Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reflecting on Risk: Part 2

This post is part 2 of a four part series in which I'm reflecting on Hanna Rosin's article, "The Overprotected Kid" and thinking about risk and kids. You can find Part 1 here.


My oldest started walking to school by herself when she was in first grade. My husband and I had purposely bought a house near their little public school so that the girls could eventually walk themselves to school, but I didn’t expect it to happen when Kate was quite so young.

In January of Kate’s first grade year, I got the flu so badly—about four times in a row in just that month—that one day I could not get out of bed to walk her to school. I simply said, “Kate, you’re going to have to do this on your own today. You know the way and you know all the neighbors, so if anything happens, knock on one of their doors. And I can watch you from the window until you get almost all the way there, so you really don’t have to worry.”

That morning my little girl practically skipped out of the house.

Sure, she was a little nervous, but I watched from the window, as promised, until she turned the corner and was just a few feet from the school grounds. She made it safely. And then she made it safely the next day. And the next day. And the next.  For the next few years. I’d go with her on most days, but if I couldn’t, she knew she could make the walk by herself.

I think it made her feel grown up.

Was I being stupid to let her walk to school on her own at six years old? Obviously I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now.

I would never let her take unnecessary risk, but a certain amount of risk (in which I'm watching from the window), at the appropriate time, I think, helps build confidence. 

Hanna Rosin's article describes "the Land," a park in Wales where kids are pretty much allowed to roam free and do whatever they want, with very little supervision. She writes, "When Claire Griffiths, the Land’s manager, applies for grants to fund her innovative play spaces, she often lists the concrete advantages of enticing children outside: combatting obesity, developing motor skills. She also talks about . . . encouraging children to take risks so they build their confidence."

I want to raise confident children. Children who are aware of their surroundings, but who also have enough common sense to get themselves out of a tricky situation every once in a while. (And, frankly, I'd rather not know about some of those tricky situations.) Children who are confident in the decisions they make for themselves. Children who can navigate life on their own without looking over their shoulder.

So far, I think we're doing that. 

How about you? What small steps have you taken to instill confidence in your kids? What are some appropriate small risks you can allow your kids to take that might help instill confidence in them?

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