The Ropes Course Analogy

ropes course analogy

From a long-time teacher and past skeptic of trust-based parenting…

Over the past 10 years, I’ve come to understand this more and more.
I’ve come up with this analogy.

You’re leading kids on a high ropes course. All of the elements are 30 feet off the ground. You’ve got some that LOVE to be up in the air, some that are apprehensive, and some that are downright scared to death because they are afraid of heights.

The first kid, the one who loves to be up high, you challenge to go beyond what he’s doing, because you know he’s comfortable and confident.

The second two kinds of kids, the ones who are apprehensive or downright scared to death, you encourage, support, and speak softly and calmly to. They’re already in a state of high anxiety, and if you don’t want them to completely freeze, you continue to calmly encourage.

“You can do it. Just one more small step. You’re doing great.”

If they make it all the way across, you celebrate. If they don’t, you celebrate how far they did make it.

No rational adult would yell at them: “Just suck it up and do it. If you don’t do it, I’m going to kick you off this course. What’s your problem? Just get out of here, you’re holding everyone else up.”

For trauma kids, every day they live their lives on the wire high in the air. They are in a constant state of high anxiety, because the trauma they’ve experienced has wired their brains that way. They’re always in, or close to a “flight or fight” state.


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