Society in recent years has become very health and safety conscious. We have begun to wrap our children up in cotton wool in order to keep them safe. Is this the right thing to do or should we be letting them get out there and experience some risks and dangers? After all, we can’t wrap them in cotton wool forever!
Last week, I had a call from the BBC radio Mark Forrest show. They were discussing this very subject and invited me to talk on the show that evening. I shocked myself by agreeing to talk on live radio! This was way out of my comfort zone and something I had never experienced before, but I think it’s always good to grab opportunities that pop up.
Should we protect our children from risks?
There are many dangers and risks in life, we cannot remove them all. Is it our job as a parent to protect our children from as many as possible, or is it our job to help guide our children into learning to look after themselves, teach them how to foresee danger and know their limitations? How will kids know something has potential to hurt them unless they are allowed to experience things as they are growing up?
I believe children need to be shown potential hazards and dangers and how to manage them, rather than removing them all together. Yes kids will get hurt along the way, hopefully just minor bumps and scrapes, but that’s all part of the learning curve of life. The more we shield them from dangers, the more at risk they are of accidents.
How do you let children take risks?
Let them start young, it’s a gradual process. I am not suggesting for one second you put a toddler on the top of a high climbing frame and let go. It’s about building on what your children do. When they are little let them climb small things, then as they get older those things get higher, until eventually they will probably be climbing trees and goodness knows what else. They then learn how to balance and hold on etc on the small things before they are let loose on the bigger stuff.
Taking small children to places like gymnastics or tumble tots is a good idea. They can learn how to climb and fall safely. Children need to practice their skills .
Additionally, try not to overreact to small incidents. When a small child falls over, it is easy to rush to their aid, sweep them up in your arms to comfort them. However, you may be doing them a disservice. Often kids react and cry, because of the parents reaction. It is not easy to stand back and watch, but occasionally this might be a good thing, wait to see the child’s reaction, before showing them yours.
Why are our children being wrapped up in cotton wool?
Some people believe there are not enough open green spaces for children to run around free. I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but there are definitely fewer places than there used to be with all the building that goes on. Children are not given as many opportunities these days to go and explore, particularly if you think of the incident not so long ago where teenagers were told they were not to play in the woods! Well if they can’t play there, then where can they play, learn and explore? No wonder kids are not allowed to take risks if the police are telling kids not to play in woods!
Also, due to the over zealous health and safety regulations, people are afraid of allowing children to be active, climbing, taking risks on playgrounds, for fear of getting sued!
However, there is a more recent thought, that we are becoming aware of the need to allow children to take risks. There is a school up North that actually has a swimming race every year in open (cold) water. This may be a dangerous thing to allow children to do, but in a controlled situation, I believe this is healthy and a good thing for kids to experience (as long as they are good enough swimmers obviously). We should be doing more of this sort of thing, without fear of being sued.
What do you think? Should we protect our children from risks or should we allow them some freedom?