by Sarah Fitz-Claridge

Originally posted to the Beginning of Infinity List on December 30, 2011

[This post took place in context of an exchange about the risk of children falling down stairs while playing on them. For an earlier post in the series, see Nagging versus Helping]

[A poster explained the impoistion of a no playing on stairs rule in poster's household. When asked why they imposed this rule, they responded):

Well there is the chance of falling down the stairs which happened often until this rule.

If that were true, and in such a way that it was significantly unpleasantly painful, the child would then presumably choose not to risk "playing" on the stairs in future. Other things being equal, children don't repeatedly fall down the stairs, but often we parents just assume they will, or perhaps we see one fall once and assume that the same thing will keep
happening, and then mistakenly conclude that these kind of rules are the answer. We desperately want to protect our precious children from harm, to help them reach adulthood in one piece, but doing that to protect them doesn't help and may harm them.

If a child never gets the chance to learn safe climbing play, because of such parental concerns, the child might possibly be less good at not falling. Or the child might then tend to "play" on the stairs more riskily, with less care, such as when the parent's back is turned for a short time -- and in the rush to do the forbidden thing, fall. So the child may not
have fallen had the parent not imposed the rule or communicated stress to the child about the allegedly unsafe activity.

[The poster continued]:

I created the rule before I learned TCS btw. But lets say that I learned TCS before my girls were born. And they fell down the stairs while doing something like running down the stairs with balls or something. How do I persuade them not to do such dangerous things on the stairs?

If the fall was insufficient to persuade the child, perhaps the fall looked worse than it was. In any case, do not imagine for a minute that there is no risk associated with imposing rules in an attempt to protect the child from such dangers. That is  so risky when it comes to physical safety. To say nothing of the adverse effect on the relationship with the child, the damage to the future potential for the child to listen when you really do have some vital life-saving information to give them, and the damage done to the child's ability to learn.