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How Can Our Kids Have an Un-Overprotected Childhood?

Many of you know we are temporarily living with my in-laws while our house is being built...but what you may not know is what a blessing to my kids this arrangement is.  They (we) live on a farm with cows, pigs, a creek, and vast land at their creative and playful disposal.  Okay, well maybe not the cows so much, but our dogs sure are intrigued by them.

I've thought a lot about this article I read, The Overprotected Kid, about the nature of play and risk taking for children.  I find it both absolutely fascinating and gratifying.  The article is quite long, but basically it outlines the way child's play has drastically evolved over the past several decades.  No longer do children play unsupervised or given the freedom to take risks such as finding a "secret hiding place" in the woods just for them.  My brother and I did this kind of stuff ALL THE TIME.  In fact, I can recall specific instances where that "risk" or sense of adventure was paramount in shaping my psyche...which is mainly on what this article speaks.  Allowing children to feel on the edge of danger, whether actual or not, and overcoming that risk, internally provides them with heathly development tools of independence, confidence, ingenuity, and getting along with others...ones that are becoming sparse in our youth today, which is even more apparent in our "unable to make their own decisions" generation of college graduates.  It's all linked back to negotiating risk-taking as a child.

This article delves into the actual statistics, abduction rates, and reasons (read: court cases) behind the swing in childhood norms to what they are today, but what I mainly gravitated towards was the play issue I can address right at my in-laws.

My kids LOVE being outside here.  The possibilities are virtually endless, safety-speaking, as mine aren't naturally extreme risk takers or adrenaline least not yet.  (side eye to Blakely)  Living in a subdivision with close neighbors, busy streets, and occasional strangers/solicitors doesn't lend itself to letting children just "go play" no matter how much a parent can let go of fears.  And should we?  Even if I were to completely allow my children the freedom to explore and take risks, where would they go in a neighborhood?  And would I have CPS called on me if the neighbors saw my three year old climbing a potentially dangerous tree, not knowing that I was watching the entire time?  The realism of today's parenting methods stems from skewed ideals of legal repercussions, mistrust, and fear.

Is that actually our reality?
Truthfully, I don't think so.
I believe there can be a happy medium.

Just as with any publication or mass media, one should take it with a grain of salt. This article was extremely interesting to me, however, I know that it's only that, and I'll take from it what I can use in my children's lives...especially here where we're living for the next couple of months.  Like every parent, keeping my kids safe is a priority.  It's my job to protect them.  But at the same time, I do want my kids to experience more of that sense of adventure, whether it presents itself in the form of heights, speed, wrestling, dangerous elements (such as water and fire), or simply exploring on one's own.  A true finding of oneself in those early years. 

Not only do I want them to have the memories of that kind of childhood, but want the best for their mental and emotional well-being...

And if that comes at the price of a few scraped knees and some hard-learned lessons...

Sign me up.
Er, I mean them.

“the most important for the children.” She told me, “When they are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

p.s.  THIS article was similarly themed, but from a different (more grim) angle...super interesting, as well!

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1 comment:

  1. I also read that article and I too found it fascinating. One of the things I love about our new place is the wooded area for my boys to play in. And as much as we would like to develop that area and put some fun things there for them, I don't want to destroy the unstructured, natural and wild environment that it provides for my boys. And I think you're right, a grain of salt is always good! We have to help our kids live in today's world- not the world of our childhood.



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