Feet

Let Them Get Bonked

This is the last installment of an eight-part series.


Confession: I let my toddler pull a kitchen chair down on top of himself. I could’ve jumped up and righted the chair before it fell, but I didn’t. Moments later, when he was crying and I was hugging him, I questioned that decision, to let him get bonked. Still I think it was the right thing to do.

Important distinction: when I say you should let your kid get bonked, I’m not saying let them get injured or killed or hospitalized. As protectors, it’s our job (to the best of our ability) to keep our kids out of that kind of trouble.

The bonk, though — even a serious bonk — is something to embrace. Getting bonked can hurt. A lot. It can leave a bruise. It can bleed. And most of the time, it’s really hard to sit there and watch it happen.

There are two reasons that I think it’s best to let children make those mistakes. First, when a kid has the chance to get some genuine scrapes, they end up becoming very capable. That’s good both for them and you: for them, they’re less likely to get hurt day-to-day because they know what they’re doing; for you, you’re more free (you don’t have to watch them so closely) and you have more peace of mind (you can trust them to stay safe).

The other reason is that there are many serious dangers in this world, and we become less and less able to shield our kids from those as they grow to adulthood. Kids need practice taking risks and navigating danger if they’re going to be able to do it safely on their own later, and I would rather have them make their mistakes here, early, because the stakes are low at first. The stakes only get bigger with each birthday.

Bonks are painful. But they’re not life-threatening, and the lessons they teach last longer than the scrape. Bonks teach a kid their limits; they give kids a chance to decide what they are and aren’t willing to risk. They build good judgement, physical coordination and the confidence that comes from those things.

When my littles turn into teenagers, I’m going to want them to have those skills down. How else, but by trusting them, will we be able to sleep at night?