Don’t worry so much about what might happen as what might not happen.
If we shelter our kids, we know what’s going to happen: nothing. If we don’t, we don’t.
I’m a big proponent of Let’s See What Happens. In work, in lifestyle and even with kids and playing and potentially scraping knees. Of course, within reason: I don’t mean Let’s See What Happens when the kids want to see what it’s like to run a meth lab. But when they’re climbing like little billy goats on the sand dunes and (probably-not-life-threatening) cliffs at the beach, I want them to figure out what’s dangerous, where they should pay more attention, what hurts.
It takes true effort, trust, and a fair dose of selflessness to let your boy climb on the sandstone cliffs without saying anything.
If we don’t let them climb the cliffs, we know the outcome: they won’t fall from the cliffs. If we allow them to experience it on their own, they might fall, they might not. We don’t know. But they’re going to experience it for themselves and learn to judge, decide, and learn on their own. They’re going to learn to learn “deeper” without a teacher.
It’s not just falling out of the tree though. It’s friendships, difficult social situations, you know, life. If they don’t learn it on their own, they’re going to just be book smart. We want them to also be book smart, but they need to be street smart.
As we as adults do, they’re going to learn more through their own experience than what they learn from us telling them all the time what they should be learning. Gravity, for example, is not a theory. You will fall. It will hurt. You might break something. You want to test it out? Go right ahead. Just so you know I told you so … or didn’t tell you so.
Dee reminded me in the comments below that in Finding Nemo, Dory told Nemo’s dad, “You can’t promise that you won’t let anything happen to him, because then, nothing will happen to him.”