Once our babies are born, we don’t dare to think of all the things that could happen to them. We have dreams and nightmares at night of these fears of them getting hurt. We try to protect them any way we can.
But that in itself, harms the child.
Humans need to push themselves, we need to take risks.
For a couple of years, I worked at a school in rural Costa Rica where 90% of the children were local Ticos and the other 10% were from other parts of the world. In those two years, there were five accidents (broken bones, nothing too serious) and four of those accidents were from foreign children.
Why is it that 10% of the population had 80% of the accidents? The answer is that the local children had been taking risks since they were very young. The children there are allowed to play in the forest, climb trees, dig huge holes, play with big sticks, etc, while children here are gently reminded that they can’t do that because it isn’t safe.
But as children grow, the risks get bigger, and they often don’t know how to manage them, because they have never been given the chance.
Another important aspect to risk taking is allowing the child to find their limit. This means that the child is more than welcome to climb something if they can do it all by themselves. That also means that they can get out of the situation by themselves as well. My boys will climb up on a rock and then ask me to help them down and my response is usually, “If you can get up, you can get down.” It takes them a little bit to figure out how to extract themselves from the pickle they got themselves into, but they do it, and feel great afterwards.
Since they are young, I am there spotting them, but since there are two of them, I’m not always able to be within inches of them. Because of this, they have learned that I won’t always be able to catch them. They have actually learned to fall somewhat gracefully.
Studies have shown that children who take physical risks are more likely to take cognitive (academic) risks as well. So this little change of allowing your children to take risks will have long term positive outcomes.