It seems that danger, actually its consequences, have become all too unfamiliar to children who’ve always had parents within whispering distance.
So it’s reassuring that common sense seems to be taking root in some quarters.
From The Mommy Files blog on sfgate.com:
Play with a pocket knife. Break glass. Throw things from a moving car. Drive a nail. Find a beehive. Glue your fingers together with superglue.
Many parents would forbid their kids from doing these activities. They’d keep the superglue locked in a box where little fingers could never find it.
But Gever Tulley thinks these are exactly the sorts of things children should be doing (with adult guidance and supervision, of course). From these “dangerous” experiences, Tulley says, children learn how the world works. They learn about safety and how to assess risk. They gain responsibility.
I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, before the creation of ‘Kinderkords’ and ‘helicopter parenting.’ (Back when you knew “If I have to stop this car…” or “Wait until your dad gets home…” came with tangible consequences.)
Despite a lack of electrical outlet covers — and a similar lack of common sense to not stick metallic objects in those electrical outlet — I’m still around. I threw rocks and my brother’s still around. (Yeah, I dinged the back of his head pretty good.) Until middle school was too far away, I rode my bike one and a half miles round trip, nearly every day possible. Even today I’m often found swinging a small hook dangerously close to my right ear while precariously perching on a moss-ridden boulder. It’s called fly fishing.
I’ve asked, knowing that it’s tough going out there for any young person, if fear of the unknown, danger or injury (mental or emotional) could a partial contributor to the phenomenon of the boomerang child? Maybe. Consider statistics from a Time magazine article form last fall.
But in the 1990s something dramatic happened, and the needle went way past the red line. From peace and prosperity, there arose fear and anxiety; crime went down, yet parents stopped letting kids out of their sight; the percentage of kids walking or biking to school dropped from 41% in 1969 to 13% in 2001. Death by injury has dropped more than 50% since 1980, yet parents lobbied to take the jungle gyms out of playgrounds, and strollers suddenly needed the warning label “Remove Child Before Folding.” Among 6-to-8-year-olds, free playtime dropped 25% from 1981 to ’97, and homework more than doubled.
I can’t imagine never falling off a jungle gym. I should know. I did it often enough. Heck, back then we even jumped out of swings at the highest point of the swing. On purpose.
Most anyone who’s dealt with children on a semi-regular basis knows that there’s a fine line between protecting and nurturing.
nur-ture (‘nər-chər): 1. training, upbringing; 2. something that nourishes; 3. the sum of the environmental factors influencing the behavior and traits expressed by an organism. (Not a mention of protecting.)
Here’s to hoping my brother and wife are putting into practice the teachings of The Dangerous Book for Boys.
P.S. Mr. Tulley is the author of Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) — a book that also might just end up on my gift-giving list.
January 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm
Great stuff, Pat- how did we ever survive to adulthood?! I could not agree more that we need to let our kids take some tumbles, skin some knees, and thicken their skin. Need to get them out playing in the dirt, too- good for the immune systems, and good for the spirits. WAY too many kids suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder, so take a kid fishing. It’s been shown that fishing is the number one gateway activity to get kids interested in other outdoor activities! Like we need another excuse to go fishing 😉