Now this isn’t in anyway supposed to be ranty, I’m completely aware that passers by telling my child to be careful are doing so with his best interests at heart. I do. But, here’s the thing. I don’t parent that way, I’m not an overly cautious, everything is dangerous kind of Mum. I let him set his own limits and I always have done that’s how I know he’s ok because he’s done it a million times before, he knows what he can and can’t do better than anyone, better than I do and certainly better than you do.
He is brave, ballsy, confident, fearless and albeit a little bit feral! He climbs trees, swims in open waters unaided, jumps off rocks, plays outdoor barefoot and he’s very comfortable doing so. I’ve got friends who are much more cautious with their children and who are constantly saying “be careful, don’t do that, watch what you’re doing” and although I don’t pass judgement on how anyone parents. Each child is different and what works for me might not work for them and visa versa, I understand that, but I must admit I find it kind of stressful to be around.
I know Toby knows his own limits, he will only go as high/deep/far as he’s comfortable with, and that’s fine with me. Yes he might have more scuffs and scrapes than the other children but that’s ok. If he hurts himself he’ll remember and next time he might not go so far. I’m allowing him to learn from his own mistakes and learn to listen to his own instincts.
As long as I know that he is in viewing distance and he can’t be seriously hurt then I’m pretty relaxed with it. I think letting him explore, and be adventurous is healthy and it’s what childhood is about. Taking risks in childhood is actually really important, it builds self confidence. You know that old saying, Scare yourself once a day, it lets you know you’re alive? Well yeah, that.
I try as much as possible to avoid saying “be careful” instead I try to say things like “is that a good idea, watch where your putting your feet, will you be ok getting back down from there, do you feel safe up there” to get him to think about his decisions and what he is doing. I don’t help him to get up anything that he can’t do himself. I trust him to decide what he is and isn’t comfortable with. And this in turn gets me some funny looks sometimes and the occasional “oh he must be careful doing that” comments from strangers.
It’s not always easy to watch them take risks but the more you practice it, the more comfortable it is, for both you to watch and for them finding their own capabilities. I’d never sit back and willingly watch an accident waiting to happen but chances are he’ll stop himself before it gets to that. And if on the rare occasion he gets himself out of his depth, he knows I’m close by to help. Eyes always on, hands near by.
The problem is, it freaks other people out way more than it does me. Time and time again, I’ll get someone come over and say “do you know your little boy is right at the top of that tree”, yes I do. And I’m fine with it, I know that he knows what he’s doing. Giving them the freedom to test their own limits is so important. I want him always to go through life having the confidence to listen to his gut, body and mind and to make his own decisions, as well as the confidence to branch out and try new things.
So before you stop and tell someone else’s child to “be careful” evaluate the situation, if he or she looks comfortable, at ease and in control and there is a parent near by who also appears happy with the situation, accept that they probably are.