The first time Jacueline Nähl saw her 3-year-old son, Théodore, operate an excavator by himself, she almost fell out of her chair.
“It blew my mind,” the 32-year-old mom told The Epoch Times. “I didn’t know he could do that.”
When the young family from Stockholm posted a video of the budding builder on their Instagram page, Théodore scooped the title of Sweden’s youngest digger driver.
Picking up his skills from his father, Dennis Henriksson, 34, who works as a contractor in his family construction business, Théodore has watched his father closely and learned to imitate him with great precision.
“Théodore looks at details [such as] how you act, what you move, and what you do, and then he tries to copy it,” his father said.
As the toddler’s interest grew, he began to watch how-to videos about operating excavators on YouTube instead of watching children’s videos.
Mr. Henriksson said Théodore’s learning progressed naturally and very safely. After sitting on his dad’s lap, the toddler moved to operating the machine himself with his dad standing beside him, instructing him each step of the way. Now, he’s so proficient that on seeing him navigate the machine’s controls, their family and friends were in disbelief.
“They thought it was remote-controlled,” Mr. Henriksson said.
With every video captured by Théodore’s parents, the little guy makes sure to watch himself, learn what he did wrong, and rectify his mistakes.
He also takes every opportunity he gets to ride the excavator.
Mr. Henriksson said: “From the moment I pick him up from kindergarten, he’s always saying, ‘Oh, can we go drive excavator?’ Most of the time I say no, but when we have one at home, or if I have to go to the firm to do something, then we’ll spend 10 to 15 minutes playing around with one.”
Despite Théodore learning about the excavator from a very young age, Mr. Henriksson said the way he’s learned the little details, such as how to close the door and to ensure it’s closed, amazes him.
“[As a kid,] I didn’t handle anything like that,” he said, adding that it’s “unique.”
On posting footage of their whiz kid on social media, the couple has received some amazing reactions along with some criticism.
“Of course, it seems there’s always going to be trolls and negative comments, and people that put helmets on their kids when they’re walking in a room full of cushions,” Mr. Henriksson said. “Everyone has their own way of managing. Mainly, we try to meet them with respect and say, of course, everything is under control. It’s not like we’re going to risk our kid’s life or anything like that. I’m pretty responsible about how we maintain safety, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it.”
Ms. Nähl, a nurse who runs a nursing agency in Sweden, said she and her husband never force Théodore to do something before he’s ready.
“If I see something that might be dangerous, I stop him before he does it,” Mr. Henriksson said. “The machines I have are fitted with GPS, so I can turn them off via phone; I can turn the oil flow off. I can be standing 3 meters [9 feet] away and push a button, and the machine won’t be able to move.”
By not placing limitations on their son, the couple says they’re giving him the freedom and space to learn and grow. With their son turning 4 this January, his father said he’s more capable than most adults who have 20 hours of experience.
“He’s not supposed to be able to do this,” Mr. Henriksson said. “It’s not like he’s been driving excavators every day. He doesn’t have that many hours.”
However, through observing others, he picks things up.
When asked if Theodore will follow in the footsteps of his father when he grows up, Mr. Henriksson said he thinks it’s possible, or he may use his skills to earn money while he attends school to study further. Regardless of what he decides to do, his parents say they'll support him.
For kids as talented as Théodore, the couple’s advice to parents is that there shouldn’t be any limits imposed.
“If you feel that your kid has some special interest in something ... make sure it’s not dangerous,“ Mr. Henriksson said. ”Eliminate all the hazards, and let them try it.”