Why is it risky to ban children from doing risky things?

In the last article of the series , devoted to the causes and consequences of the modern trend, which is developing in the direction of excessive parental care, we investigated the veracity of the main reason why parents are increasingly taking care of children and abandon the method of “free walks”, which they themselves grew up with: that today's world become more dangerous than before.

We showed that the risk of becoming a victim of an accident or crime for a child was not only very small a few decades ago, but also has decreased since then. We also discussed that a small existing risk is almost impossible to exclude, no matter how hard we try to do it. The chance inherent in the world leads to the fact that a person cannot control some tragedies.

Nevertheless, as long as such a risk remains, no matter how small or uncontrollable it is, many parents try to do everything that depends on them in order to exclude it. They expect that their attempts to somehow reduce the chances of the occurrence of this risk, or, more realistically, simply reassure themselves that they have done everything they could for the safety of the child.

This could be considered a reasonable approach to raising a child, if such excessive vigilance would not lead to its own risks and shortcomings. But, unfortunately, this vigilance has flaws.

When managing risks, it is often forgotten that when you control one type of risk, another sometimes appears in its place. Trying to prevent some risks in the lives of children - not only with injuries and death, but also with insufficiently developed potential and talent - we expose them to other risks.

Such risks lead to less intuitive consequences, since their danger develops slowly over time. Yet, the physical, mental, and emotional effects can be very real and disastrous.


The risk of not developing the ability to take the initiative and be entrepreneurial

Modern children have a week with nine hours less free time than children thirty years ago. Their time is consumed by extracurricular activities - sports, music lessons, extracurricular studies, etc. When children do not participate in activities that have been prepared for them, they usually spend time with parents who do not want their children to play on their own. Most of the day and night of the child is supervised by adults — parents, teachers, coaches — telling them what, when and how to do it.

Without the experience of unstructured pastime and games, away from the all-seeing eye of adults, children cannot learn to entertain themselves, set goals and decide how to spend their time. Remember when you had a free day and you decided whether you wanted to ride a bike to the nearest school, climb a construction site or organize a circus in the yard? How many modern children have such experience when they became the initiator of their actions and carried out their plans?

It is not surprising that goal setting is one of the biggest problems for modern adults. When they graduate from college and the clearly defined structures of their childhood and youth disappear from under their feet, they feel that they have lost their footing and are waiting for someone to show them the way and tell them what to do next.

If children are not allowed to manage their own time, how can they manage relationships, hobbies and careers in adult life?

Risk of underdeveloped imagination

I have good children. They are smart, well-behaved, and fun with them. But I would not say that they have a very good imagination. They are not addicted to games in their imaginary worlds, in which I participated as a child. They generally seem too serious and literal for children 3 and 6 years.

Perhaps this is the pernicious influence of gadgets (my fault), and the fact that we were so actively involved in their lives and constantly controlled everything. They did not have the opportunity to break away from the world of adults and enter the fantastic world of children. Perhaps this is another unintentional result of the lack of free time - structured classes have everything predetermined, there are instructions for everything, and they practically do not need a creative approach that is present in more open games.

And modern children have not only their daily life structured, but also their toys. If you give the children themselves, they will invent innumerable uses for things lying around, and come up with their own rules for the functioning of the world: the stick will become a sword, clumps of mud - grenades, floor - lava.

And modern toys have a predetermined and very clear meaning. It seems that toy makers believe that a toy cannot just entertain. They constantly attach some learning properties to toys. But toys designed to spur brain development are limited in use. With the cart you can play in an infinite number of ways. With the gadget issuing numbers at the touch of a button, you can only press the buttons and get the numbers. Such structured toys can develop one aspect of cognitive abilities, but they leave no room for imagination at all.

As a result of focusing on structured and educational games, a generation of children like mine has appeared: they can be smart, but only to a limited extent. In the study “ The Crisis of Creativity ”, Kyung Hee Kim notes that although over the past twenty years IQs and SAT scores are constantly increasing, the results of creative tests are falling, and:
Over the past 20 years, children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less sociable and verbally expressive, less amusing, use less imagination and non-standard solutions, less active and passionate, less perceptive, they are less likely to be able to combine two seemingly unrelated things or look at something from another point of view.

The most serious failure is observed in the “complication” tests, which test people for the ability to take an existing idea, think it over and build something new on its basis.

This possibility does not develop from the contemplation of something on the screen and the sensation of X = X, but from exploring an open environment in which X may turn out to be Y, Z, or D. When a bump turns into a telephone; a stone in a fossil; hollow - in the shelter.

The risk of obesity in childhood and adulthood

Jane Clark, a professor of kinesiology , calls today's children "closed in a container." Babies and children are fastened to car seats, to high chairs for feeding, thrust into child seats to watch TV and fastened to wheelchairs for walking.

Some of these actions are necessary from a safety point of view, but they force children to be sedentary. According to one study , an average 3-year-old child is only active 20 minutes a day!

Children grow up, and the container grows - but not much. Parents who prefer a safe environment at home to the perilous world outside keep their children under "house arrest." One study found that less than a third of American children play daily outside the home. Another discovered that every second child in the world plays on the street less than an hour a day — less than what prisoners spend in the air in high security prisons.

And although the home prisoners and their captors are satisfied, the children sit with their gadgets, and the parents know exactly where their offsprings are - the more time the children spend in the four walls, the less they move.

I myself can testify that the more my children spend at home, the more they sit on the ground, fold out on upholstered furniture in various poses and whine about what they are bored with. But it is necessary to bring them to the street, and it seems that the sun instantly charges their solar panels, and they come to life and become active.

The increase in the number of children enclosed in containers, whether they are seat belts or the walls of houses, coincides quite predictably with an increase in the number of cases of obesity among children - it has tripled since the 1970s.

Parents often think that this trend can be resisted, and at the same time they get supervision and physical activity, driving children to sports clubs. But, ironically, the popularity of organized sport is growing along with the volume of children's waists. A little doing football doesn’t cure childhood obesity.

Perhaps because organized sports can be surprisingly slow-moving pastime. Children often stand in indecision, after which they move a little, and then seize on snacks and soda. The children, who play by themselves, in self-made games, move more. My son Gus moves much more, even if he just throws rings than if he participates in tibol practice.

Parents often believe that children are so full of energy that they themselves will deal with their physical form - but this only works after removing artificial and unnecessary barriers when children are left to themselves, and move freely. Batteries lying around are rusting.

By keeping their children from the supposed encounter with the horror stories of the outside world, their parents tie them to excess weight, the silent "murderer" inside the house. Children carry this extra weight into adulthood, and because of it, the very life that mum and dad tried to keep so actively can be significantly shortened.

Risk does not reach full physical abilities

Low mobility threatens children not only with obesity, but also with limited development of their physical abilities. We rarely think about it, but all movements — running, jumping, climbing, throwing objects, balancing — are skills. And for their development requires practice.

Studies show that the more active a child is, the more its motor skills improve, and outdoor games play an important role in stimulating this process. For example, in Norway and Sweden, studies have shown that children who play daily in their natural surroundings — on uneven surfaces, among stones and trees — keep their balance better, they are more nimble and mobile than those who play on safer, flatter and more structured sites. The more complex and unpredictable the game context, the more it enhances physical abilities. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

Unfortunately, the sites for games and exercises have become too smooth, or have disappeared altogether. 40% of schools refused to change, not only in favor of increased learning time, but also for security reasons. From the physical education classes disappeared ropes and bouncer games. The risk of injury is too great. And the risk of not developing physical abilities is not considered, although it is associated with the risk of obesity.

Studies show that the relationship between the development of motor skills and obesity can form a positive or negative feedback. Children with good motor skills are more active, and the more active they are, the better their motor skills, which further stimulates activity. On the other hand, children with poor motor skills are less active, which atrophies their motor skills even more, which makes them less active in physical activity and brings them closer to the risk of obesity.

The risk of not developing the ability to work with your hands.

This item develops the previous one, but it is important to note it separately. In addition to physical skills in possession of the whole body, children need to learn how to work with their hands. And, as in the case of physical abilities, hand motility develops through experience - through working with tools and objects.

Today, a lot can be achieved by simply running your finger across the screen, but your child still needs skills in working with his hands, including his hands and wrists — including “dangerous” skills. Growing up, every child should be able to handle kitchen and pocket knives, use matches, a hammer, maintain a fire, etc.

When learning such things, there is always the risk of getting hurt or hitting. But if they do not learn, the child will grow up, not believing in his ability to change the world, work with raw materials, repair broken things, and possess basic skills.

The risk of not developing problem solving skills and self-reliance

Since today children are under constant supervision, then when a problem arises they always have an adult who can ask for advice. And in rare cases when a child is left alone, he is always in touch with his parents using mobile phones. Lenore Shkenazi writes in his article “ Free Walking Children ” that even when growing up, this dynamic goes nowhere and “leaves the child-parent relationship at the same level when the children were small and they needed constant supervision”:
I still remember how my eldest son, Morrie, who was already ten years old, called me shortly after I went to work, asking if he could eat banana bread for breakfast. “Of course!” I said. And she should have said: “Why would you? Eat whatever you want! I'm not there. But if, on my return home, I find the remains of the vodka smoothie in a blender, I will understand that you need to be looked after. And since you yourself know how to make breakfast, and you are old enough to decide what you will eat. ”

Modern childhood resembles a game in "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" with an unlimited amount of fireproof amounts. For the show, the constant accumulation of money would be a plus, but for the education of self-reliance in the child - this is a minus.

If children pass on decision-making to adults and other authorities, it will be difficult for them to learn to think for themselves. When they make decisions, they will always doubt them and themselves - down to the state of " learned helplessness " when they do not feel controlled by their lives.

Of course, children need restrictions and guidance, but they also need the ability to create their own hypotheses, experiment with decisions, and evaluate the consequences of their behavior. After that, they correct the initial hypothesis, perhaps again fail, and form the next. Some lessons need to be learned through examples, consulting with adults, while others need to be learned through trial and error. As James Russell Lowell said , "One thorn of experience is worth a whole forest of warnings."

From time to time to prick about the spike - this is normal. From these droplets of blood and grows strong self-confidence.

The risk of not getting used to the risks (and not develop the stability of character)

Parents look after children so intently and so willingly give advice, because they want to protect their children from pain and mistakes. They may worry that a scary or painful experience will cause children to fear future risks. Of course, too traumatic experience can harm a child until the end of life, but failures are not capable of this, and most of them have just the opposite effect.

Helen Sandseter's study shows that "traumatic falls from a height of children from 5 to 9 years of age are associated with a lack of fear of heights at 18 years old," and that "the number of partings up to 9 years is inversely proportional to the frequency of symptoms of fear of separation at 18 years." From the collected data, Sandseter concludes that the “frightening” experience does not make children more anxious, on the contrary, it trains and calms children, they get used to risk and mistakes, receiving “antiphobic vaccinations”.

Even if the risk has a negative result, the consequences are not so bad. When a child falls off a bicycle and scratches his knee, he finds out that it hurts - but not for long. Time heals all wounds, and some wounds do not take much time. As a result, he climbs on the bike again, knowing that the scratched knees are not such a disaster, and you should not be afraid of them. He gets vaccinated against future alarms in this area and becomes more resilient.

In the absence of such knowledge gained through personal experience - and talking not only about physical experience, but also about financial, academic, emotional, social - fears can begin to grow uncontrollably in the imagination, and turn into paralyzing phobias. Without familiarity with small bumps, cuts and risk-related failures, children do not get used to them and do not learn the mechanisms for rational assessment and risk management. They lose the ability to distinguish between danger and something unfamiliar. They cannot understand how great their endurance potential is.

As a result, we get avoiding the risk of neurotic adults shrinking from the prospect of taking on a task that they are not sure about successfully fulfilling, and completely giving up on failure. As Sandseter writes, “our fear that children will suffer from harmless injuries could result in fearful children with a high level of mental disorders.” Indeed, the number of mental disorders, from depression to anxiety, is increasing among young people - perhaps because of this.

The risk of not getting pleasure from raising children (or not raising as many children as you would like)

The harm from trying to avoid the risk for children is inflicted not only to the children, but also to the parents themselves (and even communities in general).

Many studies of twins show that genetics plays a greater role in the formation of man than the environment; nature prevails over nurturing. Twins, raised in very different families, usually turn out to be very similar, and brothers and sisters raised in the same house usually turn out to be very different. Parents do not form children from scratch from a shapeless piece of clay. For the most part, the personalities and talents of children are inborn, and the parents' task is to provide a safe and caring environment for the germination of these seeds, as well as for weeding and adding fertilizer. Parents can help smooth out sharp corners, but children grow up as they grow up.

And although parents may be responsible for half the power of how their child grows up, they raise it as if they are responsible for everything. Parents spend more time with their children than mothers and fathers spent with them fifty years ago, believing that if they don’t give children all the time, they will grow up not so smart and fit, or something terrible will happen to them.

To maintain this state of constant vigilance, to live in constant anxiety, to sacrifice friendships and hobbies in order to give up growing children all the time turns parental labor into a tense, energy-sucking meat grinder. Not surprisingly, most parents feel that they will not pull more than one or two children, or that they decide not to have children at all. Family life no longer seduces people, since it seems that it implies round-the-clock affection for children.

But this was not always the case. Fifty years ago, parents had more children and more time for themselves. Adults went about their business, and children - their own.

And both sides were happier.

The risk of disappearance of public relations and trust

When I grew up, I ran along with a bunch of neighborhood children. And all the parents of the boys want to watch them quite a bit (we were left to ourselves until the lights were lit), they still watched us collectively. And they were not afraid to collectively call us to discipline! If one of us did something bad, my parents expected that the parents of the other children would explain it to him.

Today, parents rarely meet with their neighbors, not to mention entrusting them with raising their children, and are suspicious of all the rest of the community.

With this attitude, according to which all people, even a harmless old man, living around the corner, are regarded as potential molesters and serial killers, coded in the prescription "never speak to strangers." As Shkenazi says, this lesson comes down to "Never trust anyone, under any circumstances!" Next time we will talk about a more useful way, recommended by it for communicating children with strangers.

And although the idea that all adults not approved by their parents pose a potential threat to a child can save them from a predator, it can also keep them from communicating with adults who are able to save them from a predator.

If a child is suddenly corrupted by a person (which is 90 times more likely than by a stranger), and the neighbor will see that something strange is happening and ask if the child needs help, the child may not say anything to him; for he was taught that a pervert she knew was safer than a benevolent stranger.

On the other hand, when everyone looks askance at the others, the desire to help each other from the neighbors begins to disappear. They worry that during conversations with a child they will be looked upon as predators. Studying such a fear in society , Tim Gill offered a real example of the tragedy that may occur because of this:
Two-year-old girl Abigail Rey quietly escaped from a nanny. Soon she was found drowned in a nearby pond. During the survey, it turned out that one man, who was nearby, noticed a girl walking alone, but did nothing. He told the person who interviewed him: “One of the reasons why I did not return was that someone could see me and decide that I was trying to kidnap her.”

Children are afraid of their adult neighbors. Adults are afraid to appear criminals if they watch out for children. As a result, communities are fretted by distrust, and civil bonds are weakened by suspicion.


The risks described above show that when trying to eliminate some risks of childhood, others appear: the risk of crushing the initiative in a child, the ability to act independently and rely on oneself; the risk of atrophy of the child's ability to develop abilities, creativity, and critical thinking skills; even the risk of not allowing the child to become a good person. After all, the formation of a strong moral compass depends on the ability to think independently, to look fear in the face and to act bravely.

If children are treated as if, according to Gil, they are “incompetent, fragile, unable to cope with the diversity of the world, they cannot learn to take care of themselves,” they inevitably slide to such expected characteristics.

What else is bad is that the attempt to avoid risks for children affects not only the children, but also the parents themselves and the whole society. Economist Tyler Cowen noted that cautious young people move less, start fewer businesses of their own, and American culture becomes less dynamic and innovative. He believes that we are witnessing the emergence of a “courteous class”, which, in search of comfort instead of conflict and risk, hinders the changes necessary for the improvement and progress of society.

Solving problems with the modern trend of excessive custody of children does not imply a transition to the other extreme - no need to leave children naked in the woods for raising wolves. Parents may well keep their children’s chances of suffering at the current, very low level, and at the same time allow them to expose themselves to risks that shape their character and endurance. Moreover, this can be done in a way that will make their lives safer.

And next time we will turn to this balanced approach, in which your children are exposed to a healthy share of risk, and we teach them how to manage it as an adult.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/404099/

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