Alongside Mr Hare using his abilities in Executive Function last Friday, (Executive Function – A Story) there was also an aspect of managed risk in the scenario.
Mr Owl (age six) decided to tag along for the ride and took his scooter to use on his journey home – alone. Mr Hare (age nine) had to wait at the bus-stop alone for around 10 minutes until his bus was due.
While it’s natural to want to protect our children from danger, the reality is they need to learn to manage it for themselves. They will be places where we are not. They will have to face situations which challenge them – alone. They will leave home – eventually. And like many other things in life, learning to manage risk does not happen over-night magically when they turn 16, 18 or 21.
In real-life, when we learn something there needs to be a small shot of stress involved. Too much stress and we are overwhelmed. Too little and we don’t learn a thing.
So when our babies learned to roll – we didn’t stop them from banging their heads on the floor. They banged them a few times, sometimes hard, and then learned for themselves to lift their head higher. (Yes, we comforted them with Boring Cuddles if they hurt themselves. Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing.)
When our boys were learning to walk, we didn’t prevent them from falling or even rolling down steps a little – although we might have broken their fall if we had been close, we still lowered them to the ground as if they had fallen. We did the same when they climbed and slipped or rolled off something which they had climbed on. We hovered a little until they were around 18 months old – but beyond then they were capable of managing for themselves.
They had already learned to manage for themselves and they had already learned they could manage for themselves.
Yes, they often hurt themselves a little, and sometimes a lot, when they began to do some things and then they hurt themselves less – as they learned to trust their own judgement and how to keep themselves safe.
We didn’t, in any way, push them to do things they weren’t internally motivated to do. We also didn’t often prevent them from doing things they wanted to do. We allowed them to gain independence and skills as they naturally were inclined to – in their own time.
I won’t, for example, place Mr Butterfly on the trampoline (it has no steps) but neither do we have a wall around it – the older boys know they cannot abdicate responsibility to a safety device – they have to keep mindful of their body in space and correct mid-bounce if necessary. (We do have mats on this one, but didn’t on an earlier one.) Likewise, I won’t put Mr Butterfly up in a tree he can’t climb by himself.
Both of the older boys managed the small amount of risk on Friday morning. Mr Owl got home on his scooter having made his way down an alleyway, across a road around the corner and home. Mr Hare managed to wait at the bus-stop and catch the bus to school.
These were things with which they were familiar and had done repeatedly with us. They assessed all the information, because they had to; no-one was there to rescue them or do the thinking for them.
It’s like building foundations for later: the small risks they take now and manage will give them the experience, skills and confidence to deal with bigger risks later.
Many modern western children have very few chances to manage slightly risky situations when they are young. How can they be expected to manage risk when they reach their teens and/or leave home?
PS A word to the wise – should you not have been doing this and you want to begin, be prepared for a month or so of extra bangs and ouches as your children realise that you have stopped rescuing them/over-protecting and begin to take personal responsibilty.
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