How Should a School Respond When ONE Parent Says, “That’s Too Dangerous!” ?

Hi Readers! Over in jolly ol’ England,  there’s a man I revere named Tim Gill who runs the blog Rethinking Childhood, and wrote the book No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society. This most recent post of his is SO GOOD — and asks such an important question — I asked if i could run part of it here. Replied Tim, “Take the whole thing!” See what I mean? A great guy. – L

WHEN ANXIOUS PARENTS ARE THE PROBLEM, WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? by TIM GILL

How should schools, nurseries, kindergartens and other education, childcare and play services respond to anxious parents? I was asked this question recently by an Australian early years educator who heard me speak a couple of months ago.

She explained that her setting’s outdoor space was very small and sparse, but that it was located in some more extensive school grounds. She was keen to take the children into the grounds, so they could play games that they do not have room for in their own yard. She wanted to do this, not only because of the extra space, but also to prepare the children for the transition to the ‘big school’ that many of them would soon be joining. She continues:

Unfortunately, one parent has refused permission for their child to have anything to do with the school, because “she’s not going to that school next year”. I’ve spoken to my managers, and there’s nothing I can do about one parent preventing all the children from going to the school. I am not able to ask the child to stay home on those days. I am not able to leave her with one staff member at the setting. I am not able to leave her at the school office. And when I appealed to the mother she said that it is my problem.

It is amazing that one parent can determine what all the other children will be able to do! I asked my managers if they could make it a compulsory policy from next year’s enrolments that parents give permission before enrolling to access the school grounds. However, they said no, as I am supposed to engage with our community, according to regulations.

They did say they would look into it, as they hadn’t come across a parent like this before. I said they should, because there’s always one parent! If a parent doesn’t give permission then it’s certainly to their child’s detriment, but to affect everybody else’s rights to go on an excursion or to do an activity that is deemed beneficial and educational is not right.

Note the real problem here. It is not parents as a group. It’s that because of the policies and procedures of the setting, the views of a single parent are enough to derail things.

baby-knee-padsParents, like the rest of us, are on a spectrum when it comes to their attitude to risk. At one end of this spectrum, some parents apparently feel the need to protect their children through against all possible harm, even the harm from crawling on a hardwood floor.

All too often, systems and procedures effectively give risk averse parents a veto. Schools, services and settings feel under pressure to set their benchmark at the level of the most anxious parent. Often, the result is that all children lose out on some vital learning experiences.

My take-home message to services – and especially service managers – is simple. If you want to allow all children the chance to spread their wings a little, you cannot set your bar at the level of the most anxious parent. In the nicest possible way, you need to be assertive with the ones at the fearful end of the spectrum. They should not be allowed to think that they have a veto on what you offer to children.

Readers: How about you? How worried are you about the influence of anxious parents? What messages do parents get about your values – for instance, in your publicity materials, or your mission statement – and how well do these values square up with your practice? Have you succeeded in winning the more risk-averse over to the idea of expanding children’s horizons? Or do your procedures get in the way? I would love to hear your views and ideas. – -T.G.

Me too! – L.S.

P.S. You might want to check out the comments on Tim’s blog. Some good ones! 

 

Outrage of the Weekend: Eek! A Male!

Hi Free-Rangers — Speaking of our growing terror of anyone with a Y chromosone, read this:

My husband, who taught kindergarten Sunday School, is no longer allowed to help out with the preschoolers.  At all. Why?  A child fell down and hurt herself, and while comforting her he gave her a kiss.  On the forehead.  And apparently another parent saw this and assumed he was some sort of sicko.  A month earlier he had a child in his class pass out napkins before snack and she went home and told her parents that she was the special helper in Mr. X’s class.  They switched their child’s class.  99% percent of parents loved him, because of a couple of paranoid parents, and a church afraid of being sued, everyone is suffering.  The kids come up to him and ask why he isn’t their teacher anymore.  What is he supposed to say?

Maybe Semi-Organized Recess Isn’t So Bad

Hi Readers — It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind (and a man’s, too), and this article from The Boston Globe has me re-thinking my knee-jerk reaction against any attempt to organize and regulate recess.

The article points out that in many schools, kids have almost forgotten HOW to play. Sending in a coach to get kids jumping rope or playing kickball is a sorry thing to need — you wish kids just did this spontaneously. But when they don’t,  sending in someone to teach the basics of fun is sounding good to me. 

Naturally, I don’t love the idea of an adult constantly prodding and organizing and restricting the kids. I want the kids to learn the basics then run the show. It’s their free time. I also want the non-athletic kids (like I was) to still have a chance to sit around and talk, if that’s their inclination. But to sit around because you have no idea how to organize a run-around game and neither do your friends? That is just sad. So here’s to teaching the other three Rs, when necessary: Running, Romping and Recess. — Lenore (who thanks MITBeta for sending along the link)