How Falling Can Be A Good Thing For Your Child
– And 4 Things You Can do when it Happens
Imagine you’re outside with your little 1,5 year old toddler. If that’s a while back, try to remember the feeling of being outside with your little one. And yes, this goes for Children Professionals too, if your’e working with small children. Even though it’s a while back to some of you- this is still something that we can learn from as parents to children at any age.
Back to the toddler: Your’e watching the child as it stumbles away in pure joy on its little legs. The sun is shining, and the child is content. The experience of walking is wonderful and new, and the child expresses this using the whole body and breath, laughing. It brings out your smile; life is wonderful, everything is all right, the world is safe and beautiful in this exact moment. Maybe a bitter-sweet feeling occurs; you know that this Safe Haven won’t last, but you wish it would. You wish that this child will never experience any pain or get hurt, nor discover the harshness of the big, cruel world.
All of a sudden the child falls to the ground, face down. Kinda hard. Or? Everything stops for a moment, and there’s silence for maybe 2 seconds. The child looks back at you, eyes wide open. No sounds yet. How do you react..?
The 2 Common Reactions We All Know So Well
Often we adults react on our own fears and anxieties in situations like this. Is this normal? Yes, very much so. Often we react according to what we’ve been taught ourselves as children, or to our own childhood experiences. Maybe we once got bitten by a dog, so we teach our children to be afraid of dogs; perhaps we don’t even mean to, but it happens. Or maybe we once fell off a roof, so we teach our children fear of heights. And so on.
When a child falls, some of us would immediately go: ” Come on, get up, you’re all right”, perhaps even regardless the fall was hard, and the child feels like crying. This can be very hurtful and confusing to the child: we’re not allowing a natural reaction and not showing emphatic care. We’re taking over and deciding how the child should feel about falling.
And some of us would react as if we fell ourselves and were shocked or hurt. Our facial expression then shows that something bad had happened. And then – from experiencing our reaction – the child often starts crying; scared about the whole situation, and because we have signalled danger. Anxiety is very contagious.
In both cases we show the child that falling is a bad thing. That it is a mistake. But what we actually are doing is interfering with the childs’ own experience of the fall. Why? Out of love and concern, of course. But the child needs to learn from its own experiences in order to become a self- dependent and unique human being.
Heads up: If the child really hurts itself, of course you should immediately comfort it with all of your love and care, but still try to breathe deep and remain as calm as possible. This makes it a lot easier for your child to calm itself down as well after crying.
But the point here is that we don´t have to impose our own fear of falling into the little child. Nor do we have to tell the child to “get up and get over it” in order for it to become strong. Then what else should I do? – you might ask. Here’s what you can do:
4 Things To Do When Your Child Falls
1. Observe The Fall
2. Show Your Presence Using Soft Eye Contact
4. Await The Childs Own Reaction
Think of it this way: the child fell. Not you. Let the child figure out how to react all by it self. Maybe the child didn’t hurt itself. And if you don’t think falling is wrong, nor will your child. Try not to pick up the child attempting to “undo” the fall. Maybe the child finds a busy ant. Or a funny snail. Or rolls over and looks at the clouds for a while, letting the new experience sink in. Finds the calm. And then gets up, continues playing, now with the vision of a drifting cloud in its memory.
But bear this in mind: the child needs to fall hundreds of times, because this is how it learns about physical balance. Just as it needs to rehearse how to use a spoon, a fork, to climb, to jump, to throw, to draw, to hand-write, and so on. The list is endless. And if we don’t fail down the road of getting to know life, it means that we’re not really rehearsing. Rehearsing means ‘falling’ and ‘failing’ over and over again, and it doesn’t have to be a frightful or shameful experience.
So by showing the child that: “I’m here, I see you, and I trust your reaction” you at the same time build confidence in the child. You teach it to trust its own instincts and feelings about its own experiences, failures and victories in life. And how can that not be a good thing?