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How I Learned to Relax at the Playground and Let My Kids Fall
Active for Life

Before you have a child, you think you know what kind of parent you’re going to be. I thought... more

How I Learned to Relax at the Playground and Let My Kids Fall
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Before you have a child, you think you know what kind of parent you’re going to be. I thought I’d be relaxed and go with the flow—turned out my daughter thrived on structure. I imagined we’d spend hours playing with each other’s hair. Nuh-uh. That kid even looks at a brush and she screams.

Here’s where I really went wrong though: I thought I was going to let her be a blank slate, let her fall and fail and make mistakes and learn from them. But from the moment she was born, without really realizing it, I’ve been inadvertently preventing her from hearing her own inner voice that tells her to, ‘Go for it’.

Every time she tried to take a bigger step in the playground, my frown deepened in fear. Every time she got innocently curious and ran off to see something, I’d yell, ‘Watch out,’ ‘Slow down,’ or ‘Be careful.’

Much as I hate parenting terms, I see now that I’ve been a helicopter parent. Since my hovering has been mostly around sports and physical challenges, maybe I don’t quite fit the stereotype. But in at least one area, the propeller blades on my helicopter are working overtime.

There’s a running joke among my friends that I never have to worry about the dreaded mid-day call from school. You know, that one where they’re calling to say your child fell doing something crazy in the playground? My daughter is so cautious she won’t attempt more than the first two monkey bars. And I’ve secretly been thrilled. So long as her timidity never held her back socially, I’ve been quite content not to have that extra worry on top of the usual ordinary parenting concerns.

But the more I started watching her at play, the more I started to hear my words echoing back at me: ‘Watch out, slow down, be careful.’

When my husband taught her to ride a bike, he said, ‘Stay straight, look ahead, you can do it.’ It suddenly hit me that I was always telling her what not to do. I’m not saying I didn’t offer encouragement, or appreciate her success, but I may have reduced the accomplishment’s validation because I was too busy worrying to enjoy the moment and celebrate it with her.

I really became aware of all this recently during a hike with friends and their particularly adventurous sons. The kids were practically flying down the trail and I felt myself start to warn her to slow down. They were running down hills, and my mouth opened to caution her again. It was like an out of body experience—or a really bad after-school special—and I suddenly just got it. She was listening to her voice, trusting herself to take a chance, and I was about to ruin it. I braced myself, smiled, and watched with pride as she began to really explore her surroundings, climbing and moving with ease and certainty.

Since that day, I’ve been watching my beautiful, independent child really take chances, and while I may occasionally tense up when she decides to scale the playground wall, goes a little fast on her scooter, or finally, confidently reaches for that third monkey bar, I will force myself not to stand in her way.

I may never stop being a helicopter parent, but I will do everything I can to make sure she’s in the pilot seat.

Image of monkey bars from Shutterstock.

Active for Life is a leading promoter of children’s physical literacy to help parents raise active and healthy kids. In response to increased rates of child obesity and sedentary behaviour, Active for Life was formed in 2011 to give parents the tools to help their children develop skills and habits for lifelong physical activity. At the core of the initiative is the idea that every child deserves to be physically literate. Active for Life is a social enterprise of B2ten, a Canadian organization formed to promote sport and athlete development in Canada. For more information, visit Active for Life.
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5 Ways to Make the Back to School Transition Easy
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Back to school means back to a routine. That shouldn’t be code for ‘back to chaos’. Take the time now, while things are still a bit laid back, to clearly define what you need from the kids as they head back to school. Check out these 5 steps to guide your way.

Clearly define:

Mornings
Work with your kids to write down the order of the morning routine:

  • What needs to happen (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, leave house)
  • What time does each thing happen

Once this is written down (use pictures for little kids), your child can now tell you what needs to happen in the morning without having to read your mind. Rather than bossing your kids around, you can ask, ‘What needs to happen now? What’s next on your list?’

Schedule
Put your children’s schedule on a calendar so that they can see the time they have for fun, scheduled activities, homework and chores. When it is written down, it is concrete and easier to understand. This gets rid of the ‘There’s not enough time’ panic.

Sleep
Your kids also need enough time for sleep. If they wake up at 6:30 or 7 am, they need to be getting to sleep (not just starting bedtime routine) ten to twelve hours prior to that depending on their age. Check sleep needs here.

Responsibility
Kids need to know that they have a purpose and responsibility in the family. Maybe this is the year that they pack their own lunch for school. Will that happen the night before or will it be added to the morning routine? If they aren’t ready to make lunch, they can certainly clean out their lunch boxes and pack their own back packs.

Take time this month to clearly define your child’s chores, and then to teach the chore by doing it with the child and then allowing the child to do it more independently. Be sure to explain at what time and what day the chores need to happen and hold your child accountable for this. This teaches them that you mean what you say.

Expectations
If you don’t know what you expect, how can your kids? Take some time to clearly define what you want, then you can let them in on the secret and the family unit will run more smoothly.

Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to chaos. Have a plan, make sure everyone knows it, and follow through for a seamless transition back to school.

Image of back to school from Shutterstock.

Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell provide tools for real life parenting through their company, Parenting Power™. Using over 40 years of combined experience, they work with parents across the country through telephone coaching and teleconferences to ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Visit www.parentingpower.ca to ask your own parenting questions, and learn how to receive 20% off all services as a Parenting Power Member!
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