Too Little Risk is Risky for Kids

Hi Readers! Over in England, Tim Gill is a big force for rethinking childhood. In fact, that’s the name of his movement and blog — Rethinking Childhood. And as he says on that blog, “…if children are to enjoy and make the most of their lives, we need to revisit and revise our ideas of what a good childhood looks and feels like.”

That’s what he does in this wonderful article he wrote for The Guardian. He says that, finally, his country is starting to realize that trying to give our kids a “zero risk” childhood is an insane idea that, far from helping kids, leaves them unprepared for adult life. How did this mass delusion come about? Gill writes:

In the 1980s and 1990s we collectively fell prey to what I call the zero-risk childhood. Children were seen as irredeemably stupid, as fragile as china plates, and utterly unable to learn from their mistakes. Hence the role of adults was to protect them from all risk, no matter what the cost.

In the past years we have begun to realise the flaws in this zero-risk logic. The constant stream of jaw-dropping anecdotes – children arrested for building a tree house, teachers having to complete reams of paperwork to take classes to the local church, schools banning chase games – has brought home an insight that should have been obvious from our childhoods: children need challenge. They need adventure. They need uncertainty. And they need risk.

Children learn a great deal from their own efforts, and from their mistakes. If we try too hard to keep them safe, we starve them of the very experiences that they need if they are to learn how to deal with the everyday ups and downs of life. What is more, children themselves recognise this.

Couldn’t have said it better myself — especially the sentiment about considering today’s children “irredeemably stupid, as fragile as china plates, and utterly unable to learn from their mistakes.”

I am so tired of us being urged to act as if THIS generation of kids just happens to need more safeguards than any other group of kids the world has ever seen. Glad to hear the winds of change are stirring, at least across the pond. — L.