Dear Pearls,
Please Help. My 3-year-old has developed a fear of bees. One day a few flew close to her head and scared her. She was so scared that night that she would not go near her bed. She seemed to be over it until a few nights ago when she started to cry and scream saying she heard and saw bees in her room. She has done this several nights straight and we made the mistake of letting her sleep on the couch and I sat beside her until she went to sleep. I believe she is really scared but at the same time she is probably working herself up some to get attention. Do we make her stay in bed and cry it out?
Thank you. R.

Mike Responds
It is not a case of either catering to her fears on the one hand or of abandoning her to her fears on the other. First, consider the fact that she did not come by this fear naturally. She has never experienced bee stings. There have never been any bees in her room. The fear first expressed itself when several bees only flew close to her. She does not fear butterflies that fly close; why bees? Somehow on your watch she developed this inordinate fear. I would ask you two questions as a way of getting to the root. Of what have you expressed an inordinate fear? Have you warned her against insects and showed fear yourself? Fears like this are learned from adults. What television movie did she see that had attacking, stinging creatures in it? Children can’t tell the difference between a make-believe drama and the real thing. Fear of one creature can be transferred to fear of another.
Regardless of how she came by her fear, the manner of delivering her from it will be the same. Fear is never overcome by fleeing from the source. It is overcome by facing the fear and standing up to it. When fear is a result of misinformation or ignorance, the answer lies in knowing the truth.
I would not force her to deal with this fear alone. Fears are caused by association and conditioning. Fears are purged by the same means. Expose her to bees in a fashion that will defuse the situation. Get a video or book that shows a colony of bees. Discuss how they make honey and how the queen-bee makes more bees. Sit in the yard with her, close to flowers where bees come to gather pollen, and discuss in wonder and appreciation the beauty of what God has made. Slowly get closer and closer to the bees to desensitize her to them. Discuss with her the fact that bees do not want to sting you unless you are bothering their hive, or if you step on one and hurt it. Then emphasize the fact that if a bee does sting you it is not all that bad. With slow and controlled exposure to bees, she will lose her fear.
Once she is comfortable around bees in the yard, it is time to stop catering to her fears in the house. Place her in the bed and leave her there. If she claims that there are bees in her room, put her in an uncomfortable room to sleep—one that is further from yours. Put her down on a towel on the laundry room floor, or in the kitchen. If the alternative is not pleasant, she will be glad to stay in her room. Do not reward her fears by cuddling her and allowing her to dominate your time and presence. If she is really afraid, the laundry room is a nice, safe place. If she is just working herself up in order to gain attention, then nothing will satisfy her but special treatment.
When you have assured yourself that she has been conditioned out of her fear of bees, you will not be in danger of being controlled by feigned fear.
Michael Pearl