As a parent, it’s a fine line we walk sometimes in knowing where the boundaries are for your kids. We want to protect them from danger and shield them from hurt. At the same time, we need to allow them to experience the world and learn to interact with it in meaningful ways. This paradox of safety versus experience is a tricky balance to get right, but I’m convinced that we are probably the most overprotective generation of parents in history. A recent post here listed a number of tongue-in-cheek example of how much we seem to overreact to things that would have been much less of a drama a few years ago. How many of you went out playing all day when you were a kid, and the only rule was to be home by dark? No “Call me when you get there to let me know you arrived ok”… just “Bye dear, have fun playing!”
This video from the TED Talks series, called “5 Dangerous Things you should let your Children do” makes a similar observation that maybe we need to just lighten up a bit on our kids. Take a look…
In our schools I find we are developing the same, if not worse, overprotective behaviours. My last school insisted on having staff members walking the children across the road after school (it’s a high school!) – I found this laughable… we have them in class all day teaching them to be mature and independent thinkers and then we won’t let them cross a street without assistance. Our excursion (field trip) program became impossibly hard to work with over the past few years due to all the excessive safety regulations and the need to “guarantee” a safe environment outside the school. You can never get a total guarantee that a situation will be 100% safe – of course you want it to be as safe as possible – but when you start to compromise the creation of situations and environments in which to learn because there may be a small risk involved… I don’t know, that just seems silly to me. Life has sharp edges. Deal with it.
No one wants to see children get hurt, that’s for certain. Regardless of whether your role is that of teacher or parent, I’m sure we all want to see our children stay safe. My own daughter was bitten on the face by a dog a few years ago and the feeling of sheer panic and distress I felt as a parent as I looked down as the blood streaming out of the huge gash torn in her cheek was an indescribable anguish. But would I say to her to now stay away from all dogs? No way. She loves dogs. She’s fallen off a bike and skinned her leg a few times, but that doesn’t mean she should never ride a bike again. In the process of living, sometimes you’ll get a bit knocked around. That, quite literally, is life.
Kids – just like adults – need to occasionally go through some of the painful parts of life if they are to experience the wonder of what it means to live.