Today’s guest article is written by Dawn Joseph, an Online Personal Trainer who loves kiteboarding, travel, and bacon. She is the mother of two rockstar girls and believes the best way to raise strong and empowered children is to set a healthy example. For more fitness inspired tips, follow Dawn on Facebook, Instagram or connect directly with her here.
I stood at the side of the toddler playground at the park that had a rainbow shaped ladder up to the platform. I watched as my daughter climbed quickly and nimbly up the bars and swiftly maneuvered herself through the opening and onto the platform. A little boy of similar age followed her on to the bars. I stayed at the side as he climbed, but then began to panic as to how he would manage to get himself onto the platform. Since I was directly beside him, I calmly offered to guide his next move –
“It’s OK, just put one hand here and…”
Out of nowhere, like an eagle diving for its prey, a woman came flying up the stairs on the opposite side of the equipment. With a coffee in one hand, and a cell phone cradled between her ear and shoulder on the other, she didn’t miss a beat in her phone conversation.
“It’s OK Henry!”, she cried, “Mama’s got you.”
In one move she grabbed him under her arm and lifted him up and over the edge onto the equipment. He was safe. For now. But what about the next time? Or any similar situation? As mamas, we’ve all had our moments. And we have watched others have their moments. The struggle is real to know how much freedom to give our kids and yet we wrestle with our innate desire to protect.
But, what if there was one thing you could teach your children that would allow them their independence, yet make you feel comfortable and confident that they are safe without your help? Well, I wanted to share this, as this is possibly the best parenting advice I could ever have been given (thanks, mom).
When my daughter was several months old, I noticed a common thing my mom would always do with her during her visits. Every time my mom sat on the couch with her, she would flip my daughter over onto her stomach and let her slide down onto the floor- feet first. I didn’t fully realize the lifelong benefit of what she had just taught my daughter. But what happened was amazing.
My daughter learned to flip herself over onto her stomach and go feet first for everything. Her automatic reaction was to face the surface she was on and go feet first.
Like this –
She would flip herself over on almost any surface she needed to get down from and lower her feet to safety (while always knowing she could pull herself back up if she needed to). Eventually, that led to her turning herself around on chairs, approaching stairs by turning herself onto her belly and turning around to come down virtually any type of descent.
As she grew, so did the possibilities, but she felt comfortable climbing up because she knew how to come down.
So what my mom actually taught her was how to come down before she ever learned how to go up. And that was a gift.
Keeping in mind that our other rule in our house was ‘Don’t go up anything that you can’t come down on your own’, she consistently amazed me of how she would approach situations, and because she knew how to get down, it made me much more comfortable in her abilities. It empowered her, gave her independence and yet at the same time allowed me the opportunity to sit back and watch her explore in what I knew was a ‘safe’ way.
I am in no way saying not to childproof your home or that our little ones don’t need supervision and at times a little help. I am saying, that it’s nice to give them a little space and watch them explore and learn and to give them the tools to allow them to do it safely.
My little girl turned out to be a very physical, strong and independently minded child, so for my own sanity, I needed to know that where she would inevitably go, she could go safely. She amazed me time after time by how sure-footed she was, how good her decisions were, where she would go, and how she would go about it. She is 8 now and she still continues to impress me with her ability to know where her feet are at all times.
Toddlers can terrify us when they start to climb and get to the top and look forward out over what they just came up or start walking towards a set of stairs. They will not attempt to come down that way if from the beginning they have learned to back-down. To face what they are descending.
It’s as simple as this: from the beginning, teach kids to ‘flip and go feet first’.
By: Dawn Joseph