If there is one area where many of my friends and I differ greatly in our approach to parenting, it’s that they’re quick to intervene and I generally do not unless I know real injury is imminent. You might have read that as: 1) I put my child into dangerous situations and do nothing about it, or 2) I don’t say no to my child. You’d only be partially wrong with both of those assumptions.
Children are natural explorers. Play is how they learn literally everything. I believe the more we can say “yes” to that natural curiosity, the better. Because of this belief, there are many times when I see my son doing something questionable, and instead of swooping in and correcting or diverting, I wait and I watch. If I feel my toddler needs help, I will help him (not read “do it for him”), but otherwise, I let him figure it out on his own.
But What about Poor Behavior?
For certain things that could be a danger to him or others, or for things that disrespect people or belongings, I create healthy boundaries and I enforce them. I believe that my son feels safe in the knowledge that I will keep him safe, but that he’s in charge of his own play. It’s because of this approach that I credit my son’s great sense of independence and the trust we’ve built as a parent and child.
Is this an Easy Way to Discipline?
Even after practicing for over a year, I still have to bite my tongue and put my gut reactions in check multiple times daily, but doing so has allowed me to see what my son is truly capable of all on his own and for me there’s no greater reward.
Growing up, I remember being afraid. Afraid of crashing my bike, so I would never take the fun hill. Afraid of falling from the monkey bars, so I stayed on the ground. Afraid of failing. So many experiences were missed out on by me because of fear. This is a huge driving factor for me in my parenting style.
I’ve watched from afar as my one year old scaled baskets and climbed over boxes. I’ve kept a safe distance as he showed me how he goes up and down stairs. I have smiled at him from across the room while he stood perched in the saddle to ride his rocking horse. I allow him to take these “risks” rather than treat him like he is incapable of the tasks. As he gets older, these risks become more involved, but I approach them the same way. I trust my child to know what he can do, even if he fails on the first or second or third try. If he is insistent that he can do something, I listen… and I watch.
Allowing Children to Take Risks Teaches Them to Trust Themselves
It’s not my hope to raise the next Evel Knievel, but it is my goal to raise a strong, self-assured child who is able to take a little risk to enjoy a great reward. It’s my hope that as he grows he will begin to use the lessons he learned through these early physical risks in other areas too. I want him to dream big, trust his abilities, and go for that reward! So for now, I just say “yes” to risk.