What does it mean to “dose” yourself with fear as a kid? That’s how kids learn bravery. Not all at once. They try something hard and the whoosh of relief they feel when they succeed is the “reward” that makes them ready to try something ELSE new and a little scarier.
Here’s what that looks like in real life. This Psychology Today piece is by Sara Zaske, author of the new book, “Achtung, Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children.”
Does your playground have a dragon? Or anything that remotely resembles it?
Conquering a Dragon
The case for bringing more risk, and more fun, to American playgrounds.
by Sara Zaske
One of my favorite stories from Germany is about Sophia and the Dragon. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s about my daughter and a playground.
Berlin has some amazing playgrounds: all of them much taller and more dangerous than the ones in the US—and much more fun. We had one of the best in our neighborhood Drachenspielplatz, and yes, it had a big Drachen, dragon, right in the middle of it.
That dragon was not only tall but scary looking with big red teeth. Kids could climb inside its mouth and then zip down the long metal slides coming out from its sides.
Sophia was terrified of it. At age three, she would only play around the dragon. Then, she would only climb up its back and come right back down again—without trying anything else—for months and months.
One day, about two years later we were at the park and suddenly, I heard her call: “Mama! Mama!” I looked around panicked, thinking she’d hurt herself. Finally, I looked up. She was in the dragon’s teeth! Then, she flew down one of the giant slides! When she stood up, I could just see it. The pride. She had conquered her fear. I didn’t push her to do it. No one did. She had done it all by herself. That’s a big step for a five-year-old.
I am afraid that most American kids don’t get a chance to conquer a dragon. Most playgrounds in the US are short, plastic—safe but boring.
Read the rest here. And worry about a country growing so risk averse it is stunting its kids. – L