On allowing your child to make its own mistakes
Hello blog reader,
I just returned home after a wonderful journey to Mexico. I was traveling, teaching and guiding caretakers and parents, and exchanging knowledge and experiences with so many dedicated people. The picture above is from one of the many small Kindergartens I visited.
But now to today’s topic: how can we allow our children to unfold and develop, while still keeping them safe? When are we over-worrying..?
Many parents around the world focus a lot on safety. Some even have to consider safety at all times when they leave their homes, and many have told me, that they need to have a plan on what to do in case something unexpected happens- this is very normal in Mexico.
Obviously, as a parent, you will have to be aware of dangers, and this goes for parents around the globe. Yet, in many societies, the media contributes to the fear by constantly telling us about crime, bad events, pollution and so on. We become even more afraid, and unwillingly and subtly, we transfer this fear to our children. What happens is – if we don’t pay attention to this- that it penetrates our daily lives with our children, and the message we send to them is that life itself is dangerous.
Maybe we start telling our children to take more care, not to run so wildly, not to climb so high (or climb at all), not to eat dirt, always to be nice (and perfect) and so on. We start doing all these things to help our children and to protect them.
However, as I often stress, our children have to make their own experiences, and they have to learn from their own mistakes.
We as parents and caretakers have to pay much attention to when it is our own irrational fear or over-worrying speaking, and when the danger is actually real. We have to be conscious about differentiating between the real dangers in life on one side, and all the natural, and sometimes really challenging experiences that children will have, on the other side.
So, what are natural challenges when it comes to little children?
It can be things like falling on the ground, and hurting a knee or even get a bump on the head. It can be to almost lose one’s balance when climbing a tree. Or, to lose it, and actually fall on the ground, and next time know in one’s bones how to pay more attention when climbing. It can be losing one’s favourite doll, and cry for a whole evening, and experience sorrow for the first time – and get over it in one’s own pace, and feel stronger. It can be solving a conflict with a friend in the worst way possible, and feel bad or confused afterwards. it can be eating an earth worm and never doing it again.
These are all natural experiences for little children, and we have probably all had similar ones. If we steal those experiences away from our child by bying a new doll right away, or by lecturing it so it won’t do any mistakes and never climb again (or get near an earth worm), – then how will it ever be able to process its own actions and feelings, and learn from its own experiences and mistakes? Of course, our children needs guidance- but they don’t need too many moralizing words about their ‘wrong’ behavior.
Most children know when they have acted as a bad friend, too. With older children, it is a good idea to talk about it, and about friendships- but again, it can be a very important and shaping experience for your little child to try to do something that isn’t right- and thus, from within, experience all the confusing emotions, and also how much nicer it feels, when no one gets hurt. Experiences like this can assist in shaping its whole moral constitution from within. So, the point is not to let our children “run wild”- but maybe just put a little more trust in them.
Trust is the answer
One of our greatest tasks as parents is really to practice to trust our children – all the while we still protect them from things and experiences that are truly damaging. We need to practice to trust, that our children will learn through their own experiences, and while doing so, get to know life itself. Imagine what a gift it will be, if your child grows up and actually feels equipped to manage her own life, because of the trust you showed her as a child. Imagine what a great gift it is, if she, as a young grown up, trusts herself in solving complex problems or dealing with all the many challenges that she inevitably will face through her hopefully long life.
– Then one of your great tasks as a parent is beautifully fulfilled.
With love, Helle – and Anna on the side 🙂