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Being careful vs. being brave



How much should we protect our younger kids?

How much should we protect our younger kids


If we constantly urge our kids “Be careful!”, we send the message that we don't trust them and that they should be worried about doing something that extends beyond their usual comfort zone. Sometimes a skinned knee or bruised shoulder is an acceptable cost of stretching themselves, and we don't necessarily have to intervene as they figure out their own limits. After all, part of our job as parents is encouraging kids to develop skills through exploration and discovery.

On ModernMom.com, blogger and education consultant Stephanie Trzaska offers ideas on creating opportunities for what she calls “risky play,” situations where young children can learn about the world around them without parental interference. For instance:

  • When your child is first learning to walk and wants to venture away from your supporting hands, don't always hover and grab, even if it means an occasional harmless fall.
  • Set up safe areas to practice climbing and balancing, where a fall won't cause injury.
  • Let your kids get wet and dirty. The clean-up is more work for you, but it's worth it.
  • Allow them to play with real tools and utensils, not just plastic toys, so they can learn to gauge weight and size. If something breaks, they'll also learn to help clean up.

Benefits of this kind of play include:

  • Cognitive, emotional, mental, and physical challenges that contribute to brain development
  • An understanding of cause and effect
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Resilience and problem-solving for meeting challenges 

If it feels scary to give your child more freedom to explore, take small steps in that direction. Try replacing the words “Be careful” with something like “Make sure your body feels safe.” Remember that the goal is not for them to get hurt but to gain self-confidence and independence. As Trzaska asks, “Do you learn more when you’ve done something all on your own, albeit with some mistakes, or do you learn more when someone does it for you and it turns out perfectly?”



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