Thanks, Andrea Kuszewski, for your post on Google+, directing your followers to your Science 2.0 blog post, Don't Shelter Your Children: Coping With Stress As A Child Develops Resilience And Emotion Regulation As An Adult.It's hard to find the right balance between giving our children the freedom to develop confidence and the shelter they need from truly harmful experiences. Beyond that, it's impossible to truly shelter our children. Life is full of stress and many of the experiences that cause stress are entirely out of control. Certainly, I know that my own children had far more stress in their early lives than I would have chosen for them, most of it arising from issues over which I had very little control. That said, I have recognized a pattern of growing protectiveness from generation to generation in our society.
Helen Keller once said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
In general, children growing up in the first half of the twentieth century (my parents' generation) were far less supervised than I was, and my childhood was less supervised than my children's. This trend toward protectiveness, which I believe has moved into overprotectiveness in many ways, has been paralleled by changes in playground equipment and activities. The "normal" bumps and bruises, and even broken bones, of childhood are no longer seen as acceptable. It's rare to see the tetherballs, jungle gyms, merry-go-rounds, and teeter-totters that were in every park and schoolyard when I was a kid. The trampoline classes I took with my brothers at the YMCA summer camp, are getting to be as rare as hen’s teeth, since most schools and activity clubs have eliminated the trampoline from their equipment, due to the expense of insurance. (Ironically, more families than ever have trampolines in the backyard, which means that kids are actually less safe because they probably aren’t getting the right supervision or training.)
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of broken bones and I required my kids to wear helmets when they rode their bicycles, and helmets, knee, and elbow pads when they skated on the sidewalk in front of our house. Still, sometimes I wonder if all the emphasis on safety is worth it, when it means our children's lives become more and more restricted.