As I contemplate what goals I have for my grandkids and students, I try to imagine them as they become teenagers, college students or young adults. My desires include the following:
- Make responsible decisions about little things in life as well as the big things
- Exercise self-control
- Have an intrinsic sense of self-worth
- Be a creative thinker
- Learn from their mistakes
Recently, I watched as my grandkids, Gramps and their dad began roaming our woods to build a treehouse. Ben was 8 and Bekah was 7. Many parents today would be terrified to have their kids in the woods at all, let alone without an adult by their side. There were many things that were embedded in the decision to build this treehouse –
- Letting the kids out alone in the woods
- Having it high in a tree
- Not having sides on the platform so it was seemingly “unsafe”
The construction of this canopy hideaway was adult supervised, with lots of consultation from the kids. They helped choose the trees, looking for specific attributes necessary for its location; they helped decide the construction of the initial platform and then some of the details for making it a safe place. This was their opportunity to be creative thinkers. Some of their ideas were discarded, but many were used after some serious consideration. This was also their opportunity to be a decision makers.
As helpers in the project, they were given jobs at which they would succeed and then rewarded with verbal acknowledgement of their hard work and creativity. There were times when a screw didn’t go in straight or a board was cut a bit short. They were not reprimanded for the mistake, but guided to find a solution to a new problem. Could an adult have noticed the crooked screw and stopped it before it happened? Of course, but the kids wouldn’t have learned that it is important to be aware of keeping it straight if someone intervened at every step of the way. They were allowed to learn from their mistakes.
Even if you don’t have time (or woods) for a tree house project, there are many chances in day-to-day life where you can help your children grow. How about letting your 4 year old walk to a neighbor’s house by herself. I still remember the first time I let my son walk to the corner store. I could watch him the entire way and I called ahead to say he was coming. He was so proud of himself and had a feeling of independence. This summer we let our 5 year old grandson try his hand at the monkey bars on the playground. We didn’t put a helmet on his head or carry him across more than once. When he accomplished the task, he grinned from ear to ear. We suggested that he had accomplished a hard task by himself. We had a hard time prying him away from the monkey bars in spite of sore hands!
Next time you are confronted by a decision to allow your child to do something that may seem dangerous or a bit risky, consider how you can turn it into a positive experience for him/her to succeed independently. I believe we are growing leaders. How are you doing?
Below you will find an article that may help you along the way.