Three key ways to find a balance between safety and risk in raising children

In our series of articles devoted to excessive parental custody of children, we carefully studied the source of this phenomenon , determined whether the world had become a more dangerous place over the past few decades, and discussed the risks that arise when parents try to protect children from risky things.

Today we end this series with a discussion of how parents can raise their children, while remaining happy: allowing them to get enough risky experience for children to develop characteristics such as confidence, ability, and courage that they need to become harmonious and successful. adults, while caring for their safety and health.

It is difficult to go along this fine line, but it is possible.

Three key ways to find a balance between safety and risk in raising children

The key point in the search for the “golden mean” between security and risk is the following: instead of protecting children from risks, teach them to deal with risks.

To do this, it is necessary to manage three processes: 1) put children at a controlled risk, 2) prepare children for risk, instead of trying to completely prevent it, and 3) keep the mood for "walking without supervision".

Let's discuss in turn each of the points.

1) Create an environment for controlled risk

Studying the role of risks in childhood , Helene Sandseter argues that exposure to risk plays a key role in the development of a child — she vaccinates children against excessive fear and fosters stamina that allows them to survive and prosper in adulthood.

However, she notes that children do not need to take really serious risks to acquire these abilities - they only need to do what seems risky.

For parents, this means that instead of taking extreme measures — eliminating all risks or placing children in situations in which they can suffer greatly — it is possible to take the middle path: encourage children to take controlled risks.

When assessing and managing situations with controlled risk, parents should ask themselves:

• Can a child take part in this risky business?
• Can a child be seriously injured (death, paralysis, head injury?)
• Could this risk have a positive learning effect?

Answers to these questions can be used to find a balance between risk and safety:

• If this is a risk that children will not be able to anticipate initially, warn them of the dangers. Teach them how to search and how to deal with danger so that they can predict and manage them in the future. Example: Allow the children to cross the street, but teach them to look both ways.
• If the child is too small to foresee and understand a serious risk, even with learning, remove this risk from his environment, and leave the risks with minimal consequences (bumps, scratches) to encourage learning. Example: do not let your child play on the edge of a cliff, but allow him to climb large stones and jump away from the cliff.
• Protect children from dangers that, even if children can foresee them, can result in serious injury and that provide particularly valuable lessons. Example: do not let children jump from the roof: the fact that this is a bad idea can be explained in words, it is not necessary for them to learn from their own experience.
• Allow children to engage in high-risk affairs in which there is a very small chance of serious injury, but they do provide a very valuable experience. Example: let your child explore your area. In this case, there is an extremely small risk of being stolen, but this action provides an indispensable chance to develop independence.

As can be seen, creating situations with controlled risk comes down to eliminating risks that children cannot cope with themselves, and teaching children how to handle the risks they can cope with. Next we will discuss exactly how to do it.

2. Tune in to full preparation, not full protection.

When parents try to overprotect their children, they, in fact, transfer all their risk management to themselves. It is assumed that mom and dad will always be there to protect children from harm, but of course, this does not happen.

Instead of the safety of children depending on you, prepare them for the meeting and for risk management yourself. This does not mean that they should be thrown into any activity without worrying about safety - you need to apply what Gever Talley calls “forests” for “planning, working through steps and reasonable precautions”. The strength of supporting forests needs to be adjusted according to the age of children and their level of adulthood, and then gradually remove props when they gain confidence and skills and are able to protect themselves.

Here are some ways to carry out such a process that will not only benefit your children, but also calm your anxieties.

Risk them step by step . The first step towards allowing children to do “risky” things is to determine what these risks are. What is bothering you in any particular child activity? How realistic are the risks and your excitement?

Having identified the risks of employment, you can understand how to mitigate them, and how to alleviate your fears so that 1) it is proportional to the chances of risk, 2) retains a sense of risk (excitement, excitement, fear) and 3) increases your independence child

In the article “ free walking children, ” Schenazy suggests, I think, the best way to achieve all three goals: you need to gradually introduce the child into a situation to teach him all the dangers inherent in her, and then gradually reduce her leadership and supervision of the child. Here are some examples of what this might look like:

Street crossing:

1. Cross the street, holding the child by the hand, and talking with him about how important it is to look both ways and be wary of cars.
2. Cross the street, not holding hands, but next to the child.
3. See how the child crosses the street, standing on the sidelines.
4. Allow your child to cross the street when you are not around.

Reach the bus stop:

1. Walk along with the child to the bus stop, pointing out all possible dangers, including the movement of cars.
2. Walk half the distance to a stop, and watch the child walk the other half on their own.
3. Let him go all the distance himself, without you.

Cycling around:

1. Let the child ride around the block and return.
2. Allow the child to go and finish minutes.
3. Let the child ride on his own.


Instead of saying “be careful,” say “be careful . I drew this excellent advice from Richard Louv's book The Last Child in the Forest [Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods]. The constant repetition of the words “be careful” gives the world a tinge of danger and risk, and the child’s mind focuses on constant caution. Conversely, “be attentive” (or “watch what you are doing”) encourages children to pay more attention to their body and its environment — and we want children to cultivate just such an approach, whether they are involved in risky things or not.

The world needs no more cautious children, it needs smarter, more receptive and courageous ones.

Treat children like apprentices . The current state of affairs in which children spend most of their time close to their parents is not so unique. Before the industrial revolution, children also spent their days with mom and dad. But if today's parents play the role of passive spectators - taking pictures and watching what is happening - for the children who play, the parents used to work with the children. Children underwent non-formal (and sometimes formal) education, gaining skills and knowledge that should have been useful to them in adulthood.

It's time to revive the concept of apprentices. It is okay to spend a lot of time with children - it can be useful - but this time can be spent with benefit, both for you and for them. It is hardly necessary and possible to take children with you to work on a daily basis, but you probably spend almost all your time off with children. Instead of giving up your hobbies and doing homework after the children go to sleep, use this time for such activities, allowing the children to be around so they can learn more about how you spend your time and gain practical skills.

Take children on walks in nature, teach them the joys and dangers of the forest. Together, do weightlifting, teach them this, instilling a love of fitness . Let them help you rake the fallen leaves or cook dinner (using - adored! - a sharp knife), even if their “help” will not be particularly useful initially, or even bother you a little.

Attitudes toward children as apprentices will not only teach them important life skills, but also allow you to become a slightly less custodial parent. It seems to me that, being carried away by the all-consuming tutelage of children, parents discard all their adult interests, both in the home and outside the home, and this draws them into a vicious circle of dependency. Not only children become dependent on their parents, but parents also become dependent on children, as from their only friends and the only interest in life. As a result, parents may subconsciously deepen and expand their attempts to keep children closer to themselves, skipping the moment when children become old enough to spend time on their own - after all, parents are afraid that when children become independent and leave, emptiness will appear in their lives.

So think up your own interests and hobbies , moms and dads, and show yourself and your children that you are fully formed people, apart from your parental role.

Do not interfere in the quarrels and activities of children. One of the unpleasant results of continuous care is that mom and dad are always ready to intervene and settle disputes that often arise between children. "Dad, but Tyler does not allow to play with the ball!". Dad intervenes: "Tyler, you've already played enough, give, please, Henry's ball."

Unstructured games are particularly important for the development of children and because children learn to negotiate and reach compromises. Parents can teach children how to take and how to give, but if children do not practice this on their own, they will grow up in the conviction that when someone has offended or injured them, they become a victim with the only way out - to seek help from the third individuals. If you have witnessed a child dispute, try to give them the opportunity to negotiate on their own. And it is better to try to completely get rid of their playground and negotiations.

The same principle applies to childcare "dangerous" projects. By following the practice of gradually introducing risk and treating a child as an apprentice, you should of course observe the first acquaintances of the child with tools, construction, etc. But you need to get away from it as soon as possible, allow them to independently deal with the classes, and offer advice or take a tool in their hands only if they are physically unable to do something themselves or are in immediate danger. As Tully writes: “try to act like a robot and do only what you are asked to do. Be a big, strong and deft hand that they need, and most importantly, let them fail. Then help them figure out why something went wrong and how to fix it - even if you have to start all over again. ”


Choose a different approach to preparing children for the danger posed by strangers [“stranger danger”]. By eliminating the already rather improbable risk of abduction of a child, which parents are most afraid of, we all usually come to the wrong way.

So says Ernie Allen, head of the national center for missing and exploited children. In an interview with Shkenazi, he said that part of his work was “dispelling the myth about the danger of communicating with strangers”; It is necessary to teach children to act more intelligently, effectively and proactively when dealing with strangers.

Usually we never teach children to talk to strangers under any circumstances. But, as Allen points out, such a recipe "removes hundreds of good people in the neighborhood who could help the child." Schenazi says Allen teaches children the following:

1. Most adults are good.
2. There are some bad adults.
3. Most normal adults do not drive up to a child in a car asking for help.
4. If they do it, or if they somehow harass you, you can ask any other adult who is nearby for help.

That is, than teaching children to "never talk to strangers," it is better to teach them "never to leave with strangers."

Then you can decipher the meaning of the instructions. Tell the children to ignore the suggestions of predators trying to lure them into the car - candy, or a leash, supposedly belonging to a lost dog. Tell them not to go anywhere with strangers, even if they say something pleasant or they need help or that your parents sent them to pick you up. Tell the children to start the scandal right away and to attract attention if someone tries to take them forcibly.

Allen reports that maniacs failed to kidnap a child, "most often in cases where children began to run away or fight with them: shout, kick, burst out and get attention." Therefore, he teaches children and deals with them working out methods that really reduce the chances of being abducted:

1. Sharply put your hands in front of you, as if to say "stop."
2. Shout out loudly: “No, go away, you're not my dad!”
3. Run as hard as you can.

This attitude and this training helps children focus on real dangers and not spread them to all people and the whole world, as a result of which children move around the world more confidently and interact with people. Perhaps the proactive preparation of children helps their parents to feel more confident when they let the children go for a walk on their own, outside their own yard.

3. Tune in to the idea of ​​free walking children.

Knowing the principles of achieving a balance of safety and risk in the lives of children is one thing, and constantly applying this knowledge in practice is another. It is easy to give an inner, albeit irrational, fear that something bad can happen to children, to nullify your efforts to make them grow independent. Perhaps it will help you if you keep in mind the following key principles of your attitude.

Make the principle of free walking children the core of your parental philosophy . You will not be able to allow your children to be more independent if you think about it only from time to time, and mostly “go with the flow”. As Tim Gill writes in his book, Without Fear [Tim Gill, No Fear]: “Considerable forces are pushing parents, professionals and educational organizations to try to get rid of risks. And in fact, it is possible to avoid such risks, when people have a special philosophy, moral principles or a set of values ​​about the role of risk, learning by doing and autonomy in the lives of children. ”

If you want to raise free-walking children in today's cautious society, you will really need to believe in the value of this approach and make this belief the center of your parental philosophy.

Remember the hazard statistics . People often argue that statistics does not affect fear, because it is based on logic, but fear is not. Indeed, people irrationally believe that the world has become more dangerous, although this is not so, and that the risk of kidnapping a child is significant, although it is extremely small. To be honest, when I learned that in order for the probability of my child being abducted to become statistically significant, he must be left unattended for 750,000 years, it became much easier for me to weaken my regime of constant supervision.

The next time you want to insist on taking your child to school, instead of letting him go there himself at risk, remember: the risk of dying as a passenger is 40 times greater than the risk of being kidnapped or killed by a stranger. In addition, half of the children who got under the car in the school area fell under the cars of the parents who brought the children to this school!

Statistics will not cure your anxiety, but when round-the-clock news makes the picture of children's tragedy more vivid than it really is, it will help you to ease it. You can worry further, just do it in proportion to the danger.

Use history to evaluate things more sensibly . At the beginning of the 20th century, everyone, even young children, worked 12 hours a day in mines and factories, and distributed newspapers on sullen street corners. There is nothing romantic about such child labor — unlike the mostly imaginary dangers of today's world, such work was really dangerous. But pondering the past will help you understand that children are capable of much greater autonomy, risk and responsibility than we allow them today.

At seventeen, Jack London signed up for a schooner going hunting for sea lions in the Bering Sea.

At thirteen, Andrew Jackson worked as a courier for the American militia who fought in the US War of Independence .

At twelve, Louis Zamperini left home to spend a whole summer on an Indian reservation and in the mountains. He lived in a hunting lodge with a friend of the same age and hunted every evening to get himself a dinner.

If these children can surf the oceans, serve at the front and live independently, then our children can ride a bike to school.

Avoid the cycle of vulnerability, turn it into a cycle of autonomy . The cycle of excessive parental care works like this: it seems to parents that their children are fragile and unable to care for you, and treat them the same way. As a result, children do not receive skills in dealing with risks and failures, and they behave vulnerable. This demonstration of vulnerability justifies even more supervision and intervention by parents, which further keeps children from gaining experience of independence and risk. Which makes them even more vulnerable. The vicious circle continues.

If you think that your children are truly helpless and depend on your leadership, then most likely your constant supervision has made them so.

Fortunately, the cycle can work in another direction: the more capable and knowledgeable your children seem to you, the more autonomy you give them, and the more you allow them, the more capable and knowledgeable they become.

Results: believe the chances, believe yourself, trust your children

The concept of “planned obsolescence” may adversely affect the performance of your refrigerator, but this is an excellent approach to perfect education. The need for your supervision, direction and protection should have a limited shelf life, constantly tapering with the maturing and maturing of children. We, as parents, must prepare children for survival and prosperity without us.

When we take care of children too much, we disrupt the vital process by which children become independent and gradually move away from our care.

There is no doubt that to ensure such a gradual transfer of power and to come up with specific practices of participation and non-participation is quite difficult. Our deepest inclination as parents is to protect children from all injuries and failures. It is hard to give up fear and follow the idea that a little danger and a little pain in the long run will be in their interests.

As I said at the very beginning, for me personally it was very difficult to find a balance between risk and safety. But researching and presenting this question helped me change my point of view. Hope to help you too.

In fact, a healthy balanced way to raise children comes down to three maxims: trust the chances, trust yourself, trust the children.

Trust the chances: the chance that something really awful happens to your child is extremely small. On the other hand, the chance of a child’s abnormal development in the absence of any risk is 100%.

Trust yourself: you can prepare your children to work confidently, competently and safely with risk.

Trust the child: children are able to cope with many more things than we think. Their resilience will continually amaze you. But only if you give them a chance to prove themselves.

Note Translated: the topic was interesting and very popular. I enjoyed preparing these articles for you, and it was very interesting for me to read the comments and discussions to them. I want to thank all readers for their interest, as well as for comments that were often more interesting than the material itself.


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