Kids fall down a lot. They fall down because they trip on something. They fall down because they get distracted. They fall down because, well, they fell down.
Falling down means tears when they notice that you are concerned or if you ask them, “Are you ok?” It’s as is if they are waiting for us to pay attention to them before noticing that this particular fall hurt.
And our kids may actually be cued to cry because of our reactions. Behaviorally, they have learned that tears can lead to the adult attention that they might be craving. They know this because past instances have showed them that this true.
Conditioned to Cry for Parents
If you remember back to Psych 101, we’ve created a situation based upon operant conditioning. Crying when falling leads towards your attention and care, so it will be increased under the right set of circumstances (this is your discriminating stimulus for those of you following along in your psych textbook).
If we want to build resilience, though, we need to disrupt the conditioning.
Parenting Like a Gymnast
Gymnasts are amazing athletes who swoop and tumble and twist in ways that I know my body never will. They also fall down. But no matter how wrong the routine goes, they always end with their arms stretched out high in that classic v-shape. You have to finish strong.
Now when my kids fall, I still comfort them if they are injured, but also encourage them to not let a fall defeat them. Instead, with each fall I encourage them to get up, put their arms up high, and shout, “Tada!” like they are an Olympic gymnast who had just fallen of the balance bars or a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
So the next time that your child tumbles to the ground, encourage them to get up on their own and shout, “Tada!” You might just be surprised at how resilient they become