Your Parenting Info Sign Up

Don’t Squash Exploration

by Lori Sciame | December 15th, 2011 | Elementary

“Watch out!” “Be careful.” “Don’t run!”

These directions can literally be lifesavers for elementary age children. For instance, a visit to the Grand Canyon would make any parent extra vigilant where his or her child is concerned. Too close to the edge and the consequences would be devastating. Yet, some parents take safety to an extreme, and end up inhibiting a child’s adventurous spirit.

I knew a boy who had been made fearful of life by his father. It wasn’t that his father didn’t love his child; he just restricted the boy’s movements so much – that in the end, he made his son afraid of almost everything. Because the child was so timid, he literally had to be taught how to walk with confidence, and even how to jump into the shallow end of a pool without having a panic attack. How heartbreaking that this child’s youthful exuberance for life had been squashed by a well-meaning parent.

As you might guess, there remains a murky area between being too safety conscious, and not being safety conscious enough. Unfortunately, many examples exist where parents choose to disregard safety altogether, leading to injury and even death.

So, what is a parent of an elementary-age child to do? How can you promote both physical and intellectual growth, while still making sure your child remains safe?

First, you must present a vision of the world as a secure, exciting place. In actuality, our world teems with wonders around every corner. Share this fact with your child to promote a general sense of well-being in your home. If you live your life in fear, your child will mimic your demeanor.

Next, give your child an opportunity to explore. Yes, this exploration may include a few bumps along the way, but making mistakes and learning from them should be an integral part of growing up. A child needs to run, to climb, to jump, to swim, to dance…even though he or she may end up with an injury.

As a child, I broke my nose after falling off my bike. I also pierced the bottom of my foot on a nail while digging through the rubble of an old farmhouse. Later, I injured my back while practicing cheerleading routines, and I had a fender-bender when first learning how to drive stick shift. Do I regret those incidents? I’ll admit; I could have done without the pain, yet those injuries all marked periods of growth – times when I was living life, and having fun!

Finally, offer praise when your child takes risks, such as learning a new skill. Each time you let your child know you feel proud of him or her for tackling something unfamiliar, increased confidence results.

In the case of the timid boy, I worked diligently to change his fearful mindset once I divorced his father. I am happy to report that he is now a man who travels the world on his own, a free spirit ready to tackle all the wonders life has to offer him.

Comments on Don’t Squash Exploration