A false sense of danger

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Somewhere in the rain forest lives a family. They live high up on a tree and their living room is basically a platform without any walls. The family climbs up a ladder every day: father, mother and their little children. I saw this on TV once and they showed the platform with the children playing on it and not falling off. They showed that the children would climb up the ladder to their house every day, by themselves.

A false sense of security is like when you wear your laser goggles but can’t see the beam anymore.

A few years after seeing that, I had my own kids starting to walk. We had stairs and I originally wanted to get a staircase fence, but only if it was strong enough. A weak staircase fence would only give a false sense of security. I thought long and hard about ways of securing the fence in the strongest way possible. But in the end, I thought back to that rain forest, and decided that a good education in stair safety is stronger than any staircase fence. And so I walked with them every time, teaching them safe ways of using the stairs themselves.

They then got to an age where they wanted to climb the playground spider web. This is a similarly dangerous situation. If they wanted to climb, I would let them do it themselves insofar as they felt comfortable. Initially, I would climb right besides them to catch them if necessary but would not physically help them to climb higher if they asked me to. I wanted them to build confidence in their own climbing skills. After some time, I would let them climb by themselves insofar as they felt confident, with me staying on the ground. Although these things may be scary for a parent, they may be necessary to develop confidence and, paradoxically, safety in the child.

Isn’t it true that the more experience children gain doing dangerous things when we’re around to guide them, the safer and more independent they become? I have an inkling that the rain-forest family would agree.