Just Walk It Off, Grandma
Shake it off or time for a hug?
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When my mother was watching my boys while they were on vacation from school and I had to work, she injured herself. It was nothing big — no one needed to call 911. However, rather than offer comfort or empathy, my middle child simple said, “Walk it off, Grams.”
My middle child played sports all year long. He participated in recreation league baseball, basketball and football. He also played team sports in school and was a member of a travel baseball team. When Grams got hurt, he emulated his coaches.
On the field or court, when kids got a little banged up now and again — took a cleat to the shin or got hit in the leg with a ball — there was always a coach who suggested the player “walk it off.” In defense of these coaches, they typically knew when to worry and when not to when it came to minor sports injuries. And, they were hired to teach the kids the sport as well as how to compete and stay focused.
For coaches, a “walk it off” or “shake it off” mentality has its place. But where does it fit into parenting?
Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting educator and author in Los Angeles, recently wrote about the dangers of “shake it off” parenting in The Washington Post. The overuse of anything can be detrimental. For parents trying to toughen up their little ones like the coach on the field, over using the “shake it off” approach can lead to loss of empathy, unhealthy competition and self-confidence shattering humiliation.
When I heard about my son’s reaction to my mom’s injury, I immediately responded with, “Well I hope you gave her a hug!” I went on to explain that his coach might feel the need to offer that advice to a player, but off the field, we need to show each other a bit more empathy.
There are times in life when we do need to walk or shake something off. As Hurley points out, parenting is a balancing act. We need to use different parenting methods at different times depending on the situation and the child. Sometimes we need to hover. Sometimes we need to step back. And sometimes we need to have them walk it off. Knowing when and with whom is the challenge.