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Celebrating the Challenge

February 17, 2012
AUTHOR: COLIN TAUFER

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Question: What equipment do I need to help my toddler learn how to walk?

Answer: Foam floor mats, no-slip toddler walking shoes, baby knee pads, and safety helmet. 

Today’s parent has more child safety products available to him than ever before. So much so that even learning how to walk can be safeguarded in almost every way. Of course, no one wants their little one injured. But the beginning walker will tumble; they will hit their head. So what about learning to fall? There are ways it can be done to minimize impact and lessen the pain (no pads, mats, or helmets needed). There is also this lesson to be learned: Falling to the ground does not have to be a bad experience if you know what to do during the fall, and perhaps more importantly, what to do after. Perhaps, falling does not even need to be considered a “bad experience.”      

I am sure you have seen this with your own eyes. A child at play with friends takes a hard fall. But before his or her parents can come to the rescue, the child pops back up, dusts him- or herself off, and continues the chase. This same child, at some other time in some other place, takes an equally hard fall, but this time their mother or father, face full of alarm, sees the fall and rushes to the aid of the child. This time the child reacts differently; the child reacts badly. What changed? I daresay it was the actions and attitude of the parent toward the child that made the difference. 

The same can be said for the “falls” the older child takes later in life: the fight with a friend, the failed quiz, the lost game. Rather than using these falls as excuses for more layers of padding, use these as opportunities to listen to the child, to let him or her figure out how they fell and what they now want to do about it. Help them sort through the emotions and allow them to come to and act on their own conclusions in the direction of the greatest good. By all means, help the fallen child back to his feet; help him dust himself off. But the sooner you as the parent can hand back the reins to the child, the better. This holds true for the two-year-old or the seventeen-year-old child.  

Teaching children how to fall is an important lesson. The “bubble-wrapped child,” the one who learned how to walk with the foam floor mat, knee pads, and helmet – the one for which falling is a bad experience – hasn’t learned how to fall correctly. Eventually, that knee pad is going to have to come off. When it does, it will no longer be there to soften the blow. The sooner you can teach your child to fall and rise back up, the better.  

Thomas Edison famously stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” While we’re not all Thomas Edison, we can all look back to our own past failures and see that many became springboards to great things, opportunities to chart new and successful courses. Embrace failure as an opportunity for growth. 

Author: Colin Taufer

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