Day 371: I’m Afraid He’ll Fall / Let Him Fall

My wife and I are pretty close in our philosophy about parenting for many things.  But a difference came out today that made me smile.  Partially I smiled because this is one of those things that everyone says is a “dad / mom” thing.  Another reason is because maybe our difference comes from how much more time I spend with the little guy.

Basically we were out on a walk and the little guy would venture off on his own  occasionally (most of the time).  Sometimes he would crawl up on something, other times he would go down a treacherous and rocky path, althewhile curious and basically ignoring our calls and pleas to be careful.

A few times when he crawled up or went down into an area that looked a little dangerous, my wife ran after him, quick to be right next to him, saying “I’m afraid he’ll fall.”  To that I would reply, “he won’t fall, it’s ok.”  He would not listen when we told him not to crawl up, and I told my wife, “let him fall, it’s the only way he will learn.”  Of course she could not let that happen, so she was right there next to him.  Being that I spend 24/7 with him, I knew he would not fall because he has mastered walking in those spaces, so I was not nervous – additionally, if we told him not to go there and he did anyway, it might be good for him to learn on his own what things are dangerous.

Now, I should point out that I do not want my son to fall, obviously.  However, I do not think the way to help him is to let him ignore me and then be right there next to him so he does not hurt himself when he does something dangerous.  Why would he essentially get positive reinforcement for not listening to us, his parents?  Clearly, there is a limit to how dangerous it can be before I would let him do anything, like I would never let him go near a knife or crawl around on a balcony.

However, if he starts walking down a path that we tell him not to go down, and he continues and falls because of the big rocks, and cries because he fell, I will not rush to him and dry his tears.  I will let him get up and stop crying on his own.  This will not only teach him that maybe dad is not such an idiot when he says “don’t go down there,” or “be careful,” but it will also teach him that when you get hurt, you get up again and move on.  Seems like a good life lesson for physical and emotional pain, taught in a simple way.

I hate gender essentialism, and I also hate “dads are like xx and moms are like yy,” but this is one thing that I have read about before – that dads are more prone to be like, “ok, you need to fall and I wish I could stop you from falling but then you will not learn,” and moms are supposedly more prone to be like “I’ll protect you and prevent you from ever getting hurt.”  I am not one to say which one is correct, if there is only one correct approach.

To me it seems situational, and everyone has their own “safe zone” and “danger zone” based on where their limits are of what they think will be ok for their children.  Regardless, it is probably painful to every parent to see their child get hurt, no-matter what the circumstances.


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