My three-year-old son, Grant recently climbed onto the top of the soft play equipment that was piled up in CMEE’s Legacy Tree Gallery. Standing over four feet off the ground, he glanced at me to find out if I’d tell him not to jump. During the second or two that he looked at me, I was in a quandary. Should I discourage him from jumping or should I allow him to take the risk? I nodded to him indicating that he could leap off if he wanted, which I immediately regretted after he landed and cried that he had bitten his cheek.
While I realize the importance of encouraging your children to explore their limits, I often find it difficult to put this into practice. I was a cautious child, fearful of climbing the monkey bars and riding rollercoasters. I was almost 8 years old before I was willing to remove the training wheels from my bicycle. I’m still pretty risk-averse, but I am trying to stop thinking about bad things that can happen – like broken bones or bloody cheeks – and focus on how freeing it can be when you challenge yourself.
Despite my cautious disposition, I supported my five-year-old son, Bennett’s desire to ride his pedal bike on Montauk Highway (like I often do when I cycle to work). I know many grownups who won’t ride a bike on the highway, but Bennett was fearless. We rode together 1.5 miles from our house to East Hampton Village and back, and he loved it. Witnessing how our ride increased his self-confidence was incredible—I wanted to be the same intrepid person that he is. It also inspired me to encourage him to try new things and push his limits. This weekend, I’ll be watching anxiously from the beach while Bennett takes another surf lesson.
I’m curious…how do you strike the right balance between protecting your children and teaching them to take risks? I encourage you to share them with us on our Facebook page or Twitter feed or by emailing me directly at Steve@CMEE.org.