As terrifying as it may be to witness, a lot of us find that our children learn best by taking risks. When my daughter was nine months, she started to climb the furniture - she was like a little mountain goat! My heart was in my mouth the first time she scaled the dizzy heights of the footstool in our living room - my instinct was to pull her down and keep her safely on the floor, but I sat on my hands and watched her closely instead. She found her way to the top and grinned with pride...then promptly threw herself off and onto the floor. I had scooted closer and was able to soften her tumble, preventing her from coming to any real harm, but she had experienced what it was to fall and was a bit surprised, even though she was unhurt.
For two weeks, she avoided the footstool, but the next time she climbed up, she also worked out how to climb back down.
My daughter is now a great little climber, and I trust her on all kinds of play equipment, as well as up and down the stairs. She understands her body, her limits and what she is capable of on her own. I admire her confidence. To get to this point, both of us needed to take a risk: she had to learn to tumble, and I had to learn to swallow my fear and give her the opportunity to fall. I needed to watch her carefully, and I needed to stay close by so I could prevent any real harm.
It's not about disproportionate risk-taking - and it's certainly not about putting our children in any danger. It's about pausing and waiting to see what they can do in the face of age appropriate risks, before we make any assumptions. When your child takes a risk and makes a mistake, they learn for the future. When they take a risk and succeed, they get the confidence that comes from doing something on their own. If we as parents do it all for them and stop them from taking any risks at all, we stop this learning process. For my daughter, risk taking (mine and hers) increased confidence (again...mine and hers!)
Would you like to learn to trust your little one more? When you spot a risk being taken, you could...
Move closer and focus all your attention on your child so you are ready to stop them coming to any real harm. Think of yourself as "spotting" your child, rather than doing it for them;
Take a deep breath and try to relax - your child will pick up on your anxieties;
Wait and see - what can your little one do without your help? It could be more than you think!
Allow your child to find their own ways to physically navigate new situations;
Stop your little one from really hurting themselves by being close enough at hand to catch them if needs be.
You will know if your child is ready to take a risk - and it will probably be sooner than you think!