Posted by: Lisa | January 8, 2011

A Shoulder Shrug or a 911 Call?

Read this article about how we react to kids’ bumps & bruises:

I tend to agree with the author for the most part.  I mean, if I got a call that my preschooler was gushing blood from his mouth I’d throw some clothes on & head to the school, even if my husband were going there, too.  But on the whole I let Jacob’s small bumps & bruises kind of roll of my back.  I’m not overly worried about him getting hurt & I don’t freak out when he does.  I think falls are part of childhood – especially boyhood.  It’s how children learn what works, what doesn’t, and what their bodies can (and can’t) do.  Falls can make us more careful and more daring in the future all at the same time.

Please don’t interpret this wrongly.  I don’t like it when my child hurts.  Not at all.  It makes me hurt for him.  I hate his vaccination days (I cried more than he did when he got his first shots) and it breaks my heart when he falls & cries.  I don’t particularly want your kid biting my kid, either.  I supervise my child.  I have a book about common childhood injuries & ailments & I refer to it if something seems wrong.  I know a moderate fever is simply’s a body’s way of fighting an infection & doesn’t generally require a call to a doctor.  I baby-proofed my house.  I care about Jacob’s safety.  HOWEVER, I also know I’m dealing with a toddler here.  He’s a little person with underdeveloped motor skills & a lack of life experiences.  He’s only been able to walk on his own two feet for 7 months.  Toddlers are going to trip, fall, bite, & pinch, and I’m not going to go completely crazy when it happens.  I’ll hug my little one, tell him he’ll be ok, and then move on with life.

Jon has a friend who rock climbs.  A lot.  This friend told us once that his parents never told him he couldn’t climb on things & he advised us to do the same with Jacob.  That’s stuck with me, so when Jacob gets up on the couch armrest & flicks the light switch off & on repeatedly, giggling, I just let him.  It’s funny, and the worst that could happen is that he falls two feet down to the carpeted floor.  He might bump his head on the coffee table, but contrary to what your mother always said, he’s not going to “crack his head open.”  Jon & I aren’t the most graceful, coordinated folks alive, so if standing on the couch armrest will help develop those skills in Jacob I’m all for it!

I have learned, though, that I have a super fast reaction time when Jacob gets hurt.  Earlier this week his arms slid out from under his chin while he was resting on them & his chin smacked right onto the table – ouch!  I jumped up with lightning speed and held my boy close as he cried.  I sympathized with him, but I wasn’t worried.  I knew he’d be fine.

Jon used to tease me because I had this attitude with my 2nd grade students to just “suck it up.”  (I didn’t actually say that to them, but that was my attitude!).  I consider myself to be a loving, nurturing teacher-turned-mom, but I basically tell kids (and adults!) to shrug it off if they get hurt.  My opinion is that that’s how we as American adults are expected to react in the real world when s**t happens.  You’ve got to get back in the saddle.

The parents who hover over their children (helicopter parents) during every little move drive me nuts.  Your kid won’t learn to walk, run, climb down the stairs, or scale the monkey bars at school if he never gets the opportunity to try.  Olympic gymnasts would never be able to do three somersaults in mid-air above a balance beam if they didn’t experience some falls first.  And if your little one DOES get injured, your fretting won’t do anything other than scare your child.  Take care of the injury as necessary & then get on with your lives.

So now I’m curious.  As a parent, where do you fall on the spectrum?  Do you hover over your child’s every move?  Do you sit back & watch as your child scales the bookcase?  When your kid’s hurt or sick, do you administer every ointment, medication, & bandage on the market while dialing the dentist, the pediatrician, an ambulance, your mother, & poison control?  Or do you brush off the dirt, wipe the blood on your shirt sleeve, & just move your child on to the next activity?



  1. Brush it off, brush it off! That’s what I’m always telling Ryan. Quick hug and kiss, and you’re okay. My goal was for Ryan to make it to 2 years old before we even stepped inside an ER. Goal accomplished. Toddlers, especially those boys, are just going to run, fall, bump, trip, etc all over the place. As long as he’s not gushing blood and no bones are poking out, it’s alright. Just brush it off.

    • Amen, sista!

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