Visiting the neighborhood playground will quickly reveal a variety of parenting styles. They tend to range from helicopter to authoritative to permissive, and there’s no surprise they often clash.
All parents want what is best for their children and they believe they are parenting in the best possible way. Unfortunately, parents are still judged.
Parent shaming is a serious problem. In parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and it’s so easy for people to criticize each other for parenting decisions that may differ from their own.
Instagram user active_dad_offical became the center of a heated debate after his controversial video about risky play went viral.
Jimmy Conover, an advocate of conscious parenting and freeing children’s potential, discusses the importance of risky play. “Our kids are much more capable than we give them credit for. Sometimes they just need the chance to prove it, “ Conover captioned the video.
“If you’re going to make your kids tough, which they better be if they’re going to survive in the world,” Conover says, “you can’t interfere when they’re doing dangerous things carefully.” Emphasis on carefully.
Still, the father of two’s remarks struck a nerve with some. But it was his 2½-year-old and 1-year-old sons who stole the show with their risky play. The toddler climbed up on the armrest of one chair and then climbed over to the armrest of another chair. Meanwhile, his baby stood precariously on a Sit n’ Spin.
What Is Risky Play?
“Risky play can be defined as any play that is thrilling or exciting,” according to Boston University, “and involves some risk of injury.” Basically, it is unstructured play (usually outdoors) in which children make their own decisions about how they should use their bodies when playing. Risky play does not necessarily mean dangerous; adult supervision is still important. However, giving up some parental control is key.
When it comes to risky play, it has typically been studied only for children older than 4 years old. Research on risky play in younger children is limited. Risk-taking in play for young children under 4 years of age was studied in a small-scale observational study using children from five childcare settings.
According to researchers, risky play may be appropriate for children ages 2 and 3. It is possible, however, that risky play is not appropriate for 1 year olds. At this point, more research is necessary.
Research Suggests It Can Be Extremely Helpful
Despite some parents’ apprehension about risky play, it has numerous benefits. Boston University states, “Risky play helps children develop resilience, executive functioning skills, self-confidence, and risk-assessment abilities.”
By engaging in risky play, children discover their comfort level and understand their limits. Thus, they can use this knowledge to assess risks independently without relying on parents to do so in the future.
According to research, too many restrictions placed on children’s outdoor risky play hinders their growth. Rather, children should be given the freedom to take and manage risks.
Where Is The Line?
Despite risky play’s many benefits, many folks still disagree with it. That’s quite evident in the comments on Conover’s Instagram video.
“I work in the ICU and you don’t have any idea how many young patients we get with traumatic brain injuries caused by dumb stuff they were doing. Safety is the key, teach your kids how to be safe!” they insist.
Conover’s toddler’s activity in the video causes fury in another commenter. “This isn’t safe at all. A child that age jumping onto a soft couch would be a dangerous activity in [a] safe space. Guarantee the ER and DCF will know them on a first-name basis. Especially with all the videos showing proof of their negligence.”
Risky play is certainly not for every child, as it involves giving up some parental control, and it’s not without its cons. Introducing risky play increases your child’s chances of getting hurt and feeling anxious or scared.
A parent’s fear can also get in the way of allowing a child to explore and grow. A parent’s fears of kidnapping, climbing too high, running too fast, or getting lost can hinder a child’s ability to grow and become independent.
If you find yourself feeling nervous and uneasy about a situation, experts suggest practicing the 17-second rule instead. Take 17 seconds to see how your child responds before you intervene.
Often, children are able to solve problems independently without adult intervention. We shouldn’t underestimate children’s abilities—they might surprise you.