discomfort and that pain and they will see the possibility to cross that threshold in your footsteps. They will then see you looking back at them, encouraging them to follow, letting them know that they too can do this.

You see, I did it and so can you.

This next part is important. You cannot say, “look, I can do it.. come on! What's the matter?

Instead you must say, “I'm going to challenge you. I'm going to challenge you to do it faster”.

Keeping in mind that you are training your children to avoid the freeze factor, you want to continuously shave off time from when they're locked. These little exercises, where discomforts are regularly visited, you show the potential of overcoming, then gently challenge them to do it faster, will ultimately speed up their decision making while uncomfortable and slightly scared.

Under stress, when they are incapable of decision making they will freeze, increasing the risk of a negative outcome. The survival window closes here in serious situations. I think you understand.

We want to guide our children to a point where they can face pain, they can overcome fear, they can endure discomfort and they can move through it all quickly. Once through, they can clearly assess and make logical decisions or fall back on their skillset.

Whatever your fears your child faces, I'm going to ask you to discover them and go there with them.

Keep a record  or journal of your discomfort dash. Take inventory of what they're scared of, have them write it down and then make it a point to revisit each discomfort again. Maybe next week, maybe two weeks from now, but the important thing is to not just do it once and leave it behind.

Recall when they did it the last time and say, “I'm gonna challenge you to do it faster this time”.

Then you do it, you lead again. You show your child it's possible. Now it’s time for them to face this fear again, only this time they will shave a little time off. And you both will continue this exercise until they are able to effortlessly pass through their pain without hesitation.

This one exercise you do with your children will serve them immensely later in life. From making executive decisions, management decisions, or relationship choices - you’re ability to help them cut time on overcoming discomfort and fear is profound.

This is the discomfort dash, helping your child overcome the freeze that they’re going to face at some point in their life. Right now you have the chance and knowledge to lessen the potential of your child freezing in fear when you’re not there to help. It’s up to you to be there for them now, and I know you will.

I'm looking forward to hearing your results.