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Risky Business

Why a Dose Of Danger May Actually Keep Kids Safe

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  • I was born risk-averse, and it appears my children were as well. My guess is that like my son and my daughter, I never climbed up onto a tabletop as a toddler, I never tried to fly off the play structure at school, I never let my feet off the brakes when biking down a hill, and I definitely never stuck a pair of tweezers in an electrical outlet to see what might happen. Why would I?

    The problem with this approach to life—whether it is inborn or chosen—is that being safe isn't necessarily the safest way to go. Now I don't mean that you should ride in a car with your seat belt unbuckled or that you should habitually jaywalk in order to take the shortcut. Those choices are just plain foolish. I am talking about when you opt for the safe path, the one that is supposed to have the fewest risks and nearly guarantee the outcome you want. Turns out that could be dangerous. In fact, some pediatricians think that a fear of taking chances is actually making our children less healthy.

    Earlier this month, in a session at American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting, one expert argued that helicoptering parents brimming with fears about everything from broken bones to "stranger danger" are raising a generation of children doomed to be overweight and diabetic. Because overly anxious parents today watch their children at every turn; they redirect their kids' activities. Don't climb that tree! Don't run where I can't see you! Irrational? No way. But the new standard of parenting reinforces a safe, sedentary lifestyle for kids. And this is one of the things that's contributing to childhood weight problems.

Risky Business
Why a Dose Of Danger May Actually Keep Kids Safe
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