Family and Parenting

Failure 101 – Lesson 1: Allow Your Child to Take Risks

This is a continuation of the 4-post “Failure 101” series inspired by the Flying Dutchman’s challenge posed during the launch of Dads@Communities by the Dads for Life movement. Blogfathers! is not affiliated with MCYS, Dads for Life or the Dads@Communities initiative; we’re just publishing this because we thought the Flying Dutchman made a very good point and we want to see if we can follow up with a skeletal outline of what dads can do to teach failure. So all observations and opinions expressed within this series are very much the author’s own unless otherwise stated.?And please, if you can add to this with your own thoughts and experiences, do share them with us in the comments.

You can read the first piece here:

Also, this article deals with risk-taking, something Blogfathers! can’t offer you insurance for, so conduct your lesson with much care, and at your own risk. I can only say I’ve tried it with my own boy, and we both learned a lot from the experience.

They Are Always Smarter Than You Think

From the moment they learn to flip on their bellies (and earlier), our children are learning to make sense of the world, and their brains are more highly developed for problem-solving than we would assume them to be. Even through the experience of learning to walk (or crawl even), when they fall and bump themselves on the head they will learn how to take their next step more effectively because it hurts if they don’t. It’s not only an integral part of motor skills training, but it is also their very first, short, simple lesson in facing failure, and very possibly your first lesson in trusting your child’s judgment (albeit guardedly); you just need to convince yourself to allow your child to fall.

I wrote about what Wilfrid C. Hoecke (who spoke at the recent Dads for Life Conference) said which I will repeat here (FD, take heart, because Dads for Life’s sort of had it covered):

“… mothers will continually communicate guardedness and safety while watching over their child during playtime words like ‘Be careful’, ‘Don?t do that’, and ‘You?ll get hurt’ are very common phrases you?ll hear from mothers. Fathers naturally do the exact opposite; while playing with their child/children, they seek to push limits and achieve greater heights in play, using encouragement such as ‘Climb higher’, ‘Don?t be scared’ and ‘You can do it!’

“… while mums protect their children from the dangers of the world, dads will prepare them for the real world, and we are naturally wired to do so…?

So guys, we were built to teach risk-taking to our kids, so give your toddler as many opportunities to take the leap (with your supervision, of course).

You Can Start When They’re Young – Really Young

Lessons in risk-taking can start as early as toddlerhood, but are easily misunderstood by today’s parents as “dangerous” acts, because a lot of the time they’re initiated by the kid himself during play. Take for example, jumping off of things like a flight of stairs. There are really only 2 possible outcomes: landing properly (success) and not landing properly, possibly scraping his or her knee in the process (failure). It’s a very simple risk experiment that dads can easily get involved with.

So find a flight of stairs, preferably with a huge landing area at the bottom, like the stage area at the National Library HQ. If you’re worried, start with the bottom one or two steps and work your way up. Lend a helping hand for starters, but make sure most of the effort in conquering the jump comes from your child, and when both you and your child gain more confidence in the activity, let go and just watch. You should totally expect spills – as should your kid – but don’t let it stop your child. The fun in the activity will supercede any pain your child might experience most times. And going by what Hoecke says, you’ll know what to do.

Older kids (or kids that seem to have been born with the innate ability jump well) can also learn risk-taking by socialising, particularly through encouraging them to talk or play with other kids they don’t know. Again, there will be 2 possible outcomes (at least for the first few minutes: the other kids are friendly enough, your kid is welcomed, and they get along smashingly. On the other hand,? it could well turn out to be an exercise in overcoming fear of rejection – the failure to engage in someone or a group of people favourably. This exercise in socialising your child also potentially brings with it a different lesson for dear old dad – learning to helping your child deal with problems.

Next: Lesson 2 – Helping Your Child to Learn Through Failure

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