Today I observed something in an indoor soft play centre as the English say. More than once a parent went down a slide with a toddler. This particular slide has three slides side by side, so three can go at the same time. Some of these parents wanted to protect the child by holding their hand while going down. In all the cases I observed, it ended badly, the child hurting and crying. In all those cases the child would have been better off had the parent let go of the hand at some point.
It made me wonder how many times we do things trying to protect our children, but end up doing more harm than good. This is not to blame to parents who want to protect their children. This is just perhaps to help think in ways one may have not thought.
As parents we do want to protect our children. We don’t want them to experience the hardships and pain we have experienced. It is natural. Just as natural that our children will experience hardships and pain, regardless of what we do.
We want to protect our children from all the bad sites they may come across on the internet. So we might not let them use the internet at all. Or we may set up filters at home computers which prevent many of the bad things showing no matter what you write on the search field. I’m sure many of those things are good. But are we just holding their hands when we should let go? I don’t mean allowing kids to do whatever whenever on a computer, but we need to teach them what to do when they do come across something we would not want them to see. They will be using other computers besides those at home at some point. We need to teach them what to do and not just prevent them from doing.
We want to protect our children from scary movies and movies that may present not so good things as the norm. We can set guidelines and age limits about what we allow them to watch or don’t allow. It is not a bad thing. But sometimes those setting the limits may think differently than us about what is good and what is not. Or our child may interpret what they see way different than anyone else in the world thought of. Are we just holding the hands till the end? Or should we discuss a movie after the child has seen it? What did the child think of it? Did something bother him or her? How realistic does he or she think it is? What was good in it? What was bad in it?
We want to protect our children from friends who might lead them along paths we would not like them to take. Sometimes it may well be wise to tell them to cut off the friendship or to try help the child gently find other friends. Sometimes our efforts to have a say about their friends may backfire badly, causing our relationship with our child to deteriorate. Are we trying to hold the hand when we should let go? Should we focus more on teaching the child to be strong and independent, so others won’t be able to persuade him or her to do what they don’t want to do? Should we help a child to find out for herself or himself what is good and worth seeking for? To find out what they really do want? Should we help them know how good they are, how much they are worth to us and the world and how precious they are? Should we show them how much they are loved? And then let go of the hand?
The only way a child can take responsibility of herself or himself is by letting go of the hand. There comes a time for that in everything we do with them. For some things it comes earlier than for others, but eventually, to ensure a good, exciting, enjoyable, joyful and safe slide down the life, we have to let go.