Parents Should Have More Fun…
By the standards of today, my parents and their friends were crazy. A great many activities they considered to be perfectly OK—hitchhiking; or driving without seat belts; or letting a child go trick-or-treating without a watchful parent hovering within 8 feet, ready to pounce if the child is given a potentially lethal item such as an apple; or engaging in any form of recreation more strenuous than belching without wearing a helmet—are now considered to be insanely dangerous. By the standards of today, the main purpose of human life is to eliminate all risks so that human life will last as long as humanly possible, no matter how tedious it gets.
Dave Barry, The Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2015 (You can read the complete essay at Dave Barry: The Greatest (Party) Generation.)
Certainly, there were many unknown (and known!) reckless things parents have done in the past that are clearly dangerous today. And many safety improvements have saved children (and adults) from serious injury and even death. Bike helmets are an excellent example. I remember my childhood days of flying down hills on my bike with the wind whipping my hair all the way down. And although I didn’t experience severe brain trauma, many did. But the key point is that the bike helmet has not taken away the joy of biking beyond adding some bad hair day experiences! The same could be said of the benefits of life jackets when boating – lives have been saved without eliminating the satisfaction and relaxation of being on the water. Safety is a good thing!
But in our desire to make a safer world for our children, the joy has been siphoned out of so many activities many of us enjoyed as kids. And a culture of ‘OMG, that could hurt my kid’ has taken a lot of the fun out of parenting, too. Perhaps Dave Barry and others are simply saying that the pendulum has swung a bit too far and we should chill out a bit!
The current push to eliminate every risk our children face is proving to be extremely detrimental for their overall development. Risk-taking behavior is natural and necessary – its how kids learn the boundaries in their world. Without risk-taking behavior, our kids will not be able to navigate their world as they get older and beyond the protective sphere of their parents. As caring and supportive parents, we need to know when to step away and let our children take risks, to experience the pain of doing something foolish, and yes, to fail!
If children don’t experience the pain of the risks they take, they simply don’t learn where the lines are placed – and never gain the experience & ability to judge future risks they may need or want to take. Frankly, by not taking risks in their childhood & youth, the risks they take as adults could be much more dangerous and life-threatening!
That’s where a good camp experience can be a great advantage for a child. At camps like WeHaKee Camp for Girls, kids can take lots of health risks in a supportive and positive atmosphere! The risks they take are physical (taking a face full of lake water on one’s first attempts at water skiing), emotional (leaving loved ones at home to go to a new, yet unknown place), and social (sharing one’s real self with others one may have never met before). And there are encouraging and empathetic adults nearby to help them pick themselves up (figuratively & literally!) and dust themselves off for another try!
The best part of healthy risk-taking in the camp environment is the reduction of fear and an increase in self-confidence and independence. Ultimately healthy risk-taking behavior is a critical and necessary component of every child’s successful development. And it works far better than bubble wrap in helping a child learn to be safe even when mom or dad aren’t around!
Thanks for reading and hope everyone has a safe and fun week!