I Let My Kids Hurt Themselves -- For Their Own Good

Love & Learn 30

baby diving off couch
My boy, before he dived off the couch
So, you know all those things they tell you about toddler boys being really active and wild and mischievous? You know those warnings from Moms of older boys, that usually come with that, "Oh just you wait" smirk? Well, I guess I really should have listened because now that my twins are upright, they've turned into pint-size stuntmen. God help me!

They're climbing on the bookshelves, hanging off the baby gates, walking up slides and racing up playground steps. I want to be cool about it, I do -- not hover, not panic, just let boys be boys. But, dammit, they're my little precious baby boo-boo's and they're going to hurt themselves! Am I really supposed to let them learn the hard way?

Their latest stunt, the one that is really giving me heart palpitations, is their desire to head dive off of the armrest of the couch, onto the hardwood floor. They climb right up there (sometimes throwing a pillow on the ground for that extra leverage), crawl over to the side, and then hang off the edge. Why, why, why?! The room has been baby-proofed, or at least, I thought it had. What is going on in those mischievous little brains that they managed to create a way to hurt themselves? I'm always in the room when they try and usually on the couch, so I'm quick to grab a leg or the back of their T-shirts and pull them back from the brink. But I started getting worried about what would happen when I'm not in the room.

So I mentioned it in my Mommy group the other day, hoping for some advice on discipline. Instead, they told me to just throw some pillows on the ground or create a ball pit and let them fall. Wait, what?! That's not what I expected to hear. But as the other moms of boys explained to me, all in agreement, it would only be a matter of time until they did it, so I might as well make it safe.

But, here's the thing: Aren't we supposed to protect our kids from harm? Isn't that kind of my job as their Mom? It goes against all my maternal instincts to be like, "Yeah, kid, go for it, let's hope it doesn't hurt too much." I mean, they fall down twenty times a day -- I can't prevent every trip and tumble. But when I'm able to protect them, shouldn't I?

Then, I thought about the other side of the argument: No, I really can't be there to keep them safe, every minute of every day. I can try, but I also don't want to be one of those hovering, anxious parents who audibly, dramatically gasps every time her kid falls down. These kids of mine seem pretty determined to dive off of that couch, so I decided that, okay, I was going to let them. If I want them to be brave, maybe I need to be brave too.

So buoyed by what I heard in my group the other day ("Yeah, he totally took a header and banged his face but he's fine."), I set up a "safe zone." I took a squishy toy box that we have and filled it with soft toys and inflatable balls and a pillow, and put it right beneath the armrest. Maybe this would be like Murphy's Law, I thought. Maybe, now that it's safe, he won't want to dive off the armrest. Oooh no, it was just as enticing as ever.

As usual, my boy headed right for that armrest, flinging his upper body off of the side. Rather than grab him, I held my breath, winced and waited for the inevitable dive. For a brief moment, it looked like maybe his real goal was just to hang there, not jump. So, being the genius I am, I grabbed the camera aaaaaand...he fell face first into the box.

Of course, I gasped and (I think) screamed, "Nooooooooo." Honestly, it's a blur. But there he was, face down in the box of soft toys. After a beat, he started to cry, of course, and I picked him up and held him and said, like the all-knowing Mommy I am, "See, that's what happens when you try to dive off the couch." But he was okay, he was definitely okay. And, knock on wood, he seemed to get over the fascination, and answered the question of, "I wonder what would happen if..." because he hasn't done it again since, oh, yesterday.

I mean, he and his brother are little imps, so chances are they're probably going to try that or some other death-defying stunt again. If it's not the couch, it's going to be something else, right? So maybe it's not such a bad idea to let them climb and fall, as long as I've made sure that they can't really hurt themselves. Obviously, it's going to continue to scare the bejesus out of me, but I think that maybe I need to let my boys be boys.

What do you think? Do you think you should let your kids explore, even if there's a chance they might hurt themselves?

a mom's life, boys, discipline, play, safety, toddler activities


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trini... trinity899

I definitely let my kids climb and fall (I mean, I hope they don't fall, but it happens.)  In fact, I find with my son (age 2) that if I stay back well out of reach he is much more cautious ... if I hover, he takes crazy chances, maybe because I'm there to catch him?  He will stand at the top of the slide and faceplant off the edge if I am at the bottom... but if I stay away he will turn around and slide down safely on his tummy every time.  

Mary Cimino

Yes, if it's only going to be a minor injury. Recently my 1 year old kept reaching for my hot coffee mug. No matter what I did he kept going for it, I even had it on a high counter! One day I just let him go for it, the coffee was semi-cold but hot enough to hurt you if you spilled it on you, sure enough he spilled it on his arm. No serious burns before you ask, just a red spot that lasted an hour.

purvi... purvislets

Natural consequences seem to get through to my kids.  I mean, I'm not going to let them throw sharp objects at each other, but sometimes the only way they will understaned why jumping off the couch is dangerous is if they do it an get a little hurt.  I can tell them that it's a bad idea until I'm blue in the face but it doesn't do any good.  Being a helicopter mom would not be good for my sanity, so I save the "You absolutely cannot do that" statements for times when they could seriously injure themselves or someone else and just warn them that what they are wanting to do isn't a good idea for the other times.

Christina MacLeod Moncsko

Yes I have 3 18 , 11 and almost 3 it seems like I had to learn all over again every 7 1/2 yrs When it is something really dangerous U need to set boundaries but the jumping climbing stunts they are going to have to learn the hard way ;( This last one is the most active and biggest stunt man of all 3 Breath keep a close eye and a few first aid items handy :)

Susan Piker-Hoffman

When my baby boy, now 18 was small around say 2-3 years old he would climb up on the tall boy dresser using the shelves for ladder rungs, the boys never seemed to close the drawers, anyway, after climbing up to the top, he would jump off on to his sleeping older brothers, who liked to sleep on the floor, yelling, "Peoples Elbow!" on the way down. landing on his brothers and getting them up! Yes it was a scary thing to find out and to see, but he survived.

chunk... chunkyhoney78

sometimes it makes me want to make a padded room and put only stuffed animals in there for him to play with but thats not possible.

Jennifer Hopkins

Think of how our parents handled us. They let us get hurt. It was hard for them to see us injured, but they did it, because they had that 'live and learn' mentality. My parents let me climb trees, ride my bike down steep hills, and all sorts of dangerous crap. My mom once told me it was because it was the only way I would learn. I broke my arm falling off a bar in the backyard I used as a jungle gym, and it sucked. But I never did that again! But what is funny is falling out of the trees, which were much higher, I never got seriously injured. Even small falls can cause painful injuries, and large falls can leave them unscathed. Just try to be there for them, and comfort them when they do get hurt. That is all you can do.

Vanessa Hamman

My parents theory was to let us do it and we'd learn the hard way that it wasn't such a great idea. Kids are stubborn but when you've tried to stop them over and over again, you just need to let them see for themselves. Now, they would have stopped us if it were life threatening but we have to learn from our mistakes right? We have to know that life isn't perfect and we won't always be protected from everything. I have done the same with my kids. That's just my take on it.

the4m... the4mutts

I let my child grab a cookie sheet from the oven just last week. I have 4 kids, ages 3, 4, 6, and 9. For some reason, my 6y/o DD seemed keen on touching those damn cookies. So after stopping her 3-4 times, I pretended to turn my back, and let her grab.

It had been out of the oven long enough that it was HOT, but not blistering.

Needless to say, she cried. I sent her to her room until she was done crying, then I looked at it *it was red* and asked her "well how did that happen?!" She got an ashamed look and said "because I did what you told me not to do! I just really wanted a cookie, but I'm sorry mom, I'll wait next time, I promise!" So I doctored her up and sent her on her way.

Hopefully she remembers this lol

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