As parents today we are so very aware of the dangers in every aspect of our children’s lives. Not that our own parents were not aware, but most of us survived playing with toys that were choking hazards (remember when the Fisher Price people weren’t giant sized?), riding bikes without helmets and heck, even some of us remember riding in cars without wearing seatbelts. Now, I’m not advocating we go back to these practices, but some parents have become so protective that their children never learn the important skills of independence and…failure. And yes, failure is necessary in order to learn!
I stopped at the playground on Saturday and noticed a bunch of kids of various ages climbing on play equipment. Most parents were ever vigilant with constant “Don’t jump off there, you’ll get hurt!” and “Don’t climb too high, you’ll fall!”. I watched a 2 year old climb onto a see saw and tumble off backwards, and instead of her mom dusting her off and saying “Try again, you can do it!”, she reprimanded her with an “I told you, you would fall!” and moved her to what she deemed a “safer” area of the playground. Obviously with toddlers we have to offer different guidance and supervision than we would for a 10 year old at the playground, however, we need let our kids try! Remember the old adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?”
In our heart of hearts we always want to protect our children from danger and injury, and we should! But, protecting is different from letting them take reasonable risks. And children who are allowed to take risks, and yes, sometimes fall and fail, are more resilient, independent and confident adults. Why? Because when taking that risk, such as climbing a tree that Mommy thinks is too tall, and succeeding, it makes them feel empowered, and gives them the confidence to tackle other new things in life!
Children can’t take risks and build confidence and independence if they aren’t first allowed to try …without someone always being behind them to catch them. And yes, children do sometimes get hurt from taking risks, but when they skin that knee or worse yet, break an arm from falling, they also learn a wealth of knowledge about boundaries related to risk taking.
So this weekend when you head out to the backyard or to the local park, will you be strong enough to hang back and let your child take a risk he’s never taken before? If your two year old wants to tackle climbing to the top of the slide, will you be brave enough to let him?
Let us know your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you!