As you step across the border, it all looks so different — everything is so much bigger and brighter, all shiny and new. You’re surrounded by things you’ve never seen before and it’s all so fascinating, you must… absolutely must… try it all.
And so you do. With reckless abandon, you scoot from one thing to the next touching and tasting it all. Some things you like. Others not. But you are not dissuaded. What matters is you’ve got to try… try… try it all!
And then, one day, it happens. You’ve tried everything within reach.
And then you look up. EUREKA! There’s a whole world above you full of new and shiny things just waiting to be tried!
Ah, but how to get there? You need some “vert.”
And so you get some.
By sheer force of will, your arms follow your eyes, reaching out to that higher promised land. Not wanting to be left behind, your legs find strength you didn’t know they had. Suddenly, you’re two feet taller than you were a moment ago and a whole new world is now yours for the taking!
THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENT LEARNING
By nature, kids at any age are the world’s most intrepid explorers and original experimenters. They take nothing at face value, probing, challenging, trying, and testing everyone and everything they encounter. And that’s exactly the way nature meant them to be, because…
Trying is how kids learn, and even more, how they come to understand.
It’s that simple.
Now, we all know that The Road to Independent Learning through the random Land of Cuz-It’s-There has its smooth patches and rough spots. But in recent years, with the trend towards overprotectionism, well-intentioned as it may be, it appears we’ve all focused more on the bumps in the road than the eye-opening vistas the journey provides.
Which brings us to the age-old, inevitable parental crossroad: How do I let my child go forth and try while keeping him safe from harm?
And before you sit forward in your chair and think I’ve got the answer in a bottle you can buy, sit back. I don’t. Safety has to be your decision, day by day, situation by situation.
However, I would like to offer up the classic, classroom principle of Pause-Prompt-Praise as food for thought…
PAUSE • PROMPT • PRAISE
PAUSE. Knowing your child as you do, when you see a potential problem — and it is NOT IMMEDIATELY HAZARDOUS — pause for a moment before reacting. For instance, your child may get himself stuck on a piece playground equipment. Again, if it’s not an immediate hazard, give your child time to think and watch to see if he can work it out for himself.
PROMPT.Then, if you feel the need to step in, do so. Trying not to do it for him, gently prompt ways to solve the situation, offering a helping hand as needed. In other words, put yourself in the role of the helper, not leader. For instance, you might say “I wonder how we can help you get unstuck. What if I hold your arms while you lift your leg?”PRAISE. As the situation resolves itself, praise the actions your child took to solve it. And be specific. “Well done” doesn’t tell him what to do the next time. Instead, try to recreate the situation verbally so he knows what he did well, along the lines of: “I love the way you lifted your knee up to get unstuck.” Chances are, the next time he gets stuck, he’ll remember to lift his knee.
And lastly, if I may, I would suggest that we all take a deep breath and consider this. Each time an opportunity to independently explore and experiment is taken away a potential risk may have been averted. But at the same time, a potential reward may have been thwarted…
…the ability to arrive at his own conclusions.