New book: Moms worry about all the wrong things

As it turns out I’ve been worrying about all the wrong things.

A new book called “The Paranoid Parents Guide” by Christie Barnes, found that parents’ worries are very different from what they really should fear.

From NPR’s story about the book:

“Based on surveys Barnes collected, the top five worries of parents are, in order:

  1. Kidnapping
  2. School snipers
  3. Terrorists
  4. Dangerous strangers
  5. Drugs”

“But how do children really get hurt or killed?

  1. Car accidents
  2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
  3. Abuse
  4. Suicide
  5. Drowning”

“Why such a big discrepancy between worries and reality? Barnes says parents fixate on rare events because they internalize horrific stories they hear on the news or from a friend without stopping to think about the odds the same thing could happen to their children.”

And apparently it’s bad to be worried about all the wrong things.

A.    It stresses parents out and can hurt their relationships with other adults. It also distracts them from real dangers.

B.     Plus, kids are less resilient and are taught to be helpless by our overprotectiveness.

So what can the worried parent do to truly help protect their kids? Barnes says put them in helmets and seatbelts. You can cut kids’ chances of death by 90 percent and risk of serious injury by 78 percent with those two things.

What would your top five fears be for your kids? How do they match up against the real dangers according to the author?

Will you stop worrying now? Is her argument convincing? Do you make your kids use seatbelts and helmets?

(Be sure to check out our earlier topic from today about stinky boys!)

24 comments Add your comment


September 13th, 2010
2:12 pm

My elder daughter, one of the most relaxed parents, has been consumed with fear that she will run off the road and into water and not able to save my granddaughter. Now that my grandson is here, she is even more upset. I guess for good reason, although I think she needs to go to a counselor to try to deal better with this. This is a person that is not bothered by much (except things like injustice and crimes against the elderly, children, and animals).


September 13th, 2010
2:35 pm

I am not obsessivly worried, I worry about car accidents, drugs and date rape with my daughter. And I have to say since she turned 18, I worry a lot less. I think most parents worry, and we worry more about things out of our control where we would be helpless, even if we were with them.

The day my daughter was born, that night watching the news the lead story was about a school being taken hostage. I was overcome with fear and dispare, why did I bring a child into “this” world. Soon the love of my daughter overcame those fears and I figured I only be a good parent if I focused on what I could control and did the best I could.


September 13th, 2010
2:37 pm

I don’t stress out about a lot of things that are out of my control..As for what she says parents worry about, I only worry about drugs..That is because most of my nieces and nephews are into drugs and I worry that my 2 little ones will be influenced by that..

As for how children really get hurt, I worry about car accidents the most..The rest of the list, I don’t stress over to much..

Theresa, I hope that you don’t get beat up to bad over this..You know that most of us have been telling you for a while that you worry about waaaayyy to much stuff..Good luck..


September 13th, 2010
2:42 pm

Do you really need a book to tell you what to worry about?


September 13th, 2010
2:49 pm

…you need to read and memorize, word for word “When bad things happen to good people”…

Bunch of Yentas

September 13th, 2010
3:07 pm

I tell people all the time that these anti-predator type laws that politicians use to get elected are not making their children safer. If your child is abused, chances are it won’t be by a stranger. Its going to be your brother-in-law, cousin, friendly neighbor, ect…

But people don’t listen.


September 13th, 2010
3:13 pm

My Top 5 Fears:
Impregnating some girl
Not graduating college
Doing something really stupid with friends
His future outlook in this declining economy


September 13th, 2010
3:26 pm

Instead of worrying about what I can’t control, I try to focus on the things l can control like wearing seatbelts, making sure my kids’ carseats are installed correctly, wearing helmets when biking etc. That being said, occasionally I worry about suicide because I know that mental illness runs in my family and I would hate for my daughters to ever feel that desperate much less act on those feelings.


September 13th, 2010
3:29 pm

Yet another expert to tell me what to worry about…..LOL.

I worry about car accidents. Especially with my daughter driving back and forth to school. I insist she call me when she gets back to her dorm. She has to call me when she is leaving school to come home. She’s down past Macon, so that I75 traffic really worrys me.

I’ve also told her to keep her cell phone in her pocket. In the event of a crash, it won’t be thrown around or out of the vehicle. She will have it on her so she can make a call if necessary. I do the same thing. Anytime I’m in the car, any car, it’s in my pocket.


September 13th, 2010
4:16 pm

I think another reason we fear the wrong things is that TV shows/movies tend to focus on these extreme examples.

Suicide definitely makes my top 5 because it is so devastating. And kids are pretty good at hiding their thoughts from their parents.
Drowning (not really the pool since all of mine are older, mainly ocean riptides).
I’m sure car accidents will hit my top 5 in the next couple of years when my oldest gets his driver’s license. Right now, I don’t really ‘worry’ about car accidents because we take the normal precautions of seatbelts and defensive driving.

I do try to keep my worrying under control. I have friends who worry about strangers, germs, eating the wrong things, ruining their kids’ lives and lots of other things. At some point, you have to just live your life.


September 13th, 2010
4:18 pm

@JJ interesting idea on the cell phone. My son keeps his strapped to his belt. I’ll have to think about it for me. I’m afraid I would forget to recharge my cell phone if I left it in my pocket in the car. Or that I’d leave it in the pants pocket and then forget to take it back out to the car.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

September 13th, 2010
4:42 pm

So TWG…are you obsessively worried about how worrying about all the wrong things might affect your children now? Sounds to me like the only thing this article has done for you and some others on this blog is give them one more thing to worry about, in addition to the ten things (realistic and unrealistic) that they already obsess over. ;-)

I don’t think this report will change anyone’s worry habits…..primarily because they’re irrational. That’s kind of the point. Kind of hard to tell someone who is afraid that a shark is going to jump out the pool at the Atlanta Aquarium and eat their child to just be rational. Go to someone who has to wash their hands 350 times a day and tell them their hands are clean after the 10th wash and see how well that works.

There is a need for the irrational worry of some parents that goes WAY beyond the actual probability of harm coming to their children. And it’s all in the wiring of the parents brain. I’m not saying they’re crazy or have no reason to be worried, but it’s carnal and irrational.

For example, my kid came home begging to join the boy scouts the other day….I had that same carnal fear about him hanging out with a nefarious scout master. I don’t think I’m crazy, and I don’t think there is a probability that he’ll be abused, but that instant revulsion for the idea swept over me. But who knows, maybe I am crazy. Although I think there is some credence in the fact that I’m wondering if I’m crazy to lend to the argument that I’m sane. After all, truly crazy people never really sit back and think…”wow, that (act or thought) was just CRAZY!”. That’s why they’re crazy, because to them, everything is perfectly rational.


September 13th, 2010
9:33 pm

Control what you can, within the boundaries of reasonable safety, but with the wisdom to know when to loosen the leash. And what you can’t control, leave to God — always keeping in mind that God helps those who help themselves . . .

I cannot worry about things that are beyond my control. If I did, I’d go nuts. And, more importantly, I do NOT want to raise fearful kids. I want kids who feel confident that they can cope with whatever life throws at them — THAT is “self-esteem.” Very few people lead charmed lives — at some point, our kids are going to have to deal with something unpleasant. At that point, hopefully we’ve had a chance to teach them self-reliance, common sense and life skills. For example, I live very close to a major highway intersection here in Atlanta. I had a friend who asked me how old my kids were when I allowed them to drive on the major highway, and I told them, “a week after they got their learner’s permit, on a Sunday morning.” She was shocked, but my reasoning was that if I TAUGHT them how to deal with the traffic early on, they would become more proficient earlier. Good grief, there are kids at her college from around Atlanta who have NEVER driven on an interstate because their parents were so afraid. When we had an ice storm, I took the opportunity to carefully make our way down to a large, deserted, icy shopping center, and I had the kids drive on the ice, brake, learn how the car felt while it was sliding, how to correct it, etc. After an hour of braking, sliding, slipping, steering, etc., they knew how a car felt on ice — the idea being that if they encountered ice while driving on the road, they would not panic and would respect the ice, slow down and know how to deal with unexpected car slippage. Same thing with snow — if they KNOW how it feels, they tend not to panic and have more respect for the conditions.

Teach kids how to deal with life.


September 13th, 2010
11:56 pm

My biggest fears are dire illnesses, accidents and losing them in a crowd. I’m quite surprised that accidents other than automobile are not on the list. We had a family member die recently from youthful adventure — attempting to climb the balconies of a coastal hotel to get into a room he was locked out of. No alcohol involved.
I try to teach them to protect themselves in situations where accidents would occur. Like a previous poster, my father taught me to drive in the snow and ice. He would take me to the school parking lot and pull the emergency brake while I was driving to teach me how to react.
Same goes with “predators” — we have roll-played what to do if someone they don’t know tries to get them to go with him/her, asks for directions, wants help finding a lost “puppy”, etc.
The most important thing to teach them is how not to be a hazard to themselves.


September 14th, 2010
8:46 am

@DB..Funny you mention letting your kids drive on the interstate so soon after getting their permit..I have a coworker (yes that one) and her son is 19, has had his license since he was 16 and she to this day won’t let him drive on the interstate..He has never driven to Atlanta or out of the city limits of Smyrna except a few times that she was in the car with him..

Mrs. G

September 14th, 2010
8:59 am

@Becky – That reminds me of some of my friends in H.S. I moved to Acworth my junior year and several of my friends weren’t allowed to drive to/on Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw because their parents thought that there was too much traffic. My parents didn’t care – probably both because they didn’t know the area (I scouted out the mall on my own shortly after we moved and my mom was at home with a newborn) and because my dad had taught me to drive in the Chicago area (he made me go into the city – in traffic – one day when I had my permit. It might have taken a couple of years off of my life…!). The kids that weren’t given much driving freedom seemed to be the ones who were in car accidents that they were at fault for in high school.


September 14th, 2010
9:18 am

@Mrs.G..The ironic (?) part to her not letting him drive on the interstate is that he’s in police explorers, you would think that if he’s going to be in law enforcement, she would want him to be able to drive in any kind of traffic or whatever?..


September 14th, 2010
9:21 am

Theresa, this sounds a lot like the book I mentioned in the book club topic, Free Range Kids. As a mom who is around a lot of other moms and hears ridiculous things like, “I won’t even walk out to get the mail while my baby is sleeping inside the house,” I think we need more and more and more and more of these books until parents start realizing they are harming their children by being so freaking overprotective.

I could probably go on all day about how parents are worrying about the wrong things, but I won’t. We worry about something happening to them if we don’t walk them to the bus stop, if we don’t check all their candy on Halloween for hypodermic needles, if we let them play outside unsupervised, etc. We have been scared by the media because they make sensationalize very rare, isolated events. The media presents these stories in a such a way that we feel like it is likely to happen to our child, when in fact, the chances are actually teensy, tiny.

It is very much a logical thinking versus emotional thinking thing. As a parent, we hear a scary story of a child being abducted by a stranger, and we immediately want to protect our child from that (emotional thinking), when, in fact, the actually chances of that happening are very, very, very small. I would just suggest that parents use logic, instead of basing how they raise their children on the fear instilled by the media. Example: If I remember correctly, there are only 115 child abductions a year in the U.S. that are not by a family member or someone known to the family or where the child has not returned within 24 hours. I found the link…it is from 2006


September 14th, 2010
9:23 am

Theresa, my post did not show?


September 14th, 2010
9:27 am

I am not the overly worried, protective parent. I do try to educate my son and remind him to be safe but I also realize that if anything really bad is going to happen, it’s likely out of my control.

Top 5 fears (similar to Photius):
Bad grades/not graduating from college
Impregnating a girl
Car accident (especially now that he’s 15 and has other friends who drive as well)
Other stupid accident (my son is a dare devil and those shows on TV that depict dumb stunts don’t help)
Not choosing a good career


September 14th, 2010
2:30 pm

Definitely car accidents are at the top of the list. My daughter has had her license for 7 months, and does a good job – but she’s still inexperienced, and there are a lot of dumb drivers out there. I taught her defensive driving – always be prepared for the unexpected, and she is very good about following the Georgia teen driving laws. She can only take one friend in her car (the law), and I need to make sure the parent of the friend is aware that my daughter is driving. Just Friday night, a young lady who has had her license for less than 3 months drove a carload of 8 kids to a restaurant after the football game (legally only allowed to drive immediate family). Tragedy waiting to happen and I’m guessing none of the parents had a clue.


September 14th, 2010
2:59 pm

TWG–we luv ya here and we have been telling you for YEARS your worrying about the wrong things! :P

Certainly there are pleanty of things to worry about. I don’t need a book to tell me that. I think my Mom has it right….you have to pray and teach them early….and the pray a whole lot more.


September 14th, 2010
5:03 pm

I grew up with a nervous mother. I never knew WHAT she was worried about but she was just tense all the time. I grew up to be a nervous person and I am afraid that I will be a nervous mother. I am working on being a lot more comfortable in situations that would normally make me nervous – crowds, going unfamiliar places by myself, meeting new people without feeling like they are going to follow me home (unless I want him to…LOL). It’s a hard thing to break. So parents, think about what you are doing to your children!


September 20th, 2010
12:31 pm

Regarding interstate driving…we live in Cobb County and made a point of taking our kids out on the interstate. Our extended family lives in SC and we used our return trips home as an opportunity for the kids to drive through Atlanta traffic on I 75 (Sunday afternoons aren’t too horrible). Going off to college and return visits home was in their future and there’s no way to do that and avoid driving on the interstate!