Sport and recreation NZ is right when it says that cotton-wooling is preventing kids from enjoying childhood and that parents worrying too much about children’s safety is bad for their health.
Kids are at greater risk of obesity and diabetes, and even rickets from inactivity and lack of sunshine because they’re not allowed the rough and tumble of outdoor play. But they’re also not learning skills and values which will equip them for adult life if they can’t explore and learn although that means taking some risks.
It’s part of helping children be independent, the necessity for which was brought home to me at a seminar led by Wilf Jarvis an Australian behavioural scientist who developed the principle of four quadrant leadership. The four quadrants go from I’m in charge; through we’ll discuss but I’ll decide, then we’ll discuss and we’ll decide to you’re in charge. It was a management seminar but the principles apply just as much to parenting as business and showed the importance of giving children the ability to make the right choices.
Like any other skill this needs practise not just theory and of course no-ones’ going to get everything right the first time. But then while some of us can learn from other people’s mistakes the rest of us have to be the other people and it’s better to learn from little mistakes when you’re young than be faced with the consequences of much bigger ones when you’re older.
The death of a child is one of the most difficult experiences a parent can face, and having gone through it with twice with our sons (as a result of illness, not accident) there was a temptation to be over protective of our daughter.
But the real tragedy of her brothers’ deaths would have been if we’d allowed that experience to shadow her and prevent her from enjoying the normal childhood experiences which they couldn’t, with the attendant joys and risks.