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My Child Is Too Insecure!

My Child Is Too Insecure!


Dear Rachel,

I am worried about my seven-year-old daughter. She is a very sweet girl and has a lot going for her, but she seems very insecure. She always asks permission to do things that no one needs permission to do, and she is always checking to see if she is doing the right thing. For example, she’ll ask, “Mommy, I dropped my fork. Can I pick it up?” And after I give her permission to pick it up, she’ll say something like, “That was good that I picked it up, right?” I am worried about my seven-year-old daughterMy other kids would never ask such questions—in fact, if they dropped a fork, they’d just leave it on the floor for someone else to pick up! What can I do to help my daughter become more confident?

Concerned Mommy

Dear Concerned,

As Jews, we are cognizant of the Torah’s commandment to honor and respect our parents. But there is a big difference between being respectful and being insecure.

The mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim—honoring one’s mother and father—does require that children ask their parents for permission to do certain things. For instance, it is a mitzvah to ask permission to leave the table after a meal (as in “May I please be excused?”). It is a mitzvah to ask permission to explain one’s behavior after being accused of a wrongdoing (as in “May I please explain?”). It is even a mitzvah to ask permission to refrain from obeying a parent (as in “I know you asked me to wear a sweater, but could I please not wear it, because I feel warm enough without it?”). However, all of these questions involve the relationship between the parent and child. In the first example, the child is leaving the presence of the parent. In the second, the child is explaining his behavior after being confronted by a parent. And in the third one, the parent has given an instruction to the child.

Your daughter’s situation is quite different. She doesn’tYour daughter’s situation is quite different need to ask permission to function independently. If you had made a rule that no one should touch things that are on the floor, then her question would be permitted. However, in the absence of such a rule, your daughter needs to be able to behave independently. Don’t encourage dependence by answering such questions. Instead, encourage her to make her own decisions. For example:

Child: “Mommy, I dropped my fork. Can I pick it up?”

Parent: “That’s up to you.”

Child: “I picked it up. That was good, right?”

Parent: “What do you think?”

The trick here is to be consistent. Children with this sort of anxious behavior tend to be persistent and even a bit tricky in their approach. They’ll ask a question one way, and if they don’t get an answer, they’ll ask it another way and then another, until the parent finally gives them the answer they are looking for. For instance:

Child: “Eight o’clock is bedtime, right?”

Parent: “What do you think?”

Child: “I think it is, but am I right?”

Parent: “What do you think?”

Child: “Well, I know it’s not seven o’clock. It’s not seven o’clock, right?”

Parent: “What do you think?”

Child: “I want to know what you think!”

Parent: “I think you know all these answers.”

Child: “Yes, but last night I went to bed just before eight, so can I stay up till eight tonight?”

And so on. Such children are not trying to drive you crazyShe is not trying to drive you crazy (although it may seem otherwise). They are going through an anxious process. Giving up and giving in—giving them the answer they are seeking—causes this anxious process to grow stronger in the brain. Although it may seem cruel in the short run, the kindest thing you can do in the long run is to help the anxious wiring shrivel up by forcing your child to find her own truth. When she does so again and again, she will build feelings—and neural pathways—of confidence and security.


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. Sarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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Lisa Providence, RI July 28, 2015

Extremely Insecure Child Concerned Mommy, most parents teach their children to ask for what they want, and it seems that your daughter is terrified of being punished for making mistakes.

You need to reassure her that you lover her, no matter what, and it's possible that counseling can help your daughter gain more confidence. Reply

Anonymous brooklyn, ny May 3, 2015

It is true one can not assume ocd or any diagnosis,but it is imperative that with the symptoms which the two parents described so far, which are classic signs "asking" "reassurance seeking" and "checking" in various forms that one investigate with a trained professional. Your child deserves no less. In general, physical exercise is helpful in reducing anxiety. And of course remember that God is with you, as you help your child to learn to trust at the answers are within him or herself. Many blessings to you. Reply

Yankeleh Gilead Thailand May 3, 2015

security Jewish children, in fact most North American children would be more secure if they were not bound to their parents, especially their mothers. A child that cannot be allowed to play unsupervised, who when falls, runs hysterically to mama for bandages, etc. is going to turn into an insecure wimp. I live in a country where, when kids fall and scratch or bruise themselves, they get up and continue playing without hysteria or tears. It's wonderful to watch unsupervised school play yards, kids on bicycles, and kids playing soccer, all without mama over their shoulders. Parents should not live their lives through their kids, nor make their kids live their lives through their parents. Reply

Anonymous Fullerton, CA May 1, 2015

yochanan: G-d knows Man tries to discover and apply.
You are created of G-d. Fear nothing, especially other men. Reply

Sab London April 30, 2015

Insecure child That was very helpful. I do EFT tapping when I face issues with my
5 year old. He is my world.
I pray I be a good mum so when he's older he will remember it.
All the children need love and plenty of it with positive words. I know it's not always easy for some of us.
Death and power are in the tongue as it says in Proverbs.

Toda Raba Reply

Danica Phoenix, AZ April 30, 2015

Please do not immediately conclude that she's battling OCD. Please read a fun easy book called, 'The Enneagram Of Parenting: The 9 Types Of Children And How to Raise Them Successfully' by Elizabeth Wagele. She is coauthor of 'The Enneagram Made Easy,' one of the most ancient personality charts used for centuries by Middle Eastern and Greek cultures. My first impression is that your daughter may be a healthy G-d-given personality Type 6, which interestingly enough manifests minor anxious characteristics. If you want to know how to apply Torah principles to raising the Type 6 personality type, please order Miriam Adahan's book about the Enneagram called, 'Awareness.' Adahan's is a Torah teacher who focuses on teaching Torah through the lense of each of the 9 personality types. Adahan's has also written a few articles for and offers a few of her books as free downloads from her website. Blessings. Reply

Anonymous April 29, 2015

I would like to add to this important discussion that I am acquainted with a cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in OCD. She recommends that parents of even children much older than yours join in the therapy sessions, not only to better understand what the child's recovery process is to be of assistance, but because parents have valuable input. She also recommends that parents read a book designed for children called "What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck" by Dawn Huebner and decide if it is appropriate to work on with your child. In any case, it gives a good understanding of the cognitive behavioral therapy curriculum for OCD. Of course, success and blessing come from thanking G-d, Who made you a caring parent and gave you a precious child. He entrusts you with a wonderful, rewarding mission as a mother. Your local Chabad Rabbi can also give guidance and encouragement (since you are writing in to G-d-willing you will see much "nachas" Reply

Lyndie Ivery Dallas, Texas April 29, 2015

Thanks My son is EXACTLY like this. He's only 5, I noticed it almost 2 years ago. First started with seeking me to ask permission to go to the restroom 🚽 (which he would pass to find me). I'm going to try this out because I worry how he'll function without me to guide him. Reply

Anonymous April 28, 2015

Really amazing advice thanks! Reply

Anonymous April 27, 2015

This seven year old sounds like she is doing the "asking" and then "assurance seeking" that is an early sign of OCD. Catching and treating it early is crucial for a good prognosis. A mental health professional who is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy specifically for OCD needs to be sought quickly. The organization "Relief" is a good resource to find an appropriate practitioner. A child's pediatrician should also be consulted. This has to be taken care of quickly. I wish you much success. Reply

yochanan April 26, 2015

its interestiing to read this and what Sarah says is also very true but i am the same that i am afraid to do anything, but why, because my dad and the school i was at always hit me and so i grew up too afraid to do anything without permission. i am now 57 and always ask for permission from all authority, its quite sad really and i have absolute emunah in G-d but somehow what was done to me is difficult to resolve even though people tell me i don't need to ask.

i am very cautious but then i actually can say that it seems in todays world maybe its correct. Who knows,. Reply