Sunday, January 13, 2008


Lately there have been a lot of media articles, books and such that have begun to shed light on the societal over-protectiveness of children. There are books like The Dangerous Book for Boys, Too Safe for Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive and the video mini-lecture Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do. It's something I've always felt intuitively -- we don't do our children any favours when we protect them from every last bit of risk.

When we protect our kids from all danger, we impoverish their experience. A Dora the Explorer plastic toy is not going to enrich our kids' lives the same way playing with fire or climbing trees will. When we protect our kids we're telling them they can't be trusted. Who is to blame if they live down to our expectations? And besides, if we don't give them danger, and help them learn the skills they need to assess and manage risk, they'll find danger anyway -- without those skills.

The two really nasty children's knife-wounds I've sewed up in ERs were in children who had explicitly been told never to touch sharp knives. Not surprisingly, these kids' use of knives was sneaky and unskilled, and they had no idea how to keep themselves safe with a blade. They only knew they were doing something forbidden; they had no competence, no realistic confidence in their ability to manage the risks of what they were doing -- they were operating on a rush based on a childish sense of invincibility.

By giving our children approval, support and guidance as they encounter danger, we're really keeping them safe. We're giving them skills to assess risk, helping them learn techniques to minimize it, an providing an open trusting relationship that allows them to feel confident and powerful while exercising good sense.


  1. Hi Miranda,
    I agree completely. My 7yr old is quite competent with the toaster, microwave and knives. My 3yr old is just now learning to chop soft fruits and vegs. with a dinner knife. My only rule for climbing is they have to be able to get up on your own,I will not lift them. Oh, yes and I let them get really filthy dirty too because after all, they are washable. Off topic I wanted to say thank you for your help with blogging and it is up and running at Please feel free to come and say hello sometime.


  2. This is reminiscent of what I read last night...That parents who have the most loving bonds with their children but are the least controlling have the highest chances of raising confident children.

  3. Anonymous5:22 am

    band and I had a talk about this just two months ago when our enterprising two and a half year old set to work lighting a fire int he stove on her own. She did do a little damage to one tiny thumb but people who asked about the bandages were really surprised to find that when they asked about it we focused more on her aptitude and desire to try out a skill she'd been watching her sister learn. Really, the leap was a great one for her to take unfortunately it was also a dangerous one that could have been better accomplished if supervised. Our response has been to further include her in maintaining and lighting fires. No reprimand, just a reminder about asking an adult for help, and recognition that this is a skill she's interested in learning more about.

  4. Amazing post. I whole heartedly agree with it all. They are kids not idiots. How else to learn and gain a skill than to try it out in safety.

  5. Completely on the same page! The two moderately serious injuries we've had here have been accidents entirely unrelated to cutting, drilling, hammering, or climbing. Of course, the kids WERE allowed to head off on our property without close supervision...


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