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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

How to Raise an Anxious Child

Parents have a lot of power. As a parent, you can help your child learn about how to handle life. You both imprint yourself into your child as well as provide role-modeling for how to treat others and navigate life. In addition, the energy you exude in the home will be absorbed by your child. When you treat your child and others with love and respect, he/she will value self and others. When you treat others and your child disdainfully, he/she will conclude that he/she is worthless and powerless and will feel a deep sense of sorrow. When you are “wound too tight” and act as if disaster is about to strike at any moment, you teach your child how to be anxious.

People with anxiety often feel a sense of impending doom, not sure why. They often struggle with a pervasive sense of dread.  This problem is usually a result of childhood experiences. Anxiety is both taught and caught. People are taught to be worried by how their parents respond to life. Children catch anxiety as a result of not being able to feel safe and secure; validated and respected. The following list describes many ways a parent can instill anxiety into their child; teaching him or her to have stomach aches and headaches during childhood, and chronic anxiety as an adult:

  • Make everything a crisis. Never deal with anything calmly.You can definitely assist your child in being constantly nervous by making loud noises, and demonstrating negative body language every time something goes even slightly “wrong.” For example, if you  or your child accidentally bumps into, drops, or spill something, make a big deal about it. Whatever you do, don’t say something like, “Accidents happen, no problem,” or, “That’s okay, we can fix it.”
  • Threaten your child all the time.If you want to really install some hardcore anxiety in your child, to the point that he or she will have panic attacks, threaten your child. Tell him/her that if he/she doesn’t do what you want there will be severe consequences.  Do this process frequently so that you definitely scare your child to the point of causing him/her numbness, dissociation, and somatic symptoms.
  •  Threaten other people in front of your child.  This will not only reinforce the idea that your child better not do anything wrong; but it will also cause your child to feel deep sadness for the person being threatened. This extra pain will help ingrain in your child deep seated turmoil and guilt. Your child will spend the rest of his/her life feeling inadequate, guilty, and with a deep sense of responsibility for things he/she has no control over.
  • Change emotions unpredictably, without warning. Go from calm to ballistic for irrational reasons.  This is a great method for creating a traumatic bond with your child; as he or she will spend countless hours and days of his/her life trying to appease you, walk on eggshells, and otherwise try to keep you from getting mad. Your child will not have an intrinsic sense of self, rather, he/she will look outwards, toward you and others as their compass of how they should act.
  • Never offer direction to your child.  Let him/her guess about how to do things; and to add an extra dose of fear, get mad at your child when he/she does it wrong. Children will feel especially vulnerable when they are left to fend for themselves. Offer no mature role-modeling or life instructions to your child. This will help him/her feel confused and inadequate. In addition, because you aren’t offering direction, he/she will internalize the message that his/her value is low. After all, if it was high, you would take the necessary energy to teach your child important things about life.
  • Make sure your reactions never match the cause. This technique is foolproof. When you teach your child every day or every week how unpredictable your reactions are, you will imprint in your child that life is like walking through a landmine field. Your child will have this well-ingrained in his psyche by the time he/she is an adult.
  • Punish failure severely. It is really important to teach your child that the very essence of his/her worth resides in his/her performance. You can do this by not allowing any mistake, poor grade, failure in competition, or other imperfection, slip by without making a huge deal about how terrible it is.  Be very judgmental and harsh whenever your child does something wrong or poorly; or, even if he/she doesn’t intentionally mess up, make sure you keep punishments coming, as often as possible.
  • Scream in your child’s face. This will help ensure that your child does not miss the message; especially, in case all of the other strategies didn’t fulfill the mission.  When you scream in your child’s face, you are teaching him/her how to disrespect another human being, that he/she is a “garbage can” for your rage, and that when you feel a strong emotion it is okay to take it out on the world. There are other valuable lessons as well – one of which is that you don’t care enough about your child to refrain from hurting him/her. This method both decreases your child’s self-worth as well as increase his/her anxiety.
  • Isolate your child from the outside world.  This keeps your family situation a secret. It helps your child not see other examples of relationships. Isolation is a great strategy for instilling mind control. As long as your child’s only resources for support reside within his/her dysfunctional family system, he/she will be taught well how to internalize everything you do without question.
  • Raise your child to negatively anticipate the future. What better idea for instilling anxiety in another person than to always offer the worst case scenario?  Never offer alternatives, hope, or encouragement. Keep the focus on doom and gloom. This way your child can have a dark cloud floating over his head every day. If you do a really good job of it, this dark cloud will be pervasive and nearly impossible to shake.

I’m sure there are more options out there for instilling anxiety in your child. Use this list as a guide for some of the most effective ones.

How to Raise an Anxious Child

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2019). How to Raise an Anxious Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from