Are We Doing Our Kids a Disservice?

Last week, the kids and I took a walk to the park about a mile from our house. When we got there, there was a 6 year old boy there with his brother, who I’d say was probably 11 or 12. The older brother was playing basketball, while the younger one sat and watched. There were no parents anywhere. The younger boy really liked our dog, so he followed us over to the playground. He sat and chatted with me while petting Duke, and then started playing with the kids. Now, I know I’m not a scary looking person, and I had two kids with me, but it was probably 15 minutes or so before the older brother even seemed to notice his brother had walked over to where we were.

This kind of “unsupervised” play used to really bother me, both as a parent, and as a teacher. As my kids have gotten a bit older, I’ve come to realize, it’s probably good for them. In my old neighborhood, kids played outside all the time, with very little supervision (even at 3 years old). I didn’t really become ok with this (for my youngest child) until he was about 4 1/2. Even then, I always told his sister (who’s 4 years older) to watch him. I knew the neighbors, I knew all the kids, but I was still nervous for them to be out there without me. When I was outside with them, I felt like I was constantly on their case, “Don’t go where I can’t see you… Don’t climb on that… Don’t, don’t, don’t…” My intentions were good, I wanted to keep them safe, but was I really helping them?

As I was at the park with my kids, I watched this random kid climbing on top of the tunnel that went over the slide. He invited Michael up with him. Michael tried to climb up there, but couldn’t figure out how to get up. He tried doing exactly what the other child had done to get up, and still couldn’t. I have to admit, I was a bit appalled. Not that he couldn’t do it, but that I may have hindered my child from being able to do exactly what kids his age do. I felt like somehow, in all my trying to protect him, I had done him a disservice. He’s always been a very active child, and a bit of a monkey, never in my life, would I have imagined that he would struggle to climb on top of a tunnel on a slide!

I’ve been thinking about this all week… what are we really doing to our kids by trying to be helpful?? Are we robbing them of key pieces of their childhood? When we were growing up, we played outside without parent supervision all the time! We climbed on top of the monkey bars, stood up, and tried to walk along them. We got a cut, we got a bandaid and kept going. We traveled blocks to our friends’ houses, busy roads or not. We rode our bikes wherever we wanted to go. We had freedom – freedom to be kids. Freedom to learn about cause and effect by letting it happen. If we did something, and got hurt because of it, we didn’t do it again. If we tried something, and we failed, we learned a lesson from the experience. The whole point, was that our parents didn’t hold us back…

While this whole thought process has been stewing, I came across this article and video clip from the Today show.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

How fitting. It seemed to fit with exactly what has been on my mind lately…

I’m not condoning letting your kids stay home alone at a young age, or letting them play unsupervised for hours. I do think that maybe, just maybe, we need to let kids be kids, just a little, and let them learn from their mistakes.


4 thoughts on “Are We Doing Our Kids a Disservice?

  1. Jason Strate says:

    It’s the whole “stranger danger” phenomenon. Does knowing about creeps and perverts mean that there are more of them? When I was 10, I used to bike a mile or so to get books from the library. So far, it seems I turned out alright.

    • Sarah S. says:

      I agree! Just because every little detail that we may or may not want to know is available instantaneously, doesn’t mean it’s any worse than it was when we were kids. We just happen to hear more about it nowadays.

  2. Molly Lee says: after I read your blog I watched this and thought of your post…food for thought, but I think you all ready are thinking about it

  3. thesqlguru says:

    I personally think the worry over strangers is misguided. Many more kids/women/adults are harmed in some way by people they know.

    As for being too protective – it is a constant struggle. Gotta give kids a leash to be kids and explore, learn, interact while also stressing how to be safe. I have worked hard to enable Bean to make good decisions, especially about safety issues. I try to let her attempt anything that doesn’t seem to hold the potential for life threatening/altering damage. Often as a kidding way of relaying concern I tell her that if she does X she is liable to fall and bonk something and if she does I am gonna laugh at her. She sometimes listens and avoids the scenario, sometimes alters her attempt to be more safe or figure out a better approach and sometimes damns the torpedos and goes full-steam ahead. And yes, I have laughed at her a few times as she was nursing a ‘wound’. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s