Warning! This is a real story. It contains real acts of empowerment and curiosity!
You have must experience it yourself many times. Making a tea and the little one wants to help.
“You better not touch this, it is hot. You could burn yourself!” you tell your child while putting the cup out of their reach.
“You cannot walk Fluffly alone, she is too strong for you!” and you hold the dog’s leash tighter, fighting your boy’s grip.
“I know you want to help, but this is too dangerous for you.”
Our story doesn’t contain hot water or a furious Pomeranian, but iron wires, thick ropes, and a chasm.
One hot day we had a rope course session and the favorite part is of course the zipline. We took a group of children to the hill and equipped them with helmets and harnesses.
Some children love the zipline so much that we have trouble getting them off it.
Other kids go for maybe one ride and that is enough.
This boy, let’s call him Tommy, was like that. He rode the zipline once or twice and then he was not interested anymore. However, he got really interested in all the ropes and wires.
When kids ride the zipline, they unfold several loops of rope, that quickly follow their fast ride. When they stop, we use this rope to pull the kids back, rolling the rope on a thick steel wire.
Tommy wanted to help. He was puzzled by the loops and discovered quickly that we use them to pull the children back. So he would catch on some of the loops to help. Every time before we sent a child down on the zipline, we needed to check whether Tommy is not holding on the rope.
Until we told him:
“Hey, look, Tommy. See this rope? We need it loose, it is not safe to touch it when the kid goes on a ride. But you may hold this last one because it is attached to the rock. When we pull the child back, you can pull with us anywhere on the rope.”
Tommy listened, observed, and nodded.
We then looked back every time to make sure Tommy got it. And he did. He cautiously held the last loop of the rope with his little hands, watching the other loops go fly, and then “helped” us to pull the rope back.
The point of the story isn’t that Tommy was a good boy and he did what we told him.
The point of the story is that we explained to Tommy where the danger was and he understood and acted consciously.
Danger is scary and may not let us sleep at night, especially when it is our children who are in danger. But if we trust them even a little bit, they are capable of much more than we expected. While keeping an eye on them, they can learn how to be cautious because they understand the risk, not because we told them so. And that is a life-changing skill!