Be Patient with Phobias

Be Patient with Phobias

Is your preschooler totally freaked out by spiders?  Snakes?  Clowns?  If so, don’t worry.  Phobias are quite common and perfectly normal during the early years.

A phobia is defined as an irrational fear.  If you get mauled by a ferocious Mastiff and subsequently are afraid of large dogs, that is understandable.  But if a 20-year-old toothless Chihuahua sends you running for the hills, then you have developed a phobia since there really is no way that tiny canine can hurt you.  And while we adults all have our little phobias, rarely do they elevate to the level of being devastating and debilitating.

However, a preschooler is in what is referred to as the “preoperational” or pre-logical stage of cognitive development.  In other words, by definition, she is irrational.  Consequently, it is almost inevitable that she will develop a variety of serious phobias.

Unfortunately, people sometimes ridicule the child and/or attempt to dismiss her feelings with logical explanations and arguments.  This is futile and often simply makes things worse.  The best thing to do is to be patient.  Indulge the child for the time being and simply wait for logical thinking to come along.  As it does, the irrational fears will diminish and in most cases will eventually fade away.

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll.  After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project.  He may be contacted via e-mail at