In her provocative article “Hey! Parents, Leave Those Kids Alone,” writer Hanna Rosin documents the arc of child-rearing from the 1970s to today, making the case that parents are far too overprotective of their kids, unintentionally robbing them of importance of things like risk taking. She asks: “How did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them?
“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.” She cites a study showing that children who injured themselves falling from heights when they were between 5 and 9 years old are less likely to be afraid of heights at age 18. “Risky play with great heights will provide a desensitizing or habituating experience,” she writes.”
Click on the Atlantic link to read the full article.