Why Mistakes are Opportunities for Skill Building
Updated: Nov 10, 2019
I was recently at the playground with my 2 year old son. It was a sunny day, and children were everywhere in and around the large play structure. As I was chasing after my toddler I noticed all the "safety chatter" coming from anxious parents as their little ones navigated the playground.
What is safety chatter? Safety chatter, coined by my mentor Lynn Lyons ( author of Anxious Kids Anxious Parents) is when parents talk about all the dangers and risks in the world. On the playground it may sound like, "Jane, watch out you don't fall and hurt yourself," or " Sam, if you jump to that rock you will scrap your leg and may need stiches if you do that."
So, what is wrong with safety chatter? You are merely warning your child about the danger that may happen! The problem with safety chatter is that it is built on catastrophic thinking - it focuses your child on the worst case scenario, which is also the least likely scenario. It fills our child with fear and anxiety and closes the opportunity for your child to take some risk. Taking a small amount of physical risk instills confidence and shows your child that even if things don't go exactly as planned, she will still be ok.
Of course, Im not talking about obvious dangers like crossing the road without looking both ways. It is the small things I'm talking about: learning to ride your bike, running really really fast on the pavement, swinging high on the swings, spinning around until you fall to the ground - physical play that helps your child take small risks, calculate pros and cons and learning about their strengths and limitations. So, the next time you are at the playground try giving your child small manageable risks that makes him feel brave and strong by saying:
1. Oh that's high! What do you need to do to get down from there when you get up?
2. You want to go down the big slide.. hold both your hands tightly around the sides.
3. I'm worried you may fall. Can you think about how I can help you the first time you go up there?
4. Run run run! ( to yourself: if he falls, he will have a scraped knee, but he will be ok. I can give him a bandaid)
To instill confidence and resilience, your child needs an inner voice that tells him he will be ok if he falls, and the world is safe enough to try new things - he won't believe it until he gets out there to try it.