As parents one of our most basic instincts is to protect our children so they can safely reach adulthood. Determined to shield kids from failure, public embarrassment, or danger, it’s all too easy to stray into overprotective territory. While our intentions are good, they can often prevent our children from learning valuable real-life lessons and developing creative ways of solving their own problems.
In response to the everyday challenges we face, helicopter parenting has been on the rise for decades. Compared to our own parents, we now have access to so much more information about raising our kids that we often become hypersensitive to their safety and security.
We live in a turbulent world, and it’s important to foster a supportive environment where our children are encouraged to take reasonable risks in preparation for the realities of their adult lives. Such risk-taking is imperative for kids of the 21st century if they are to develop into strong and capable adults. Children who do this at an early age will be better prepared to confidently take on the challenges that will present themselves later in life.
Thriving in the Face of Uncertainty
Simply put, risk-taking enhances confidence in kids. It makes them feel capable and encourages them to spread their not-so-baby bird wings to take flight. Like adults, children who accomplish the previously unattempted get a ton of satisfaction when they get opportunities to practice new skills they’ve been taught.
We’ll be the first to admit that the number-one parenting imperative is keeping children safe. However, there’s a difference between taking sensible precautions to keep kids safe and smothering them with over-protection. Coddling them actually creates more anxiety because they’re less equipped with practical knowledge. They’re also less familiar with productive failure. While while children need to be taught certain obvious safety precautions—not touching a hot stove, for example—they also have powerful instincts of their own.
So how do we find that elusive balance between backing off and leaning in with advice and a helping hand?
Trying New Things
First, we need to encourage kids to step out of their comfort zone within the context of common sense and safety. It may be nerve-wracking to watch your kid attempt to climb a tree for the first time, but this doesn’t mean you should stop them from doing it. Instead, keep an eye out, and your distance. Offer some advice if they’re having a tough time, and save the swooping in for truly risky situations. As their problem-solving skills improve and they master the challenge, you can confidently ease off of the controls and grant them more independence.
Any parent who’s heard their kids repeat a new phrase they could have sworn flew under the attention radar can attest to the close attention kids pay to the adults in their lives. Since kids emulate their parents, when parents demonstrate empathy and a healthy perspective towards risk, they model these attitudes and raise well-adjusted children.
Consider the paradigm shift between:
a) “Don’t run with your cup, you might spill all of your juice.”
b) “Hold your cup with two hands and watch where you’re walking, or else you might spill all of your juice.”
Want to level it up? Be open about the risks you’re embracing. Create a daily tradition of sharing the new things each member of your family tried that day. Having a consistent check-in on the way home from school or around the dinner table shows kids that this is something you value not just for them, but for yourself as well.
Danger Versus Risk
Leaving a child who isn’t water-safe unattended at the pool is dangerous and unwise. Letting them loose when they are the swimming instructor’s star pupil and received the all-clear is risky but calculated. The former is neglectful, the latter based on rules and awareness.
Ultimately, kids need to experience pushing boundaries and doing things independently. They mature by learning to bounce back from mistakes on their own. Parents who let their kids explore through free play, and who encourage attempts at potentially scary feats, are more often than not met with brave, beaming faces.
At Galileo, helping our campers develop resiliency is at the core of what we do. Our art, science, and outdoor summer camps are all about having as much fun as humanly possible while overcoming challenges along the way. To learn more about our camps in your area, click the button below to find a location near you. 👇