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.
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.
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.
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.