You are here

Making Judgements, Taking Risks

Jane Tyson

I like to observe children...particularly when I have no vested interest. I think it makes the observations more meaningful.

Last Friday I was at the airport picking up a dear friend, OK I was picking up Susanne. As I sat outside the International Arrivals door I watched as a handful of children, say ages 2 1/2 to 5, as they were running around, climbing and jumping off a small platform as well as the heating register that ran along the wall. Setting aside any judgements I may have been making about the parenting or lack thereof, of these children, I enjoyed watching them making their own fun as they waited. 

The older children were able to easily climb up and jump off the above mentioned items. I occasionally thought "you are going to get hurt" but one did. As with any mixed age group of kids, the younger one wanted to do what the older ones were doing. A little boy, probably the youngest of the group, crawled up on the platform which was maybe 18 to 20 inches high. He positioned himself at the edge as if he was getting ready to jump. But not just jump off, he was going to jump from this platform to the heating register which was maybe 2 feet from the platform and against the window. The adult/teacher/mom/grandma in me thought he's not going to make it. He's going to hit his chin on that register and there is going to be blood and tears. I waited for an adult to step in and stop him. No one did. As this little guy was poised on the edge of the platform, I could see him thinking, deciding. And then just as quickly as he got up there he backed off and crawled down. 

He had decided he couldn't make it. In his own way had thought through the options and consequences and made an appropriate decision. I would be willing to bet that his parents let him have opportunities to run, jump and balance his way through life up to this point. He was probably always following his older siblings arounnd, trying to copy them and do what they were doing. He was allowed to take risks. He was learning to make judgement calls on what he could do, what he might be able to do and what was still out of reach,

Now back to those judgements I may or may not have been making earlier. I take some of them back. Should those children have been allowed to run around with a great many people sitting and standing while they were waiting. Maybe not. It probably wasn't the best place for that kind of activity. Should that little guy's mom or dad have stepped in an stopped him from even considering making that jump? Absolutely not. Would he have been hurt if he had tried? In my opinion, probably.But perhaps there was a time earlier in his life we he tried to jump from one object to another and didn't make it. Or maybe he had made similar jumps, just not as far or maybe to bigger objects. Whatever it was, this boy was able to decide not to try it. Good job mom and dad for allowing him to take risks.

If we as parents hover about and constantly step in to protect our children, how are they ever going to be able to know what they can do? Now I'm not saying to allow them to jump off the roof of the house, but there are definitely risks that should be allowed and encouraged. Kids need to have the opportunity to run, jump, climb and balance. They need to practice these skills and learn how to do things as well as what is safe to do. So try to step back a little and let them try. It will be worth for both you and them.