Why am I scared of unscary things?

Nell bravely measures up a huntsman spider in our garden.

This blog is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is about dodging phobias (for more info about my book Homemade Kids click here)

Hands up, who is frightened of spiders? Or worms? Or birds? Quite a few of you I reckon. On my first uni teaching session of the year I asked a class of first years if they would share anything that not a lot of people knew about them. Some were happy to talk about big injuries, appearing on YouTube or loving the TV show Glee enough to be a Gleek. But the one who earned the most sympathy, because his classmates actually shared his pain, was the student who ‘fessed up to being terrified of pigeons.

Apparently pigeons are unspeakable: they have horrible feet, horrible beaks, and hideous eyes. They flutter and crash into you…

How do these phobias against innocent creatures start?
Pigeons aren’t scary. Worms aren’t scary (but I’m not at all keen on them and as a result a terrible gardener). Spiders are not scary… yet both my daughter Nell and her dad Pete are nervous around spiders. According to Wikipedia 55% of women and 18% of men (from Western societies) are frightened of spiders.

Probably countless readings of Little Miss Muffet or repeating those actions for Incy Wincy Spider aren’t exactly good for creating spider-love-ins.

Can you learn to be less afraid?
It seems that the fear of something like a spider is hardwired in us. You could think of it as a misplaced in-uterus survival skill, which can only be shed with a lot of anxiety in later life, or even counselling.

I tried hard to turn Nell’s cultural/in-born phobia around. I’ve never shown any fear of spiders and actively point out their loveliness, just as I’ve admired dogs, pigs, welly boots, whatever might fascinate a curious toddler.

There’s a lovely site here (Canadian) if you fancy learning loads of facts about spiders, eg, they recycle the silk webs they weave.

Even now Nell’s old enough to walk to school on her own, we often stop and look at spiders at work and have even started to name the different species. Autumn is a really good time to see spiders and their masterful webs. But if one makes it into the house and rests on the ceiling above her bed she’s willing to scream to get me to remove it.

Do you have any tips on how to prevent yourself passing on a fear to children? If so, please share.

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One Comment on “Why am I scared of unscary things?”


  1. Going green is a smart idea. You will benefit greatly in all ways of life.


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