Children get hurt, and it is good.

Tears and scratches can be more than that

Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success. In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance. As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.´´

Johann Wolfgan Von Goethe

It was a Friday after lunch, and my friend, a teacher at the school, just had put the children to sleep. We were talking sitting on a bench close to the classroom. My older daughter, at the time with five-years-old, was playing with a bucket stilt. She was the only child at her age that couldn’t speak the letter ‘R’ properly. Almost all the time, it sounded like an ‘L.’ And she got sad about it mostly when other children corrected her.

But something changed that afternoon. When she tried to go down a ramp with the stilt, one of her feet turned improperly, and she fell, hurting her knees and hands. As we were sitting close to the ramp, we saw it happening. Promptly I went to her rescue and calmed down her crying singing the healing song:

Sara, sara dodói da criança (em vez de criança, use o nome da sua criança)

Se não sarar agora | sarará amanhã | bem de manhã

Ou à tarde, | ou à noite, | com beijinho da mamãe. 

(em vez de mamãe, você usa seu nome, se você não for uma mãe)

Canção do Sara, Sara (originally in Portuguese)
Canção do Sara, Sara
Father singing healing song to daughter who got hurt
Heal, heal child´s foot … with daddy´s sweet kiss!

Heal, heal child’s hurt (Instead of child, you use your child’s name)

If it doesn’t heal today | will heal tomorrow| right in the morning

Or at afternoon, | or at night, | with Mama’s sweet kiss.

(instead of Mama, you can put your name, if you are not a mother)

Heal, heal song (my translation)
Heal, heal song

I have to confess that this song is magic. There were rare moments where it didn’t calm down a crying child after some injury. Give it a try and tell me if it worked with you.

From the movement to the word

Coming back to the story, she recovered pretty fast despite her new bruises and blood on the knees. I did some bandages, and we went home moments later. On our way back home, she started to talk about the accident and said, “Mamãe, meu acidente foi muito grave, né?” (“Mommy, my accident was pretty serious, huh?”). That was the first time the ‘R’ sound on the word ‘grave’ came out of her mouth. I asked her to repeat. She did it emphasizing the trembling vibration, and we celebrated the accident that made this evolutionary leap possible.

Girl with colourful clothes climbing a tree,
Developing balance, strength and confidence. Getting hurt is part of the process, but can be avoided if a careful adult is around, trusting on the child´s instincts and ready to support.

It is well-known that the development of the speech depends on the development of body movement. Furthermore, I cannot say for sure if it was the fall, the scare, or the bruise, which caused the learning of this new movement in her throat muscles or if it was just coincidence. However, from my experience with evolutionary leaps, I could say that the first option makes more sense.

Consider it like a fever: after the child recovers, he or she starts to do something that couldn’t do right before the stir. For instance, the child becomes capable of making a new movement, or speak a new phoneme as my daughter did, or even to understand a new concept or rule. It is not always clear and easy to see, but it ever happens.

A safe environment to whom?

“For even the wisest can learn incalculably much from children.”

Rudolf Steiner

This situation made me think about the adult’s concerns nowadays. It seems that our world is getting each day more dangerous and children should not take unnecessary risks, which sometimes means to get hurt. It is not easy to meet a child who lives most of her/his time at home in front of a screen. Sometimes the adults don´t want to deal with injuries and crying, or, more sadly, they don´t want to connect with the infant at all. And when s/he becomes a teenager, the absence of movement in her/his childhood will result in numerous issues, from lack of coordination to learning disabilities. The fantasy that a safe environment is one that children cannot get hurt can have severe consequences in adult life.

Two children hanging on a bar, fearless
Children can overcome our expectations when we support and allow them to do.

Unfortunately, most children experience this illusion of security inside their schools too. They cannot run; they cannot climb trees; they cannot play with mud. Everything is dangerous, and the fear of a lawsuit is more significant than the commitment to the children’s health and development. On Waldorf schools, it should be different. Adults should prepare a safe environment that promotes the freedom children need to play and evolve. And it includes big trees, sandboxes, challenging toys, and confident teachers and parents.

We need adults that trust in the children’s instincts. That inner voice that tells them to do something they need to develop something they don’t know. Hard to understand? So let’s come back to my daughter’s story.

What if it was different?

She was talented on stilt. She had balance and coordination to master that toy on a flat surface. But on that day, she felt that she should go to the ramp. She never tried that before, and at that point, I didn’t see any risks in that (and I still don’t). So she got hurt and started to say something new.

Obviously, nobody knows if a wound will cause learning (besides be more attentive or careful) or what the teaching will be. And just to clarify, I am not saying that we should promote risky activities or force children to do anything that can purposely cause an accident. What I am stating here is that we should let children explore the environment and their own limits to grow and develop. Which means sometimes they can get hurt.

So, imagine what could have happened if somebody had said “no” to her that day. Would she learn that sound later? Would her body ask for some other movement to develop that? Would she be disappointed that she couldn´t walk on the ramp and test her abilities? I don’t know and I never will.

Trust comes from inside and is contagious

“Encourage & support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.´´

Lady Bird Johnson

Yet, I know that a child who learns to climb the tree by herself can go down without getting extreme injuries. Some scratches are ok; after all, they help to boost our immune system. If the adults transmit calmness to the child and stay around supporting her/him emotionally, hardly something severe will happen.

confident Young child climbing a tree
A 2-year-old climbing a 7-feet-tall tree with ease and confidence. She got up and down by herself. Every time a child asks for help to climb somewhere high, it works to say: “You will be able to do it when you will be ready to.” So, they create an expectation and try harder to reach their goals. An, of course, when their body is ready, they will do it and it is going to be special.

We all know someone that doesn’t like to take risks. Maybe a parent, a relative, or a neighbour that look at a child discovering the world and testing its limits and say “Stop it before you get hurt!”, “Are you sure you can do it?”, or simply “Don’t do it!” Clearly, nobody does it wishing the worst, but certainly, they are not looking for the child’s emotional and physical needs. 

Once the adult allows the child to play and stay around to support, confidence develops in both. On the other hand, in case the grown-up feels insecure in that situation, the child will mirror it and the chances of getting hurt increase. Because she is not sure about her own skills, the infant needs someone that tells her she can, or simply be there to help.

Child watering a tree
What feelings have you been watering your children with: fear or trust?

Therefore, if we as educators desire that our children be free and healthy, maybe it is time to rethink our attitudes and rules toward them.

Please, share with us how you and your school deal with this kind of situation and let’s discuss in our Forum ways to promote the best environment for our kids.