Monday, June 4, 2012

Not As Safe As Is Possible

I was 'browsing' the web the other day, trying to find parents who seem to think like me.

Trying to find someone to validate what I feel is my own common (or uncommon as it seems) sense approach to being a mother.

I typed any number of things into Googles' search. Parenting, NON helicopter mom, natural consequence parenting. Seriously, but each site I got too was a bit too much in SOME way. One mom didn't ever use sunscreen. One mom didn't let her children walk to school unless there was at least 3 kids in the group. There were more, but I had no desire to read them.

Then I found this blog by  a "Free Range" mom.   Fantastic, YOU are who I've been looking for.

I read a couple of her older blog posts and quite enjoyed them.

Eventually, I ended up on YouTube and found a video documentary which backs up something I read a couple years ago about children and risky play.

Basically, the study said this:

When the adults of today were children, we took risks on the playground- we learned about natural consequences.

We used see saws (knowing full well that the person on the other side was going to jump off and make us thump our arses); we climbed ridiculously high, and sometimes we fell. We used swings to launch ourselves as high as possible into the stratosphere before plummeting downwards and trying to land.

Then, as we became adults, someone else remembered how many risks we took as children, and they made the playgrounds "safe". Swings that don't go so high; no more teeter totters; solid plastic instead of wood. Safe.

The consequence of that change is readily apparent in the young adults of today. The 15-23 year old age group, who grew up in the safety playgrounds. Well, they've admitted that they take about 7 times the risks we did when we were young.

And there is a reason for this. It's called "learning".

Children learn early, through taking calculated risks, to judge a situation by, and for, themselves ("These monkey bars are awfully high, and last time I jumped, I twisted my ankles- so I think I'll climb down a bit first"). They learn in small steps, incrementally, to apply natural consequences for themselves.

By making the playgrounds so safe, we've taken the chance to learn away from our children. In response, in order to mature, they must still learn about risk and how to manage risk. But by the time they have broken free of their overprotective parents (helicopter moms), the only risks left to take are life threatening ones. Drinking and driving. Having contact with strangers in the guise of 'trusted' drug dealers. Getting drunk and leaving a party with a stranger. They are testing the limits- learning (as they should have done as children). But they are using REAL life threatening situations to learn to judge risk.

Which they could have learned to do if their mothers had let them fall, even just once, off the monkey bars.

 I can't find the exact paper I read, I will continue to try to find it.  In the meanwhile, I am posting a video documentary from one of the authors of the paper. It's only 10 minutes long, but it's worth watching. Especially if you can't stop yourself from running to help every time your child starts to climb.

When I find the paper on the outcome of the safe playground, I will edit this to reflect that.

My favourite lines in this video are: "As safe as necessary- NOT as safe as is possible" and "Life is not risk free".

Striking a balance between preventing injury and accepting that accidents happen. Accidents cannot be prevented without bubble wrapping our children- and that takes something from them that I don't want to see my kids lose.

Just the other day, my cousins' 5 year old fell off a swing. She was hurt badly. She's been in the hospital since. And I've been worried- and praying that she's up and about soon. But that was a freak accident and completely unpreventable- my kids are still going to be swinging as high as they can.

1 comment:

  1. my brother fell off (or through is more accurate term) the monkey bars when he was little and cracked his skull in two places. i still bring it up when i want to laugh at him, cause, you know, he's still alive.


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