May 29th, 2014

Risky childhood play

A while back The Atlantic had an article by Hanna Rosin describing how it was that in just a couple of generations Americans became intolerant of exposing their children to what used to be considered normal risks.

Some of it had to do with lawsuits:

…[P]ark departments all over the country began removing equipment newly considered dangerous, partly because they could not afford to be sued, especially now that a government handbook could be used by litigants as proof of standards that parks were failing to meet…[T]he cultural understanding of acceptable risk began to shift, such that any known risk became nearly synonymous with hazard.

The consequences are somewhat paradoxical, but they make sense. Removing danger does away with an important learning experience:

Children are born with the instinct to take risks in play, because historically, learning to negotiate risk has been crucial to survival; in another era, they would have had to learn to run from some danger, defend themselves from others, be independent. Even today, growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions. By engaging in risky play, children are effectively subjecting themselves to a form of exposure therapy, in which they force themselves to do the thing they’re afraid of in order to overcome their fear. But if they never go through that process, the fear can turn into a phobia. Paradoxically, Sandseter writes, “our fear of children being harmed,” mostly in minor ways, “may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.”

Not to mention dependency. On government regulation and protection from risk, perhaps?

28 Responses to “Risky childhood play”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    Nobody told them that falling on wood chips with my palms would cause me to get new “veins” that I figured out were “splinters” after a few weeks.

  2. Surellin Says:

    I am very glad that my son has been able to grow up wandering around out in the country. He has broken a wrist and gotten various scrapes, but he has also had a chance to learn self-reliance.

  3. kaba Says:

    We are producing an entire generation of Pajama Boys.

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    A person cannot master and command other humans, until they master and command their own body or people subordinate to them (siblings that admire them, younger kids that rely on them).

    While generally the US military has this concept of command college mentality, this is actually inculcated for very young kids in places like Japan or frontier zones like Alaska.

    Even a 4 or 8 year old is expected to take care of their 1-2 year old siblings. Something one would never even trust to a crazy medicated new mother, can easily be entrusted to kids (pre puberty) trained in the right jobs.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    Steven M has a very good analysis on our recent Santa incident, concerning good parenting. That’s his Libertarian research project so to speak.

    A very good analysis, though, which I recommend people listen to over time.

  6. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Trying to protect children from every lump and bump, not to mention every mean word that might hurt their feelings, is teaching them that we don’t think they’re strong enough to handle any pain at all. If we protect them from failure by never giving them responsibility, we’re teaching them that they’re not capable of being responsible or surviving failure. If we never let them lose a soccer game we’re teaching them that loss and failure are unsurvivable and unbearable — so never, ever take a risk.

    And then we wonder why they grow up unable to behave responsibly with sex and alcohol, demanding absolute protection from “triggers” and from commencement speakers who might, horrors, utter words they don’t agree with.

  7. Sam L. Says:

    I remember running on my grade-school playground, falling, and scraping my face on the cinders there.

  8. parker Says:

    Kids need to be kids. Rough and tumble play and risky behavior such tree climbing are wonderful experiences for children. Protecting kids from all possible harm is a form of abuse, as is pretending there are no winners and losers. Free the children from the nanny village!

  9. George Pal Says:

    So… lawyers. Again. Will it never stop? Until the lawyers are chased into the swamps, or science, for once, creates something useful – like really big domesticated cats, the plague will continue. Instead we elect them to public office and the proliferation of laws and regulations continues unabated – requiring yet more lawyers to adjudicate and rule on the emanations issuing from their penumbrae. Makes one envious of the days when real rats and their fleas were all anyone had anything to worry about.

  10. waitforit Says:

    Answer: The Pajama Boys funding the urban jungle that produces knock out artists and killers of Pajama Boys.

    Question: Name an instance of Darwinian extinction.

  11. Richard Aubrey Says:

    In our town, last winter, a young kid went on a closed sledding slope, hit a tree and was killed. The parents are suing the park board people as individuals.

  12. Don Carlos Says:

    Don’t omit smothering feminine nurturing as operative.

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    Lawyers and their unions are part of the Leftist alliance. They are not acting as a rogue faction.

  14. Kyndyll Says:

    It’s critically important for the left to establish the idea of infantile dependency being a natural state of human beings.

    People raised from the crib to think it’s normal to have their every move monitored, their every activity planned for them, their every thought hand-fed to them, will eagerly accept a government authority attempting to force these intrusions.

  15. Ruth H Says:

    My great grandchildren live in Louisiana, a place with a lot of rain. Yesterday I was pleased and surprised that their mother had allowed them to put on bathing suits and play in the rain pool that accumulated in their cul de sac. I also have to admit I was a little concerned realizing how much dog poop was probably dissolved in that water. I played in flash floods in WWII in the Texas desert, I survived.

  16. parker Says:

    Ruth H,

    Congratulations on having great grandchildren! I hope to live so long as to see my 5 grandchildren (and more to come I hope) procreating the next generation. As far as dog poop in rain water is concerned; I grew up on a farm and on several occasions was in direct, unpleasant, contact with copious amounts of pig and chicken poop. It happens and the strong survive. 😉

  17. southpaw Says:

    Kaba has hit the nail in the head . And in case anyone was concerned, I put on my safety glasses before reading his post.

  18. SteveH Says:

    Not taking risk is very risky. I bet contemplating that would make a progressive nanny staters head explode.

  19. Oldflyer Says:

    I don’t know which age is better for children, but I am glad that I grew up in the ’40s and ’50s. We ran free. We swam in whatever pond, or stream we came across; once we could drive, we hunted on our own, and even before were allowed to take the .22 for short excursions. We had never heard of a bike helmet, and would have been laughed out of the gang if we had devised one. We hitch hiked, and never passed up a hitch hiker once we were driving. Well, you can get the picture.

    On the other hand we thought drugs meant cod liver oil, or yuck castor oil. No one I knew before college drank alcohol. Smoking was for racy kids.

    Were we just lucky?

    My daughter, who herself rode horses over jumps made of telephone poles, tells me that “times have changed”. She is certainly right. But, her 17 year olds are happy, they don’t know any different.

  20. Ymarsakar Says:

    A system run on the generational belief that people should suffer the consequences of their own decisions, can no longer recover when more than 51% of the population becomes crippled, helpless, infants the LEft can abort with one button press. That’s because in order for those infants or new generations to mature, they must first decide what to do about their security, and people too weak to take care of themselves, will be too weak to make the right decision.

  21. Jim Miller Says:

    I’m sure your general argument is correct, but at least in this area (Seattle’s Eastside suburbs) there is one interesting exception: skateboard parks.

    I have never been able to figure out why the lawyers haven’t eliminated them.

    (Speaking or risks, years ago, I learned that my local athletic club would drop any exercise machine that their insurance company said was dangerous. I didn’t press for details, and am not sure the trainer knew them, but suspect that the club’s contract with the inusrance company required them to get rid of those machines.)

  22. Beverly Says:

    You’re not an official Kid until you get a quarter-sized abrasion scar — on each knee!

    All you have to do is look at the old “Dick and Jane” books’ illustrations: kids running around outside, riding bikes with the wind in their hair (not with enough gear to equip a medieval knight), learning how to fight in boyhood scuffles on the playground, tromping through the woods for hours unsupervised … in general, Bliss!

    We asked our mom how it is that they just cut us all loose to play outdoors for hours without any grownups hovering around, and she smiled and said that the moms in the neighborhood (they were all housewives in those days) just kept an eye on the brat pack through the back windows. And when it was suppertime, they’d call around and find out where we were, and we all knew when we had to be home anyway.

    So, reading Huck Finn wasn’t all that much of a stretch. I really pity today’s kids.

  23. RickZ Says:

    There’s another aspect to neutering risk taking in children: Risk taking in business as adults. With the ‘every child gets a trophy’ mentality, those who take risks in business when adults are not given respect for their risks, but are denigrated as ‘the rich’. So many people (not just kids) have no idea of the failures of the innovative before they became famous. Ford went broke as have many other wealthy people before they finally became wealthy. They took risks, and sometimes those risks ended up in failure. But being stronger in constitution than what is being produced today, they brushed off the dirt and got right back to it. Now failure is something to be feared as stigmatizing to one’s psyche, so Daddy Government steps in to prevent failure. Of course, by preventing failure, Daddy Government is creating slaves of the government. But that is by design, not happenstance.

    Risk taking advances society. Can’t you just see various government agencies today cracking down on some modern version of the Wright Brothers for their risky, if not insane, endeavor? Owebama shutting down the manned space program is an example of government preventing risk and closing off unknown potential rewards to society by those willing to take the risk. But because it’s not fair that those who take risks might get more rewards, better everyone be held back so no one gets more than their ‘fair share’, the level playing field of lowered expectations.

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    Hussein’s fair share is rather larger than usual. So are his Demoncrat cronyies.

  25. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I am almost certain that kids naturally crave some kind of risk-taking and adventure, and if they are kept from taking manageable risks when they are children, they will go all out when they are young adult. It may be better to get bruises, bumps and a possible concussion doing risky things on a bicycle at the age of 10, than doing risky things in a high-powered automobile at 20, when the costs may be more than just bruises and bumps.

  26. Oldflyer Says:

    I think Sgt. Mom has made a good point.

    I have wondered why there is such a plethora of “Xtreme” games, and other “extreme” activities that curl my toes. (And I was a USN carrier pilot.) Maybe she has it; of course, the fact that there always seems to be a TV camera, and people who will pay money to anyone who will act stupidly also has something to do with it.

  27. waitforit Says:

    Risky childhood play:

  28. waltj Says:

    I didn’t have skin on either knee for the first 12 years or so of my life, and my parents saw that as a normal condition for a normal, adventurous, rambunctious boy, which I was. I also became fairly well-acquainted with plaster, when my adventures didn’t pan out so well. But I did learn, and after the casts came off, took the precautions I should have taken the first time, and didn’t repeat the same mistake. Nowadays, I see efforts to banish all risk, from helicopter parents on playgrounds, to men’s washrooms. Yes, even there. Guys, usually pajama-boy types, wash their hands by getting soap from a touchless dispenser, then turn the water on, also without touching a faucet, lather and rinse, and then either dry their hands on a touchless dryer, or on a paper towel that dispenses through a wave of the hand. The door is then opened by pressing an elbow on a large button, or through an electric-eye sensor. No germs ever need contact their precious skin. Until they get back to their desks, and they drink out of the coffee mug that was last washed when Slick Willie was president, or the guy in the next cube sneezes all over his office-mates. Go figure.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

Monthly Archives


Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge