Let the toddler wander...

If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?!? Would you want your teenager to blindly follow the group off the bridge? Of course not! We all want our young adult children to be confident and self- assured and make their own choices. And yet for some reason, when they are toddlers, many parents seem to get stressed out if their children exhibit those same behaviors. They apologize because their two- year- old won’t stay with the group. Or worse, they express frustration or anger with their young children when they don’t follow all the instructions.
Let me let you in on a little secret: the confidence and self-assurance they are exhibiting at 2 when they walk away from the group and do their own thing, is the same confidence and self-assurance they’ll need to not jump off the bridge when they are a teen! So let them walk away from the group now and jump off a balance beam to keep them from jumping off a bridge later! 


Every time they walk away from their mother’s leg and make their own choice, they are practicing independence. And that’s a good thing. At least for a two-year-old. Of course there comes a point when a child needs to learn to sit in a group and conform; I’m not advocating total anarchy for 5-year-olds or anything. But for young toddlers, I am advocating that we celebrate and foster their independence and risk-taking. And leaving the safety of their parents' side, or of the group, is risk-taking and practicing independence for a 1-year-old.
Now I don’t mean if they run off from you in the store you should smile and say, “there goes my little independent one!” But I am saying that in safe environments, like The Little Gym parent/child classes, you could say that. And be proud. Roll your eyes at the parent with the child who NEVER leaves the group. Goody-goody. Wait, no, that’s not right either. (I was a goody-goody, so I feel a kinship that allows me to tease)
Anyway, some children love learning from a teacher. And even at a young age, they want to soak up everything they can that way. While others learn best by running around and exploring. Either way, if their learning style is allowed to flourish and their strengths and talents are encouraged, they will be a lot less likely to jump off that bridge later in life. The goody-goody because the teacher told them not to and the independent soul because they just don’t want to jump. Either way, they will be safe!