Why we need to let our little ones explore their world & stop helicopter parenting
It's hard no but makes it easier later
So for those of you that have had, or are currently experiencing those glorious years of toddler life, I send my love! Look we all know that we love our children dearly, however, if we are honest, those toddler years are like trying to tame a wild beast. A beast who is still learning how to bloody walk and eat without smearing food within a 10 foot radius. It can be rough, even for the most patient parent.
It is no wonder that our little loveable monster have those tantrums from hell, they are going through some major developmental changes. From the age 1, children start to realise that they are their own individual self and start exploring the vast world around them. The realisation of the self is known as “individuation”1. Psychologically, the little tackers start to realise that the wants and desire that they have are actually separate from that of their parents or guardians. This is why they often continue to do the opposite of what we direct them to do. I know I have seen (also been) mothers chasing after their little ones taking things out of their mouths and guiding them back to the dinner table whilst out at the RSL for a schnitzel and chips. This exploration can be frustrating, when all we want to do is eat that bloody schnitzel. This new independence is great, however without those worrying arms of mum and dad they can get themselves into trouble pretty quickly. So where and when does it get to the point that we are restricting their exploration?
In recent times there has been a number of terms created which portray the parent that probably protects their little ones a little bit (or a lot) too much. Some of those being helicopter parenting, hovercrafts and hummingbirds 2. Children who have started to explore their own little worlds need to do so in a safe environment yes, but they need to learn exactly what they phase is called, that they are indeed an individual!
The word parents in Latin means to “bring forth”. As a mum myself, to me that means it is my responsibility to bring fourth learning opportunities and understanding for my little ones. I am the one who has to shape and guide them to bring forth the best versions of them that they can be. Part of this actually involves letting them learn to fail and make mistakes, to take lessons and move forward with better knowledge and understanding of the situation. It doesn’t mean I need to wrap them in cotton wool and stop anything and everything from hurting them, even though sometimes it would be easier. On that note, I want to be the first to acknowledge that letting go of your kids and letting them have their independence failures and all is not always easy. It can actually be extremely difficult because like I said earlier, we love those little monster more than anything in the world. However, to be the best versions of ourselves and to cultivate the best versions of them we NEED to. We NEED to loosen the reigns, we need to let them scrape their knee from falling over, we need them to learn what is safe and what is not safe, what their limits are and how they can push those limits to grow more.
We need to let our little ones explore their world in their own way. So many benefits come from this such as greater independence as a young adult, better ability to make friends on their own, better ability to judge danger/safety due to their previous experiences and sometimes it actually just give s us parents a moment to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee.
If you are finding it difficult to loosen the reigns maybe try these things, remember it might feel difficult in the beginning but it will be worth it in the end.
- Imagine what thoughts are going through their minds
Sounds a bit wacky, but for a few moments just sit there and imagine what thoughts of wonder and amazement is going on in their heads. So many experiences would be happening for the first time, and they deserve to experience the beauty of the world.
- Practice mindfulness whilst watching from a distance
This is a perfect time to be completely present in the moment and breath. Whilst watching you little one, focus on things like the sounds that you can hear and what you can smell. By practicing mindfulness you will bring yourself back to the present reality, and in many cases realise that there is no actual danger for your little ones.
- Have a little laugh at the wobbles and falls they have
I don’t mean this in a mean or bullying way, I mean make light of the situation. Remember when they do end up bumping their head or scraping their knee they will look back at you for their safety net and comfort. In that moment you want to be calm and loving, not stressed and panic. By being the later you are by virtue telling your little ones that something is indeed wrong, but that’s not actually the case, they just fell over or bumped their head.
I want to add a disclaimer to this, as parents we can often tell the difference in a “fake” cry and a “real” cry from our little ones. I also do not promote or encourage any person to ignore incidents from happening. In the case of an emergency ensure that you call emergency services or attend the hospital.
So to finish up, remember its okay for us as parents to make mistakes and its definitely okay for our little ones to do the same! But to fall down and get back up again they need to have those reigns loosened.
- Rayner, Eric, et al. Human Development : An Introduction to the Psychodynamics of Growth, Maturity and Ageing, Taylor & Francis Group, 2005.ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cqu/detail.action?docID=254489.
- Terri LeMoyne & Tom Buchanan (2011) DOES “HOVERING” MATTER? HELICOPTER PARENTING AND ITS EFFECT ON WELL-BEING, Sociological Spectrum, 31:4, 399-418, DOI: 10.1080/02732173.2011.57403