I can’t tell anyone how to parent, and I’m certainly not advocating for you to be unsafe with your children, but what I am suggesting is that you let your children explore and do. All animals, from dogs and cats to little boys and girls learn through exploration, trying and doing. By allowing them some freedom, you actually help your child realize their capabilities, learn from their mistakes, and gain confidence from successes.
Independence at any age is a good thing.
In my opinion, it’s better for them to figure things out than for us as parents to do it all for them. Independence at any age is a good thing. I still advocate being close by, but you don’t have to be on top of them all the time.
Once, we were at a friend’s cottage. The older kids were running around and there sitting in the middle of it all was Ryan, our second child, who had never taken an independent step before. He was 16 months old at the time, and a BIG boy. My friends and parents were worried he was delayed, but personally, I was thankful I had one less kid to chase around. Our first son walked at 10 months, and life was very busy after that!
Ryan was on the floor watching this chaos, and to everyone’s surprise he stood up on his own and starting running after the bigger kids. We were all shocked to say the least. Thankfully I had my phone on me to video it all! After a half lap, he fell. Rather than rush over to see if he was okay, my husband yelled, “Good job RJ, get back up and go!”
Little Ryan got back up and went, like nothing happened. He hasn’t stopped running since, and is no longer a BIG boy, but a tall, muscular little guy.
This exploration and freedom isn’t solely about play; it can work with food too. Once, when we were out at a restaurant with Dylan when he was still an only child, my husband and I were given water with a lemon wedge. Dylan was curious and asked what the lemon was and if he could try it. We explained what it was and that it was sour and asked again if he wanted to try it. He took a big bite, and despite his surprise of the taste, he liked it.
Be close enough to lend a hand if they need it. But don’t worry so much about pushing them into experiences and actions.
The same was not true for the hot sauce Dylan “had to try,” but interestingly, Ryan is a big fan of hot sauce, and devours spicy Indian and Thai food like it’s going out style.
I’m not saying be neglectful and don’t be near by. Be close enough to lend a hand if they need it. But don’t worry so much about pushing. Stay back far enough to give your kids space to learn and explore themselves.
They will learn much needed confidence, independence, and individuality and you might even be surprised by how much they are capable of doing.
Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.