To risk or not to risk?
I have a question for you.
What must a climber do once he becomes a parent?
Give up climbing? Have their children babysat every weekend? Force them to the cliff? Initiate them as soon as possible?
Obviously, everything would be easier if the kids themselves begged us to go climbing!
However, there are plenty of parents who hesitate to start climbing with their children. We prefer to resign ourselves and move on. That's what responsible parents should do, right? After all, climbing is dangerous and not the place for our little ones.
What, you say?
Climbers aren't afraid of risks and that's certainly not why their children don't climb?
You're right. I too believe that taking risks is an integral part of a kid's development.
In fact, most parents think that way, not just climbers.
However, the reality of children does not reflect this at all. Studies show that there's a huge disconnect between what people say about the risks and what kids actually experience.
For example, we see that while the majority of parents think that children should have the right to climb trees, less than one child in nine does so regularly. Less than one in nine!! 1 out of 9!!!!!
Talk about not walking the talk!
Why is that?
Hard to say.
It probably comes from a combination of factors.
The world is increasingly obsessed with the "zero risk" idea. It may make us develop reflexes that we're unaware of.
There's surely also the fear of being judged by other parents, whether they are helicopter or not. Isn't the prison sentence something like 20 years for forgetting the little one's bike helmet?
Not quite maybe, but that's what I read in the eyes of passers-by every time!
Above all, I think there is a huge difference between thinking rationally about risk taking when you're questioned about it, and refraining from intervening when your youngest is swinging off the end of a tree branch, two meters above the ground!
The problem is that this obsession with security is a real disaster.
All the studies agree: gradual and reasonable risk exposure is an essential component of children's development.
It's by getting dirty and taking risks that they learn about their limits and begin to push them back. Risky play allows them to develop their confidence and self-esteem.
At worst, kids deprived of this kind of play are more likely to suffer from disorders such as depression or anxiety!
Do you really want to take that risk? ;-)
To gain confidence, children must face things that scare them. They need to see that even after a failure, you can always try your luck again. Over time, this leads them to master new skills.
Do you wanna hear a good one?
The level of this new mastery gets higher if the stakes are high; if the risk of failure - and even of injury - is great!
When left on their own, the children themselves reduce the risks to which they get exposed.
They do it instinctively.
They confront their fears at their own pace. It's how they learn persistence and resilience, two super important skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
In addition, by moving quickly and changing position often, such as on a large swing or on top of a big rock, kids develop their vestibular system. Surprisingly, this system helps them regulate their emotions.
As well as being more attentive in class!
So maybe our children need climbing even more than we even dared to believe!
Let's push them a bit. And then let go!