We need to learn to be trampoline parents, encouraging kids to push themselves as much as they dare

I don’t think the idea of TP has ever been more relevant than now, at home and school. All around us we hear words such as unprecedented, “the new normal” and unknown. This is a time for developing grit, whatever your age. 

Lockdown quite naturally may have encouraged us to protect our children more, resulting in them becoming more risk-averse than before. They have heard endless conversations about masks, protective clothing and hospital care which will be making them look at the world in a new, more cautious way. 

And while obviously physical safety is important, we must be careful to keep encouraging them to challenge themselves. 

We know that children need to be given the time and space to fail forward, fail well and fail often, so that it becomes an accepted and embraced aspect of learning and growing.

As part of our research for the TEDX, Rebecca and I surveyed children from a wide cross-sector of schools and age groups – and found our youngest pupils were most comfortable with failure. 

This changed as they grew older, where the fear of failure crept in and pupils became less accustomed to the experience. 

That made us more determined than ever to share the idea that resilience can be taught early – and sustained.

So how can you take up trampoline parenting at home – especially now? Here are some ideas:

During learning at home, let them get stuck. Do not rush in to help. You can scaffold their thinking with questions such. As: what do you already know that could help you? What did you learn in the previous session that this might build on? What do you do when you get stuck at school?

If they are riding a bike, take off the stabilisers as you start to see the hint of some balance. They will only fully master it once you have taken them off!

As they start to get a little older and seek some independence, let them be alone for a short period of time and show that you trust them to be responsible. Give them means to contact you so they can be in control of the process, and only check in with them if you really need to.

If they fall out with a friend, do not jump in to sort the issue for them. Fall outs and reconciliations are a key part of growing up: don’t deny them the chance to solve it for themselves.

No one wants to see a child suffer or be scared. All these suggestions are made with the caveat that your child is ready for the next step and has the capacity and ability to reach that step. 

However, you will only ever really know what your children are capable of when you let them fly – or bounce. And if they are given the freedom, trust and encouragement to take off, they will soon be turning somersaults to show you just what they can do. 

Clemmie Stewart is Head of Surbiton High Girls’ Preparatory School

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