The Importance of Letting Kids Fall

Importance of Falling

My son stood at the top of skate park and surveyed the scene. I could see the nervousness in his eyes.

He watched the other kids, most of them older, rolling up, down and around the terrain with ease. I knew that he wasn’t sure if he could do it.

He moved to different spots around the park watching, taking it all in, but not actually making a move to try it.

It took him about half an hour before he gained enough confidence to give it a go. He inched towards the incline, slow and unsure. He tilted himself forward and slowly went over the top and within a second he was down on the ground sliding down the hill.

My heart raced as I heard a kid at the top call out “Whoa dude are you ok?” My heart hurt as he hobbled off the terrain towards me and I could see him fighting tears. I worried as I saw the scrapes on his legs and he rubbed himself saying “That really hurt”, while his voice cracked.

I worried that this was it. That he was now going to be too afraid to get back out there and try again.

The truth is, a part of me wanted to take him home. To pick up his scooter, take off his helmet and take him home where it’s safe.

Instead, I sat beside him and resisted my urge to cry. I sympathized with the fact that he hurt himself. I put my arm around him, trying to give him my most supportive un-mom-like hug.

After sitting quietly together for a few minutes, he stood up and continued watching the other kids whiz around. I quietly suggested that maybe he try some of the less steep terrain, at the back of the park where it was a little quieter and a little less intense. And then I held my breath as he slowly made his way over.

My son is naturally athletic. He picks up sports easily. Give him a ball, a bat or a glove and he seems to instinctively know what to do and has no trouble doing it.

When he tries something for the first time and he doesn’t just get it he tends to be hard on himself. He makes up his mind in those first few minutes that he’s not good at it and decides he will never be able to do it.

He gives up.

That night at the skate park instead of giving up, he went back out there. He stuck to the easier terrain until he got a hang of it and worked his way up. Before I knew it, he was rolling up and down and around the terrain. He wasn’t hitting the steepest slopes and he wasn’t doing any fancy tricks, but he got the hang of it and he had a blast.

He scooted over to me, a smile spread widely across his face and he proudly told me that he got it. He had the hang of it. My heart filled with pride. I was proud that he picked himself up off the ground, brushed himself off and tried again.

Many of us struggle with wanting to be the best at what we do, regardless of what that is. When things get tough it’s easier to give up. It’s easier to walk away from something than to work really hard. It’s easier to fail at something when you haven’t tried than it is to fail when you’ve given it your all.

I have lived much of my life being afraid of failing – and I absolutely don’t want my kids to have that same fear. I want them to pick themselves up when they fall down.

That evening as I watched my son slowly figuring out how to manoeuvre his scooter around the skate park for the first time, I was proud of my son.

But my pride had nothing to do with his ability to scooter. I wasn’t impressed at his jumps and tricks.

I was proud that he didn’t give up.

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