When my son was about one we were on one of those turbulent flights where you suspect even the pilot is white-knuckling it. I made one of my better parenting decisions at that moment. I looked at him and said ‘this is the fun part, where the plane goes bumpity-bump!’ And, here’s the important thing, I looked like I was enjoying myself! I did not clutch the armrests. I did not start praying (out loud at least). I kept a happy smile pasted to my face and calmly read books aloud until we stopped lurching all over the stratosphere. To this day my son isn’t remotely phased by air turbulence – I told him AND showed him how to feel.
Our children look to us to see how they should feel. When your baby first splashes her fist into the bath and is startled, the best thing you can do is say “Clever girl! What fun!” When your 1-year old trips in the water and their face goes under, be approving, “Your face got wet but you got right up, what a brave boy!” When they summon the courage to dive down to collect a ring or do a big jump, be their biggest cheerleaders – show them and tell them you are proud they are learning how to be safe and competent in the water.
But also show your disapproval. “Look, that kid is going into the water without his mom around, that’s not safe’. “That boy is dunking his little sister, that can be dangerous and scary.” “It looks like that girl is trying to keep up with her friends in deeper water but she can’t swim well, that’s not a good idea.” And the best one, “I’m glad I can trust you to always be safe around water – to never go near water without a grownup.”
Tell them. Show them. Love them……and they’ll grow up both happy and safe.