Five dangerous things I let my kids do

Most of the things I’m going to mention were not considered dangerous when I was a child.  Or when my parents were children.  Or when my grandparents were children.  Or when cave people were cave children. But in the age of the helicopter parent, the things I let my children do are considered positively criminal.  And while I’m glad that some old school things are gone — like drinking Tang and playing inside of a dry cleaning bag — I think some old school things definitely need resurrecting.


Hotel bed jumping — danger level — 4

1. Playing with Fire.  Since fascination with fire is pretty much in our human DNA, I let my kids play with fire while I’m watching them rather then forbid them to touch a pack a matches so they can go behind my back and accidentally catch the house on fire. I let my kids take turns lighting a candle at the dinner table (and blowing it out – that’s the best part!) and I even let them make fires in our wood stove.  Learning how to make a fire is a valuable skill and if you burn yourself while doing it, well, then you’ve got a valuable skill and experience.

2. Get Bitten by a Dog.  It makes me sad when I go over to someone’s house and they proudly announce, “Don’t worry about our dog. The kids can do whatever they want to him and he never does anything.”  Great.  So you’re teaching your children it’s okay to abuse your dog? Poor doggie!  Not in my house. We have three sweet, non-vicious dogs and they have ever right to voice a complaint as to how they are being treated.  They’re not allowed to go Cujo, of course, but growling is one hundred percent okay with me.  Growling means stop and kids need to understand that.  Once my oldest son ignored our Chihuahua’s warning growl and she nipped him. When I asked my son what he was doing to her, he said, “I was trying to videotape Bambi on my skateboard.”  My son learned a valuable lesson that day — fourteen-year-old Chihuahuas will do whatever it takes to avoid becoming utube sensations. He’s lucky he got away with a nip.


Getting squished by a horse – danger level — 2

3. Climb as high as they want in a tree.  These days parents just can’t seem to not panic when their kids are climbing anything.  Two hands!  Hold on!  Watch where you’re going!  Who’s climbing the tree – you or them?  You want them to fall?  Just keep distracting them! Climbing things – especially high things – takes concentration and confidence.  Two things you want to teach your kid, right?  So let them climb.  Let them feel their own power.  Let them be alone in nature with bark under their fingernails and the wind in their faces.  And when they finally climb down, then, and only then, you may speak to them and say, “You are one awesome little monkey.”

4. Drive a car. As soon as my kids could look over the dashboard, I’ve let them sit on my lap and drive down our driveway.   And as soon as they could reach the pedals, well, I’ve let them drive the car too. I’m supervising the whole thing, of course, but my feeling is this – Who would you rather have behind the wheel of a car – a sixteen-year-old that has driven a car for two weeks or a sixteen-year-old that has driven a car for five years?  For the safety of all mankind, get your kids used to the feel of a car.


nerf gun – danger level for parents — 10

5.  Talk to strangers. Strangers can be great or they can be truly demented people that want to steal your children.  But using the blanket statement of “don’t talk to strangers” is bad advice.  There’s going to come a time when you’re not around that your child might need to talk to a stranger.  In which case, what kind of stranger should they talk to — The mommy with the kids or the man in the trench coat? I encourage my children to talk to everyone when I’m around because I want them to believe the world is a wonderful place full of kind people.  But if I’m not around and they need help – I tell them to find a mommy.  No exceptions.  Sorry guys of the world — but you people is crazy.

So those are the five dangerous things I let my kids do.  Of course, there are some things I don’t let my kids do.  They can’t be around water without adult supervision, they’re never allowed to cross the street without looking and we don’t eat at fast food restaurants – because that stuff is really dangerous.


  • Von says:

    While flicking through a Christmas gift catalogue I noticed the recall on a potential choke hazard for children, Guatemalan Worry Dolls. You couldn’t make it up.

  • Lisa says:

    Yes! All of this! That Gavin de Becker book that a previous commenter mention (Protecting the Gift) made suvh a huge impact on my parenting when I read it a few years ago when my oldest was a baby. Hard stuff to think and talk about but knowledge is power.
    And how weird that I also have a 14 year old chihuahua-mix thing that is allowed to growl at my boys any damn time they start getting in his face too much? That old, smelly mutt has earned it and if the kids get a little nip, I’m kind of ok with that.

    • Holly Hester says:

      I’ll have to read that book — I’ve never heard of it. Our sweet little Bambi died last year (she was almost 18!) but I really miss her. She was such a sweet wonderful dog and she really did have my permission to growl and bite when she felt it was necessary — my kids were very gentle with her — with the exception of trying to place her on a skateboard — that was the only time she took matters into her own hands! Give your 14 year old chihuahua a big hug for me!

  • Bo says:

    You have the best kids ever! I don’t know how you could ever let them out of your sight…I would be a freak if I had children…I love that they aren’t afraid to talk to anyone and are so outgoing. You guys are all so perfect :)

  • Ginny says:

    You are a great mom. :) An added note on #5: most strangers are nice people that you just haven’t met. Some strangers are dangerous. It is so important to teach our kids to tell the difference. There’s a book called Protecting the Gift that talks about how to tap into our hard-wired intuition. Basically, if a person makes you nervous, there’s probably a reason.

    • Holly Hester says:

      That is sooooo true. Teaching kids to listen to their intuition is so important. How does a situation feel? Good or bad? Thank you for reminding me of that. I should talk about it more with them.

  • Becky says:

    We recently moved from a lot with lots of old trees to a new one with not many. Everyone loves the house but we all miss the climbing trees. One of the first things on our list of home improvements was to look into planting trees. The landscaper was delighted with the request for climbing trees. We didn’t care what kind it was, just that the kids could climb it. He had to think on it for a day or so as this apparently doesn’t come up often but we should have a maple and oak installed sometime this month!

    • Holly Hester says:

      That’s great! Can you install a tree that’s big enough to climb in? Awesome. I love to see my kids climbing trees. It does my heart good.

  • Jessica says:

    My friends freak out when my son climbs the highest he can get in our front yard tree. He said he likes the feeling of the wind swaying him. :)

    • Holly Hester says:

      It’s funny how people really do freak out when kids climbs trees. And he’s right! The wind swaying him is something he’ll always remember.

  • Angela says:

    Just today, I let my kids walk over to ANOTHER block, out of my eyesight, to see if some neighbors were home to play. CRAZY RIGHT? :) My 9 year old is the best fire builder in the family, and she rocked the job of being the kitchen fire builder and tender during our camping trip this summer. So awesome to have someone to help me!

    • Holly Hester says:

      That’s awesome about letting your kids walk to another block! Just last week I let Buck walk to the library after school with a friend and he’s 11! That letting out of sight thing is hard! I do love that my kids can build a fire though — it’s great, isn’t it?

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