Conquer Your Kid’s Fear of the Dark by Criticizing Them All Day
Yes, it makes sense that your vulnerable child would fear the dark, given that human eyesight is not good at identifying threats in poorly lit situations. Yes, your child is small and new to this world, and probably feels afraid of a lot of things. Yes, your child may have an overactive imagination causing them to populate the shadows with legions of terror that your stodgy adult brain can’t begin to comprehend. However, you didn’t go through all this trouble just to have a crybaby offspring who can’t handle a little darkness.
Fortunately, you can condition your child to attach feelings of security and comfort to darkness, while simultaneously training them to resent the daylight. After all, in daylight they can be seen, and if they can be seen they can be judged, and if they can be judged then they can be found wanting. Criticize their hair, their skin, their dirty fingernails. Who can stand those filthy child fingernails? It’s like they’re MADE of dirt. And would it kill your child to use a comb? Or take a bath? Or finish their dinner? Or stop screaming about the monsters under the bed, and let you enjoy your evening glass of Merlot in peace?
Tell your child to smile more! Why are they always sniveling? Why do they cry when you tell them you’re ashamed that you gave birth to them? Regale them with stories of other children you once knew, who were much smarter and prettier and better behaved, and who didn’t need nightlights or bedtime stories.
To keep your child on their toes, mix some kindness into this process. During the twilight hours or in dimly lit rooms, pay them a surprise compliment. Something like, “Wow, for once you’re not wearing a wrinkled shirt, Timmy.” Or, “Your ankles aren’t looking quite as fat as they usually do, Emmaline.” This will positively reinforce the idea that low-light conditions correspond to encouragement and safety. Don’t dwell on the compliment, though; make sure you quickly move on and find something else to criticize, or you’ll risk building up their self-esteem and undoing all your hard work.
At this point in the process, it may seem like you are making your child weaker, not stronger. There’s a hollow look in their eyes and they’re reluctant to talk to you. That’s okay! You don’t need to engage in conversation with your child in order to constantly tear them down. Comment on their appearance as you walk by. Wrinkle your nose in disgust while they blow out the candles on their birthday cake. Leave daily notes in their lunch box reminding them not to walk like a penguin, because all the other kids can see and are definitely secretly laughing.
It’s important for you to maintain conviction here. You are making them stronger. When you’re done they won’t fear the dark. They’ll fear nothing. Except you.
Accelerate the process: be more direct. Start insisting that the lights stay out when you tuck them in. Say something like, “If I don’t have to look at you, I can pretend that I love you.” Keep finding things to criticize about your little angel. Why are they breathing so loudly? Have they washed their face yet? Why are their arms so flabby? Why are their teeth falling out? Can’t they even manage to grow teeth right? Pretty soon, your child will begin to feel much safer in the dark, where human vision can’t adjust well enough to pick out the flaws in their appearance.
In fact, it won’t be long before your child starts to crave the dark. No more crying when you put them to bed! Instead, the moment the sun goes down, they’ll run for the light switch and the sweet, forgiving shelter of the void. More time for you to catch up on your favorite TV show, your duty as a parent fulfilled. Your child now understands a valuable lesson about the dark: it’s not just for hiding monsters and enemies, it’s for hiding yourself.
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